Monday, October 16, 2006

It's your inalienable right to become a legend

The most tyrannical of governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.
- Baruch Spinoza, philosopher (1632-1677)

Many disagree with Spinoza. Of course they are the people who want to have the right to air their own opinions while stifling the opinions of others.

But is the right of each person to air his or her opinions what Spinoza advocates?

Closer inspection reveals that he believes each person has a right--an inalienable right--"to his thoughts." Not to express them, just to have them.

Well, what good is that? We can all think what we like, so long as we don't spout it out to the world, can't we?

Not quite. There are those who grant you the right to an opinion, then try to brainwash you to accept theirs as their own. Advertising agencies, political parties and charismatic religious groups and their respective followers are among these. They are such experts at manipulating minds that to go against some is the equivalent of having someone say that you were a fool to buy a blue-coloured car when red is obviously the only colour worth having.

Some people will disagree with your opinion, but "fight to the death for your right to hold it." The name for this type of argument escapes me, but an equivalent argument would be "Darling! I don't want to say that your dress is out of style, but..." It's a form of put-down that works well in most circumstances. If the quote in this paragraph seems familiar, then you know how it has been used in recent years. If you know it was Voltaire who said it first, then you know the depth of skill at debating and philosophy of the man who originated the saying "I disagree with everything you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

In those countries, workplaces or families where strong efforts are made to stifle opinions other than those of the leader (Kim Il Jong is their poster child), the followers learn to not even think an opinion for fear that it might escape their lips. Those situations, such as that in North Korea today, are tyrannical to the extreme.

Wouldn't it be best to simply remain dumb, thus avoidng the chance of having an opinion someone else might attack? That kind of thinking is for those who want to live in pens, stalls and corrals. You know some of them. They are Establishment suck-ups.

Without dissent, those with a lust for power become dictators. Dictatorships can even exist within democracies (of which we have abundant evidence today) so long as enough people let those with a lust for power have their own way.

Having and expressing your own opinion is one of the few ways that you can ensure that your life has had meaning. The most influential people in history (among them Spinoza, Voltaire, Van Gogh, Leonardo, and so on) were considered troublemakers in their own times.

Their lives were uphill struggles, yet they live on in the minds of many because they dared to have opinions that differed from those of the most powerful among them.

No one lives on as a legend by being the same as everyone else or by following the party line.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help you form good opinions you can hold against the storms of oppression.
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