On censorship (redux)

Tank Green/ May 17, 2022/ Thoughts

I was thinking last night: when did censorship become a ‘good thing’? (I am obviously not talking about a ‘good thing’ from my perspective.) I am trying to remember: was it because of Trump?

So much of this time calls me to remember before. Before, when we used to explore difference. When it was okay for one of these things to not be like the others. When we all wanted to be free and to discover the limits of ourselves and the world; because that’s what art means, and all of us were, one way or another, artists. We all wanted to set ourselves free, to liberate ourselves through a newness and an embracing of the unknown.

In those days, we would celebrate the artists who had gone before us, those who had paved the way for a bigger world, a world a little bit freer from the conservatism of the past, freer from the oppressive conformity of middle class values. In those days, we would read Henry Miller or DH Lawrence or Hubert Selby Jr and marvel at the bigotry which censored them. We would try to understand why such explorations of humanity could be censored, puzzled, finding instead a liberation of self and grateful for that. In those days, those who had censored the likes of Aldous Huxley or James Baldwin or Simone de Beauvoir sat in the same dustbin of history as the Nazis who burned books. Censorship was a bad thing, something not to be encouraged. It was an injustice, a moral wrong, something to be resisted. It was to be derided because ‘we’ were open-minded and tolerant of difference and dissent.

Wasn’t it? Or was that just me?

Sometimes my thoughts touch on the possibility that Trump was a false flag, because it is so easy now to affix an ‘alt right’ or ‘far right’ label to anything and anyone you disagree with in order to shut them down. And look at who and what gets shut down: anything akin to dissent. Anything different to what governments and billionaire elites, of which Trump is one, decide. Maybe Trump took one for the team?

I cannot believe that all my old values, which once sat so comfortably amidst ‘the left’ have now become part of some right-wing extremist ideology, but yet, somehow they have. I find it more than a little convenient that to think differently, to want to go your own way, a way which is not like the others, a way of dissent, is to be an extremist, dangerous, deserving of nothing and no one. I cannot believe that to prohibit access to information is a good thing, because like curiosity, information does not die. It will simply lie in wait, growing in importance, relevance, and weight.

There has, it seems, been a great inversion of values, and I stand with my feet in the air, stubbornly clinging to the way I was before. I believe, now, that to be human is to be a sky walker; nothing good comes of closing down dissent. To be human is to be open, to be free, to touch upon all of the things of the world, great and small, good and bad, friend and foe. To be human is to be an explorer; there’s room enough for all of us in this world. We can make it together if we try.

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