Last week a controversy arose in Canada after an individual in St. John’s, Newfoundland was offended. He was offended by the word “faggot” in the lyrics of “Money for Nothing,” a song by Dire Straits.
The offended one took his complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) which ruled that the song be banned from broadcast on all Canadian radio stations unless edited.
Comments and observations across media channels ranged from pleas for understanding the artistry of the songwriter to whether or not contemporary culture is more enlightened than that which existed in the 1980s. The song won a Grammy and was a popular hit in several countries.
The difference between cultures then and now is not so much one of “enlightenment” as it is one of social regimentation, most often aided by the iron hand of the State.
Objectively, everyone must be offended by something at one time or another in their individual lives. For example, based on my value system I could easily find offence in the sentiment behind the words, “money for nothing”. And, there must be someone out there offended by the sentiment behind the words, “chicks for free”.
Most of us would just shrug and move on. We’re not about to think that we can compel the thought processes of the songwriter and we might even—if sophisticated enough—understand that artists create work within the context of their times.
Today, this matters not. If one person is offended by something or someone—preferably someone with financial or political means—it always seems that the rest of society is expected not only to be sensitive, but must pay for the offence. History is rewritten and Canadian Human Rights law compensates for hurt feelings.
Think about this: do you feel helpless in the tidal wave of such assaults on your mind? Do you think any differently? Are you compelled never to say, or think about “faggot” ever again? Was it even in your vocabulary until this recent controversy?
The essence of your “self” is the ability to think your own thoughts—and it is under attack. No one can compel you to think. It takes you to initiate any change in the way you think. And more to the point: the mind does not work well under compulsion of any kind. Compulsion which attempts to force another’s mind to work according to the dictates of a political elite du jour is demoralizing and it saps the dignity of human beings. It is evil.
From where is such coercion most often drawn? Only the State, represented by its bureaucratic and political elite can employ force to attempt to affect your thinking. As a proper culture we could all just move on. But as long as the threat of censorship contaminates our society we will have reduced dignity as individual human beings and our culture will be an immoral rather than an enlightened one.
©Copyright 2011 Edward Podritske