An Intellectual Peace
Peace has many components both physical and mental. Canadians do not have war-torn villages, minefields or the like, to remind us of the physical aspects of war. My sense of peace, and that of many Canadians I’m sure, involves the non-physical elements of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, two of the basic pillars of peace around which, currently, a largely unrecognised war appears to be raging.
History tells us that the objective of war has rarely been peace. Expansion of power, more land, independence from oppression, food supply, religion, family quarrels, moral imperatives, and now eradication of terrorism, all have caused or been the excuse for war.
On the political level, nations are currently struggling to maintain or achieve peace, in the focus on the production, use, prevention of use, and destruction of nuclear weapons.
But while our national attention is focused on these admittedly important issues, we have seemingly lost sight of threats to what has made Canada and other western cultures so desirable to immigrants like myself.
I have during my life woken each day in the happy knowledge that my thoughts and feelings are free, untrammeled and open for discussion. This is my mental peace. It is in a way dependent upon my physical peace; that is, freedom to walk about freely, to have my family sleep at night safe from violence, to have my grandson play safely in a park, to carry out mundane tasks free from threat.
This safety has been achieved through the slow accretion of social, spiritual and cultural norms, not only during the last 150 years, but since settlers began structuring their lives in the New World.
This has not been without strife, but it has seen increasingly open discussion addressing solutions to strife. We see this as a process that will continue, in which Canada moves towards a state not unlike the Garden of Eden, where everyone lives in harmony.
But let us not forget who was the final arbiter of the rules in that garden.
What I am witnessing today is the appearance of a new arbiter in the garden, an inversion of the traditional dictatorships of the past where power was grabbed from the people by a powerful elite, to a new paradigm in which the people cede their independence, unwittingly, to a new form of thought-government.
This is the information technology equivalent of nuclear warheads. This is the era of the sheep or lemming wars, where social media gives the impression of freedom of expression for all.
Social media is like the overloaded passenger ship where everyone runs to one side to see the whale, resulting in the inevitable sinking of the ship. Social media owners are already beginning to censor content in the name of the public good, unfortunately with general public approbation.
Extreme or hate speech may not easily be defined or recognized for what it is, but should the new arbiters in the garden be our new moral guides? Are the adverts that pay for free social media availability becoming our new bible?
If your morning skies are still blue you may not bother checking the weather forecast. If you see the emerging clouds on the horizon, find out what this portends. Will it be a shower or a flood?
Here’s the paradox – if you want your personal peace to continue, you may have to fight for it.
But the fight is with thoughts and words – free speech and ideas. That is what WWI and WWII were ultimately about. Let us not end up in a new-style WWIII because we thought appeasement was a weapon.
By: Harry Monaghan