To The Editor,
I attended Carlton University for two years in the early 1970’s. Lived off-campus about half-way to the ‘arch enemy’, Ottawa U.
Mostly the students were good friends and partied together, but there were some fundamental differences between the two universities which gave each its character.
I learned some from the courses I took, but learned endlessly more from the people of the schools and those who surrounded them. The Vietnam war was still raging and Ottawa was a magnet for draft dodgers, and some deserters. These were varied, from soldiers who could stand no more, to young men who had no wish to be any part of the war. They often fit in well with the universities, being of similar age and education.
In dorms, or apartments, or even a bar-room, people would gather for discussion. And there was a lot of serious, or so it seemed, topics to be discussed. U of O was a centre for Francophone rights and fights, Carleton not so much. Women’s lib was rising and what some saw as the inevitable destruction of the family. Wars. Drugs. Gay rights. With the mix of diverse view points and strong stances, emotions could run high sometimes. Yet never once in those discussions which I remember, did they lead to animosity. More often if not to acceptance, then to mutual respect and understanding.
I look back on those events in the present light and see that today, they could not take place. When subjects are discussed these days, all participants must hold the same view. Taking an opposing position and expressing it is grounds to be kicked out of university. A Facebook post can be reason to be fired. It appears society is on its way to self destruction. How much can be cancelled before civilization itself in in the sights?
Banning Dr. Seuss’s books is somehow a benefit; righting old wrongs. If you do not see the wrong, you are the problem. Homer’s Odyssey is now on the chopping block in Massachusetts. Its crime? “For portraying ideas that do not conform to modern norms of behavior.”
A problem arises in mass uniformity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated from experience, “The “yes” man is an enemy. A friend will argue.” In this case, those who wish discussion are automatically deemed enemies, leaving the “yes” men who are known enemies; now just how to prove it. And after they are rooted out, who then? Without outside enemies, idealistic revolution feeds on itself.
Still lots of enemies out there to conquer though: People who question government policies and motives. Folk who wonder why billionaires have such an interest in getting everybody else vaccinated with their products, and in our well-being in general. Add those who might make factual information public which runs against an accepted narrative. And parents who shared Dr. Seuss books with their children and are not repentant.
Open debate and acceptance of all points for consideration is critical keeping any sense of civility. What happened to “Diversity is our strength”?