Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is It Safe To Be Unpopular?

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
- Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

Is it safe to be unpopular in western society today?

The biggest announcement that President George W. Bush made during his term in office was "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." That is, agree with me or you will be labelled a terrorist supporter and treated accordingly. Those who opposed war were treasonous enemies.

On a program on FOX-News following 9/11, the son of a victim of the World Trade Centers tragedy who opposed going to war over the event was told to "Shut up!" by host Bill O'Reilly on camera. When the network went to an O'Reilly-ordered break, he told the young man to get out of the studio or he would slit his throat, according to statements made by the young fellow later (and recorded on camera).

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter called Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards a "faggot" for not supporting all-out war in Iraq, at any cost. Issues can't be debated in an atmosphere where one participant could use vicious labels against the other at any time.

Within internet communities, even being popular can be dangerous. Many have stalkers who hound and berate those who receive attention, giving them low ratings where that option is possible so that the published work of the popular person will not be given further attention. In that environment, being unpopular gets you no attention.

People in most large cities feel unsafe walking after dark and won't drive in some neighbourhoods because whatever they represent may be unpopular, be it their religion, their skin colour or even their gender.

Conservatives in the US claim that it's no longer possible to have a free society in a world where terrorists want to blow you up any time they can because they envy you.

When you treat everyone who may disagree with you as an enemy thereafter, you will have many enemies. Having many enemies makes life unsafe.

The real enemies are those who see those who are not like themselves or who disagree with them as enemies, those who make enemies because they don't have the capacity to make friends.

They can't make friends because they don't know how. They are too afraid of the "others" to believe that it's possible to have a safe world. They make the world unsafe.

The people who are afraid make it their life's work to make others afraid. To them, it's better that we all be afraid than that they themselves endure an attitude correction.

And we let them.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make some of the ugly realities of life clearer so they can be corrected.
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