Are we really all that different?  

Let’s clear the air here. We have convinced ourselves that we as humans, as Canadians, as people of this century….know better, or are better than the version of ourselves from ages past. That we are somehow different or better than people who live in countries where tyranny, genocide, totalitarianism, sexism, violence, war and evil exist. The truth is, we are capable of this now. We are no different as human beings. The only thing that actually separates us, is our ability to access information and speak freely. 


Most of the atrocities that were able to be pulled off in our history, were able to do so because either the people in power controlled the sources of information, or the ability to share, speak or transfer information was not available considering the current level of  technology. I am reminded of this as I read about the Second World War, the current state of North Korea, the social credit system of China, pharmaceutical failures and their crimes of the past, Residential Schools, and the Soviet Union. The theme I hear over and over again in all of these books? “If we only knew what was really happening, we could have done something.” If the people knew, if the people were able to communicate, and if the people could speak out…..many of these acts of violence may never have had a chance to get to the point that it did. 


We have a belief here that WE are different and that’s very dangerous. What’s different is actually our freedom to communicate. WE are not that different. The need for power and control exists still. Good and evil exist still. 


We have been blessed to have lived through a time of relative ease. One where we haven’t had to worry about oppressive leaders or war within our nation. So here we are now, watching bills being created in parliament that give total control of communication to those in power, watching peaceful protests get shut down, censoring and firing accredited experts of all kinds, watching elected MPs being banned from parliament, governments telling doctors how to doctor, shaming our friends and our colleagues for daring to ever speak their concerns out loud…….and no one is worried.  In fact, we’re encouraging the demise of free speech and giving away control of information to one very small group.


We are shifting to an authoritarian way of being. In government, and between us. We are shifting away from the multi-verse and into the “melted pot” of ideas and opinions.  “You may have your opinions, but don’t you dare ever say anything out loud.” The people are now doing the heavy lifting. Is this alarmist? I think not. While squelching the kooks, the cranks, the misinformed, the conspiracies  may sound like a good idea, we are also opening the door to erasing the brave, the bold, the experts, the informed, and the truth tellers.  Who decides who gets free speech? Who decides what information is valid? I would hope a democratic country could handle a censoring program like this, but if you haven’t noticed, we don’t seem to be operating as a democratic country anymore. Many rules have already been broken. Democracy dies in the dark and the authoritarians are the ones who are turning off the lights.


We should not be complacent about allowing people in power to remove the right to free speech. We should not be complacent about censorship of the internet, monitoring of our phones, or our ability to protest. This is happening now. The principle matters. The concept matters. Because once you’ve created the container for this exist, it takes on a life of its own. The dangers of removing free speech and access to information are far greater than the dangers of letting “just anyone” speak, protest and post information. How do I know this? Because of history. Clear as day.


But what about those who are truly wrong in every sense of the word? Ones spreading lies. People spreading hate. The people who are bigots, haters, or racists? Shouldn’t we just erase them? Erasing the individual, will never turn them the right way. They will never learn that their data is wrong. They will never learn that their ways hurt. They will never learn to be more compassionate, or kind, or truthful…….they will only be erased. And angry. And will find ways to get louder anyways (and most likely bringing other misinformed haters with along the way). The conversation is where we turn people the right way. The conversation is the only way through.


For those of you who think freedom of speech is dangerous, there is one very simple way to end that fear. You could end any misinformation in one quick swoop. 


Let the people speak. Let them speak publicly. Have both sides sit at the table. Prove them wrong. End them with good science. And let them do the same for you. Analyze their theories, their data, their science instead of smearing the person. Have balanced news with round table discussions. End the misinformation in open debate. With data. With evidence. Not name calling, labelling and erasers. Have the debate and let the people watch. This is how we learn. Bubble wrapping language and our technology is not what we need. People are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. Let the people decide for themselves what to listen to, and who to listen to. Because history has shown us again and again that the majority isn’t always right. From Gallileo, to Plato, to Rosa Parks, to Gandhi, those that dissented and differed proved to be the ones that were right. The majority does not always determine the truth. 


Notice that there is no debate. Notice the attack on the person, instead of an attack on the data. Who knew it was so easy to stop people from critical thinking by simply calling someone a name? How easy it is to end a debate with name calling…instead of debate.  Is it misinformation? Or simply unfavourable information? Are they dangerous because they’re telling lies? Or dangerous because they’re telling the truth? You’ll never know without the debate. 


We spend millions on “fact checkers,” smear campaigns, commercials and parliamentary bills to control information……and we could end it all with one zoom call of experts in discussion.


The discussion does not exist. I’ve heard experts of all kinds begging for debates on so many issues. Begging for others to prove them wrong. They say “please, show me where I’m wrong??? Show me your data. Show me the correction.” Crickets instead. Crickets….or some name calling.  Where debate isn’t allowed, tyranny exists. The truth doesn’t mind being questioned, so when the question isn’t allowed, you know what you’re dealing with. Show me the countries where authoritarian control of information exists……and show me how it’s working out for those who are controlled. Why would we be any different here if we allowed the same?


The only thing that stands between us and atrocity, is our access to information and freedom of speech. One would hope that those that control the right to free speech and access to information are good and kind and just…..but what if they’re not? Does any one small group deserve that kind of power? Has there ever been a time in history when this situation of totalitarian control has played out well? When one small group controlled the narrative, the means of communication and there was punishment for those who didn’t follow suit? 


This is the tipping point. 


Freedom of speech and access to information is the only thing that protects us from history repeating itself. 


Keep asking questions.


Keep the conversation open. 


Own your freedom of speech, appreciate your ability to access information and never let anyone take that away from you. 


Keep going.