Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Do We Really Respect Diversity of Thought?

By Dottie Perkins, 16 year-old Center for Self-Governance student

A major issue of concern in today’s world involves the effect liberals have when they demand everyone conform to their opinions. As a teenager, in my particular social circle there exists rather a diverse world of ideas about politics, religion and countless other “socially inappropriate” subjects of discussion.  And regardless of the particular opinions offered by my peers on these issues, I often observe how willingly people change their viewpoints in order to avoid being harshly judged for holding a less than popular—that is, less than acceptable-- belief.
Growing up in such an environment has become a major source of concern for me because it means freedom of speech has been revoked by those who worship only that which is “politically correct.” Yet certainly we should be permitted to present our beliefs in a respectful manner, without having to conform or hide our true opinions.  
Language of Liberty
In school, I have become very interested in my psychology class. In this course, as the name would suggest, we study how humans behave and develop in certain environments. Recently, we studied the effects of conformity on social relations. In group situations, it is a common human inclination to conform to social influence by the use of certain clues and gestures to determine our future responses within the group. This, combined with the politically correct nature of my age group, is a dangerous combination. Ironically, by keeping the conversation non-confrontational (and less intellectually stimulating), we never arrive at a proper conclusion of the topic at hand. Instead, the social vibe of the group is top priority, leaving the leader of the group completely in control of the group’s opinion. This is a major concern of mine, thanks especially to the political views I know to be held by most in my school.
The majority of my fellow students are naïve as hell, given that they have no tax burden, no job and no particular responsibilities apart from those of maintaining a 4.0 and being a good son or daughter.  As a consequence, they have a tremendously judgmental outlook regarding the politics of the day. The loudest, of course, tend to be those who express no interest in the accumulation of facts. And woe to any who dare hold a different point of view.
As a teenager I have yet to survive independently as an adult, so my political ideas have not fully matured. However, I do have a strong opinion regarding those who systematically steamroll another’s ideas in order to gain control. If political correctness were not simply a massive fraud designed to squelch open debate, this would not be such a concern. But people ought to have the ability to challenge an idea without fear of being shut down by name-calling, or being referred to as ignorant or less informed. We should have enough respect for each other that we can face a crowd and voice our opinions gracefully and with dignity, unimpeded by the pressure and anxiety of conforming to “group-think.”  Conformity to the majority has caused the society to plateau, leaving people constantly frustrated in the belief that their ideas and true needs have been neither voiced nor heard.
In my extra-curricular civics training--Foundations in Self-Governance--we learned about Mrs. Eliza Powel. Eighteenth century society gave her practically no opportunity to influence the world around her.  Women of the time were generally expected to be silent and polite. They had minimal ability to input ideas for their future. However, Mrs. Powel did not let this intimidate her. Instead, she found a way to make her ideas known by speaking to those with social influence and fearlessly engaging in stimulating political conversation with anyone. She used her power to spark change. This is what my age group desperately needs: individuals who are willing to engage in respectful, unemotional, factual conversation with others, regardless of topic.
The next generation must emulate Mrs. Powel by using our God-given power to bravely voice our ideas. We must face the world with innovation, truthful insight and facts to prevent being stranded on the dreaded “plateau” of thought. We must be different. Change starts with one person!
I hope to help others find their own fearless voice so they can freely articulate their opinions.  Conformity has frozen our world to a politically correct halt. But with a gradual increase in respect for well-considered opinions, I hope to get meaningful conversation moving again.
Change in society often comes as the result of a period of silence forged by discrimination of speech. It is my goal, with the help of others around me, to break that silence. It is imperative that we make an effort to end the conformity of speech that exists today. We must remember to respect others by listening to all views. Otherwise, we too will be guilty of dominating and controlling the conversation. By listening to and encouraging the presentation of all viewpoints, we will eventually create a positive change and be of benefit to all by our example.
Fear can drive the decisions we make; whether it is to raise our hand in class or tackle the next hill. Regardless of the barrier, we must have the courage to be the first to change and overcome.
Change is what led to the republic we live in today. America is a unique experiment and in order to keep that experiment working, we must strive to end the tyranny of mandatory conformity. I hope to be the one in my generation to initiate change for the better. I will certainly start the conversation.

The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team.  The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG.  Contact them at info@tncsg.org. To learn more, go to CenterForSelfGovernance.com.

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