The Inequality of Ideas

I saw a little girl with her father once on a train. She was asking all these serial “why?” questions that young children do and the father was answering them but eventually he grew exasperated and told her to shut up. I was stunned as was the child who immediately stopped asking questions. She had been scolded for seeking knowledge and her mind would close. That was a tragedy that I was witness to.

The key to gaining knowledge is to assume you know nothing, to be very child-like and open-minded and accepting of new ideas and different opinions. There is a dangerous politically correct commandment in play at the moment that I call “Thou Shalt Not Have An Opinion.” It’s where the idea and its originator are attacked in the most public, personal and savage way possible. A retraction and apology is typically demanded by an online lynch mob. If their ultimatum is not complied with, then the originator can face career meltdown and financial ruin. Scary, scary stuff. I love hearing ideas, even if I totally disagree with them or find them offensive. That is freedom of speech. We must have dialogue and debate or we are going to end up in a boring world where no one says anything daring or controversial. It is only when boundaries are pushed and sometimes broken that new art forms and ways of thinking are created.

Writing is not as collaborative a medium as making movies where you’re working with several hundred people. Until you turn the work over to editors or your readers, you are in solitary control of it and expected to have all the solutions. I value my time with other people because I value people but there are others who dismiss the ideas and opinions of others flat out. Their minds are narrowed if not closed off completely (possibly a type that little girl grew up to become.)  We live in a world where control-freakery is seen as being “strong” when actually it’s a weakness. Control freaks can’t allow others to contribute or blossom as it might overshadow them and deep down they are more insecure than anyone so they pounce. Real strength is having the confidence to hear others, even if they have ideas that are superior to yours.

Then there’s the publication of ideas and even here there is inequality and an inability or unwillingness to acknowledge them. Self-published books can be ghettoised. It’s gradually changing but self-published ideas are still prejudged before even being read. Most bookshops where I am still refuse to stock self-published books, bursaries and grants are denied to self-published authors but the taxman will happily hit you up for money upon publication. You’re “legit” when it comes to paying tax and not before it seems. It also appears that some ideas, opinions and writers are more equal than others. What do you think?

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.


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