“Soon after seizing power in 1979, Iran’s new Islamist regime set about transforming the country’s identity by staging a “cultural revolution.” Followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini temporarily closed the universities, purged thousands of ideologically suspect faculty and students and rewrote the curriculum wholesale.
“My mother, then an art student in Tehran, remembers how the revolutionaries raided the country’s great libraries, using markers to cross out offensive images in the art books. The nascent Islamic Republic was…” ~ Sohrab Ahmari
It’s always the same, whether Mao, Stalin, Khomeini, or whoever else calls himself a leader uses indoctrination to control followers, and force to defeat opponents. Minions’ justification for coercion amounts to the same, too. We know best, they say, so once we have power, we’ll design society according to our lights. That means you’ll do what we say, right down to whether or not you wear a beard. A fanatic always wants control.
Fanatics always fail. Instinct for freedom is too strong. Damage fanatics cause while they are temporarily ascendant, however, is enormous. If we could find a way to build a live and let live principle into our societies, we would find the key to happiness. It would not solve problems of loneliness and self doubt, but it would enable people to work through interior problems in a way that suits their temperament and needs.
Now we see fanatics on campus who want to control what you think, what you say, how you behave, how you interact with your friends. If you make a mistake, as the fanatics define mistakes, they call you before kangaroo courts to punish you or expel you from the community.
One of the more discouraging developments in our own culture and social interactions occurs on our college and university campuses. Academic freedom, a principle used to protect freedom of inquiry for students and teachers, works as a live and let live principle for the entire community. It makes communities of learning islands of tolerance and openness in a larger ocean of nosiness, social constraints, and legal restrictions. Under this free way of life, you can think what you want to think, you can think about anything at this early stage of life, and people praise you for it. You have freedom to choose your mentors, then go to work with them.
Now we see fanatics on campus who want to control what you think, what you say, how you behave, how you interact with your friends. If you make a mistake, as the fanatics define mistakes, they call you before kangaroo courts to punish you or expel you from the community. They expressly set themselves against principles of academic freedom, against the ideal of a community where you leave other people alone.
At bottom, this behavior represents a loss of mutual respect. In a free community, people who disagree with each other also respect each other. That’s not an easy attitude to maintain, but the effort is certainly worthwhile. If you don’t make the effort, you extend respect to people who agree with you, and withhold it from people who don’t. When you go down that path, you build intolerance into your mode of life, a worm that makes you feel superior to people who don’t think the same way you think, or behave as you behave.
The music becomes ugly. They use intimidation and every sort of coercive tactic available to force their own principles of interaction on others. Their mode of operation is, ‘Get me some muscle over here.’ Fanatics operate the same way, wherever you see them.
We see the consequences of disrespect and intolerance everywhere we look. When you respect only people who agree with you, everyone sings to one chorus. Moreover, each band sets out to defeat the others, as they consider competitors’ music obnoxious. The strongest band is the best organized and the most committed. You don’t even have to think for yourself anymore, because someone has already done that for you. You make a decision to fight for ideals out of a sense of solidarity, rather than a commitment to freedom.
So commitment in this context means you forsake liberal ideals of tolerance, openness, and free pursuit of truth. Groups that value cohesion, action and coercion know better, and they will shout you down. The music becomes ugly. They use intimidation and every sort of coercive tactic available to force their own principles of interaction on others. Their mode of operation is, “Get me some muscle over here.” Fanatics operate the same way, wherever you see them.
Remember When Art Was Supposed to Be Beautiful?