Wherever I have gone I have taken with me a small bust which always sits within sight of my desk. It is of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. As well as being reputedly the ugliest man in ancient Greece Socrates was also no mean debater. He thought that truth would emerge if we followed wherever the questions led.
His fellow Athenians unfortunately were of the opinion that, whilst they valued free speech, it could be set aside whenever it made them feel insecure. Socrates was found guilty of expressing ideas contrary to the views of the controlling Athenian establishment and consequently of corrupting the minds of the youth. Naturally enough he was sentenced to death and forced to drink hemlock. So far so modern; apart from the hemlock that is, today he would be dropped from the panel of Question Time.
Those of us who resist today’s Progressive establishment, which would restrict our freedom of speech in case it causes offence to anyone eagerly looking for offence, should remember Socrates.
He held to that concept encapsulated in the Greek word parhessia. This means more than just free speech, but open and frank speech, with the implied obligation to speak the truth for the common good, even if that involves personal risk.
There are significant areas of public concern about which we are only supposed to speak positively, they are effectively off limits to criticism. In the West generally these include; sexuality, ethnicity, multiculturalism and Islam. In the UK we also throw in the National Health Service and automatic welfare, two cornerstone aspects of Progressive state dogma which are inviolate.
The really offensive aspect of this is not just that it cuts down on open debate and the exploration of ideas and thus impoverishes us all, but it also treats grown-ups as children. Those who would restrict parhessia or frank speech are actually saying, “Best not say that in front of the children. If they hear it the poor dears won’t know how to react and will get upset. You know what they are like.” The arrogant condescension of Progressives knows no bounds.
In their usual patronising manner Progressives argue that they are attempting to preserve the vulnerable from hate speech. What they are actually doing is attempting to preserve their vulnerable opinions from open debate. The only vulnerable people they are concerned about are themselves. They are afraid of freedom and where the truth might lead and so have the need to close down debate.
The vulnerable in Western society are those who would uphold the ethos and traditions which made the West a beacon of freedom and hope for the rest of the world. That ethos and those traditions which Progressives are so determined to dismantle. We can believe in the failings of the Western world when Iran has a problem with a flood of immigrants from Europe and the USA.
Let us be thankful that we just have Western Progressives to confront. Not all opponents of frank speech are girly men who have a fit of the vapours if you suggest that Elton John is not a good role model for fathers everywhere. There are others who would restrict parhessia and do so in no uncertain terms.
Malala Yousufzai is recovering in hospital. This fourteen year old Pakistani girl was shot in the head by the Taliban. Her crime? Courageously advocating education for girls. Thankfully the majority public opinion in Pakistan is outraged by this atrocity.
Let us be thankful that from philosophers in ancient Greece to schoolgirls in modern Pakistan there are those willing, whatever the cost, to hold to the principle of parhessia.