(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
A professor of mine recently led a classroom discussion on censorship. I am embarrassed, therefore compelled, to admit that this is a hot-button issue for me. I cannot stand censorship. Why should one human being have power over what another human being is exposed to?
Just the same, I can surely see the other side of the story. Wait, no I can’t. What is the problem again? Has there ever been any data to support that uncensored living is problematic? Sure, there seems to be well established correlations between those who watch violence and those who perpetrate it, and the like. But causal?
There has to be an identifiable problem before we can start solving it! What is the problem?!
So this got me thinking. What, even, is censorship?
Censorship definitions refer us back to the word ‘censor’, which is a noun. By noun, we mean a person, place or thing. In this case, a censor is clearly a person. This is extremely important to the following philosophizing or interpretation of life. (Why is it important to spell out that a censor is a person? Because as free and alive men and women, we should want to live uncensored. Since we don’t right now, we need to know what that would even look like.) So a censor is another person. This makes sense because fundamentally censorship really can’t be imposed on oneself. By definition, a censor is someone who views/hears/reads something, deems it objectionable and then suppresses it. If I view/hear/read something, I can’t reverse that. I can’t censor myself. So we’ve learned something: The minimum number of humans required to bring forth the concept of censorship is two.
Why is this important? Because now we’re getting to the heart of the concept. There must be two people in order for one person to act as a censor.
Furthermore, it seems to me that censorship deals exclusively in the realm of surprise. As in, people clamor for censorship when they’ve been surprised. Or the well-intended censor believes if he doesn’t act, the audience will be unpleasantly surprised. Are you with me? Taking a page out of history, picture this: a well-tailored family sits down to watch the Ed Sullivan show. Everything is as it should be. Then, surprise! A man humps the air! This isn’t what they were expecting at all. Oh, boy. What are they ever to do?
Well, what did happen? What did they do? Maybe some turned off the TV. Maybe others wrote letters. Maybe others discussed it. Maybe others ignored it.
Could the surprise have been avoided? YES! Most definitely. When in history did adult men and women give other adult men and women control over their life in the way that those parents did with TV? As if there was something inherently congenial about what was broadcast on TV? “There was up until that point…”, you say? Well then, lesson learned.
What lesson? Don’t believe there is another living person worthy of control over your life.
The good news is, the information age is here. Not a single human being alive should be surprised by what they see or hear. If you value the freedom you have, and want even more of it, you’ll recognize this as a good thing. If censorship is inherently about limiting surprise, and surprise is coming to an end, the end of censorship is therefore near. Without the ability to be surprised, individuals have regained some of the control they gave up with the advent of TV and other forms of mass communication. And anytime we as individuals gain back control, it is a victory for freedom.
Censorship is about controlling life in the present to promote a desired future. Am I being clear? The thing being censored must really exist in order to be censored. Something not yet real cannot be censored. For example, whether fiction or non-fiction, censored violence is still violence. It still was brought forth into reality. How foolish are we to expect that life, inherently full of unknowns, should have a moment where we can for sure know the future? How did people ever make it to this, “Alright children… For the next short while, we are all going to stare at this optical illusion. Unlike the rest of the day, we should be totally safe from surprises. You see, there are men and women behind the scenes making sure that nothing we don’t expect will happen.” Are you kidding me?
For me, the burden of proof is on the censor. What is he trying to protect? I hope to have shown his answer is irrelevant. It isn’t about protecting. It is about control. Why does he want control? Because ‘he’-the censor and ‘he’-the individual calling for censorship don’t know how to live in the present. They are captivated by the notion of the future. They only know how to live in such a way that demonstrates their denial of the present. They simply put up with the present, in hopes for a better future. If they’re children, we need to teach them. If they are adults, they should be embarrassed.
Ask yourself, “Do I want a better future?” or “Do I want to live life?” They are not the same thing.
Instructions for How To Live Uncensored:
Step 1– Stop believing you can influence the future.
Step 2- Understand that there is only one step.