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The Right to Opinion

By Punkerslut

Image by NiD
Image: "Reach" by NiD

Start Date: November 7, 2002
Finish Date: November 7, 2002

     There is often much talk of the right to be treated equally, despite one's religion or one's ethnicity or one's gender. Over the past century, our society has shifted this debate from such older-discussed traits as skin color and gender to things such as sexual orientation. Though there are still Civil Rights battles going on today for equal treatment of individuals regardless of ethnicity or gender, Civil Rights today also encompasses other traits of individuals which before were discriminated against without so much as a thought.

     The reason why it is irrational to discriminate against someone on their race is because one's race does not (normally) interfere with their line of work. Now, there are definitely circumstances where such preference is absolutely justified. If a company was advertising and their statistics department had told them that few African humans buy their products, they may decide to advertise with more African models. Would it be rational, in any reasonable man's mind, that the company should be forced to hire as many Caucasian models as African models? I would doubt that with great sincerity. If, however, an insurance company was looking for a secretary, then the race of the secretary would be completely irrelevant. Being a good secretary is not about one's appearance, but wholly about one's intellectual capabilities, perhaps typing skills and diligence It is not a question of looks, but a question of intellect. To say that the modeling company was discriminating by choosing an African human over a Caucasian human is equally true as saying the insurance company was discriminating by choosing a smart secretary over an unintelligent secretary.

     The battles for Civil Rights of the people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, will continue on for perhaps an inestimable number of years. The advocates of Civil Rights will exist as long as there is Reason and active compassion, and the opponents of Civil Rights will exist as long as there is some ignorance and selective cruelty. A White Supremacist may say that he will deny himself friendship or comradery with every non-White, based on that non-Whites are incapable of making good friends. As every good person of non-White ethnicity passes by this Supremacist, as every human being possessing the traits of kindness and reverence, beauty and vitality, intelligence and understanding, as every good person with any skin color passes by this supremacist, the man will find himself a little more alone, a little less knowledgeable, and gravely disadvantaged. So the battle of equal rights will continue, as long as there is a group being persecuted, and as long as there are heroes of our species to defend them. Every man or woman denied an opportunity because of traits which he cannot control is a badge of dishonor upon the ever-weakening chest of humanity, a boulder upon the back of truth, and a slash across the face of beauty. As long as there is discrimination in the heart of any man, there will always be fallacies in his mind and intolerance in his actions.

     There is one battlefield that has almost been entirely unsuccessful in the case for Civil Rights. This is the battlefield for the Right to Opinion. Think not that I am speaking of the right to belong to any political party, or believe in any religion. These rights, however, are still under siege by those without a rational framework of thought -- this right to political theory is still a source of hate for those who do not wield Reason or humaneness, and it will probably always exist, as long as there is a ruling class. The Right to Opinion that I speak of is the right to believe all that you wish, without being discriminated against. Though the right to belong to any political party or any religion may be counted as part of this, the Right to Opinion still does not prevail. What man can openly, publicly, and brazenly say that he finds Nazism to be a sound ideology, and then easily find employment? Would a black shop owner hire this man, even if the Nazi was willing? If a man were to announce his membership in North-American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA, working for the rights of adults for consensual sexual relationships with minors), would announcing one's membership of such an organization boost their chances of employment or relationships? It is unpopular today to even assert that Nazism is right, or that Pedophilia may be right. But if someone were to cling to such ideologies, based on the juries of their mind, they will be harmed in all ways: employment will be difficult, friendships and family may be curtailed, and other social or economic conditions may worsen, simply by holding an opinion.

     If an employer refused to hire someone on the grounds that they held a certain opinion, how could they respond? There are probably a thousand laws inhibiting employers from such actions, or completely disallowing public institutions from denying citizens their right to equal treatment. But there are amazingly few laws upholding a man's right to belief in whatever he wishes. If a man professed belief in Nazism, the business across this nation may very well refuse to employ him or to serve him. And, if he were to seek aid in his right to belief, I doubt there would be a single politician who would stand beside him. The ruling class are not concerned with justice so much as they are concerned with looking good in the eyes of the public. Being associated with a Nazi is not something that would help reelection of any public official. But do not only think of Nazism as a creed a man may hold that would harm him. If a man were to shout out in public, "It is okay to have sex with children!" he would be outcast. Employment would be impossible, people would sneer, and the whole of society would be his enemy, as much as they are enemies to the Right to Opinion.

     Do humans have the Right to Opinion beyond political parties and religious belief? It is undeniable. So much as a man cannot choose his skin color, in many ways a man cannot choose his belief. If we see a crime being committed, we cannot help but believe that it took place. If we are presented with the evidence of a crime, we cannot help but believe that there is a high probability that it took place. But these are the thoughts of a rational man. If, being presented with the evidence, a man comes to believe that Caucasians are superior to Africans, or Africans are superior to Jews, or Jews are superior to Hispanics, -- if a human being, with his own mind and his own will, gathers evidence for himself and discovers reasons to believe as he does -- if a man does this, then what do we accomplish by punishing him for speaking? Every man certainly must have the right to judge facts for himself, regardless of what any court in the world says. It is not about suppressing Nazism, Fascism, Sexism, Racism, Capitalism, Speciesism, and every other ill-doctrine by any means possible. It is not about silencing those who oppose me ideologically. It is about holding up the individual as the supreme leader of society; it is about understanding the right of every person to believe as they wish, allowing the pathway to the temple of any theory, opening the door to a kingdom of ideas and concepts, releasing the chains around the legs of every slave and holding the torch up at night so they know where to go to get to freedom. The Right to Opinion is the same as the right to belief, and upholding it is the same as the responsibility to decency, and the duty to civilization.

