Like many people, most of whom remain very quiet and even tight lipped about it, I have a growing difficulty getting my head around the growing fashion for attacks on anyone who questions or ridicules any of a certain set of ideas and beliefs of others, whilst people exercising those same beliefs appear free to inflict them on everyone else, even though they are doing exactly the same thing.
Ask anyone how they would feel about having to keep their own views quiet for fear of being intimidated, ostracised, attacked, having their career destroyed or perhaps a lot worse, and very few will argue the benefits of being in such a perilous situation.
Yet turn that position on its head. Question people with a fixed set of beliefs about how those who don’t share their views should be treated and few of the responses will come out through a mirror which should unquestionably leave the outcome looking exactly the same, albeit in a projected form.
Belief, or what we as individuals voluntarily perceive as the world around us, how it works and the systems we have been conditioned to view as the bedrock that underpins it, is to all intents and purposes, the lifeblood of how the human world operates and functions.
Whether it be the extreme of a religious calling, the fashion trends that we follow, the eating plan that we have adopted or even what forms the basis of our basic road sense as we look to cross in traffic. Our whole experience is underpinned by a series of different beliefs.
Many of these beliefs, such as what happens if we place our hand in a fire are shared.
Others, such as Leaving or Remaining in Europe, what constitutes cruelty in terms of animal welfare, or who is the best film star to have ever lived are very much our own, even though we may appear to share them with others.
The former group, that’s the ‘what happens if we run in front of a car’ type of belief, is a practical, accepted or universally accepted basic truth. One which we will rarely question, and when it is, we would not feel a sense of being put on the spot ourselves or that our own experience is being called into question, because we know it to be true.
We simply have no reason to feel that our views or our integrity are being questioned when it comes to universally accepted basic truths, because we know that to question them is itself based either on ignorance, stupidity, or a reason which once investigated would make sense and never be deserving of a disproportional response.
To be in the latter group however, is to be in possession of beliefs based on our own truths, the sum of our own experiences, and could only ever be arrived at by someone who had walked exactly the same path, had the same conversations, seen the same events, been in the same places at the same times, and interpreted the words, teachings and views of others in precisely the same way as we have ourselves.
Oddly, the reality of the latter set of beliefs in others and what the differences present actually mean are increasingly being overlooked, and considered by a growing number to be of the same value as a universally accepted truth.
They see their own views as being above scrutiny, and of such legitimacy that they must not be questioned by others or ‘non-believers’ on any account.
Reading that back, it sounds more likely that I am writing about the Spanish Inquisition or the logic of the Albigensian Crusade, than I am about the behaviour of the Social Justice brigade or a frightened 21st Century Western Establishment bowing to their every demand, because the prospect of doing otherwise makes them too afraid.
But the transfer of unqualified personal, private belief into the realms of legitimised, common accepted truth is now our dangerous reality. One that we must put in check, before the lack of understanding that underpins it begins to dictate everything in the world around us, how we all behave and everything that we do.
This week we have seen a British Magazine Editor step down for making thoughtless comments in an email about Vegans. Yet another incident which overlooks questions about the role of the accused, the accuser and the ‘court of public opinion’ which has subsequently become involved.
You can be sure there has, is and will be a whole lot more incidents of this kind.
Underlying such events is a commonality of errors. A vein of social misdemeanours and blunders which I am afraid to say have, are and will be at some point committed by us all – often without even a hint of deliberate intent. And none of which we would ourselves be likely to find warranting of any form of punishment or unnecessary trial-by-media of it were just a universally accepted basic truth which was involved.
That some can react so very badly to the direct or indirect questioning of their own beliefs is not itself wrong. But such a level of response to that question, whether it was posed in the form of ridicule, analysis or any other form of scrutiny, does itself ask fundamental questions about how strong or indeed comfortable that individual’s own belief in the subject under question might actually be.
Anything perfect, which cannot be disputed, doesn’t need the protection of any form of belief for it to exist or for it to be maintained.
Belief is what you make it.