     If a man comes to me and tells me that all other races are inferior, that Free Enterprise benefits the worker, that animals have no right other than to be eaten, or that real religion consists of a god in a far-away Universe, I will not insult this man. Nor would I harass him in any way that would cause discomfort or antagonism. I would only offer my opinion, as he offered to me. I would not rise in an uproar to upset his creed. I would raise the lantern of Reason, and soundly offer logic in opposition to his creed. There can be nothing so irrational as resorting to unkindly sentiments to those who hold different opinions, or to denying opportunity to those who with different ethics. It is not my right to say that a man cannot believe one thing or another. Everyone is their own individual, capable of believing as they wish for themselves. Anyone who states differently, that claims we have no obligation of kindness or sincerity to those who believe otherwise, is an obstacle in the race for knowledge, a blockade to the doorway of opportunity, a stone on the path for life.

     When I say that discrimination should not occur to man because of his beliefs, I do not mean to govern the lives of those who may sometimes judge on beliefs, and I certainly do not mean to fill their lives with guilt. There is a number of great individuals who refuse to have a relationship with someone outside of their race. And this will not be out of scorn, or of hate, or of some other unbecoming trait. It is because of uncomfortability, or even an inability to relate to someone. A man cannot be blamed for being uncomfortable around other races any more than a man can be blamed for the race he is. If an individual with this uncomfortable sentiment concerning members of other races were to see a member of another race afflicted with some ailment, and if this "race-phobic" person were to offer aid -- not out of any sort of fear or reward, but out of the sake of pure compassion -- can we honestly call this person full of hate or anger? To make such a claim would be to advance ignorance and to put a scar on the face of humaneness. Though individuals who feel out of place when among other races may stereotypically have one image of being pristine, this stereotype -- like every other -- does not hold true for all of these individuals. In this group of individuals, there are good, warm-hearted, kind people, and to make an opposition against them is to become an enemy of every Humanitarian who contends that duty and justice are our first priorities.

     Just as it is an atrocity to try to make someone act the same to other races when they themselves are uncomfortable with other races, it is also cruel and inhumane to insult someone for not being comfortable with others of different beliefs. A person may find it displeasurable to be among other races. So a person may find it displeasurable to be among believers of Nazism, Fascism, Democracy, the electoral process, Socialism, Communism, Pacifism, or any other creed which has been wrought from humanity. If a man honestly tells me, "I will not be among those people, because the things they say and the way they act bothers me," then I can hold no animosity whatsoever to him, but if a man tells me, "I will not be among those people, because they are innately cruel, beyond recompense, passed the point of worth," then I will only be deep within disappointment. There are few creeds that a man can believe that will put him beyond the point of opportunity. Though a man has a right to association, to be with those he likes and avoids those he dislikes, I can only hope that the star of fairness will shine, and all of our hearts will be open to others. But beyond this matter of association, it is important that a man can receive a job, a place to live, a place to buy food and other necessities, without harassment for his creeds. Let a man believe as he wish, and you can only hope that Reason will govern his judgment. Harassment will accomplish nothing, but will work away at the man's tolerance for others. I cannot govern society or its members, but as far as the economy goes, no man should be behind bars because of their beliefs. This is a testament to freedom as much as it is a confession of humaneness and a declaration for beauty in tolerance.

     Though observation will allow us to easily see that our society is not always accepting of another man's Right to Opinion, a person cannot go far in their intellectual journey without hearing someone say, "That person has their to their own opinion!" Though this is certainly true, it is unlikely for someone to say this about a man who believes Pedophilia is justifiable. It would be of most difficulty to hear a man say "You have your right to your opinion" when another attempts to justify Pedophilia. It would be gravely difficult to hear the same when a person makes a heretical remark, mocking a god or the unseen spirits of the worlds' religions. I only feel the need to comment on this, that though everyone has their right to their opinion, we always have the right to comment on their opinion, or hold an opinion of an opinion. The point of existence for intellectual debate is not to find some conclusion, or to meet some compromise about some philosophical trifle Most importantly, it is so that we can understand each other and -- with the serene hope that only sleeping children can dream of -- that we will clear the way a little. That will we remove any fog that pollutes our thinking, destroy stereotypes, burn all aspirations that are made from imitation, and bury every vice. Intellectual debate is the foundation for anything that was individually great and accomplishing.

     Before closing, there are some facts which ought to be put into light for those who still disagree with me. Before anyone lights a torch in effort to burn out their enemy for some ideology, first think of Giordano Bruno. Remember the monk who traveled throughout Europe, dodging the hounds of the Vatican as much as he could, only so that he could write out what he believed, only so he could try to prove that compassion would conquer the world. Remember the physician Servetus, burned at the stake by a tyrant. Remember his exodus from the church, breathless for life as he searched the land for some refuge, and denied any sentiment of compassion, as John Calvin mercilessly ordered death. Think of Thomas Paine. He wrote a book, and they unleashed the hounds of iniquity with the orders of destruction and cruelty. He spoke his mind, and they gave him the death sentence. He was put behind the bars of a French prison as much as he was put behind the bars of intellectual prison. Think of Francisco Ferrer. He taught the children of Spain a secular education, gave them the gift of literacy and thought, instilled in them an insatiable appetite for knowledge and truth. His only gift to humanity was teaching and kindness, and his only sacrifice was his own life. Remember all who have given their lives only because they believed as they did, only because they felt that they were compelled towards truth, and remember the animosity we gave their offenders -- remember the unbridled scorn and contempt held for those who executed heretics and heathens. Before anyone raises their fist in indignance towards someone with another creed, remember our heroes, how they were killed for their beliefs, and why we will always cherish their memories in our hearts.


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