My Thoughts

I received another book this afternoon: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty originally published in 1859. I can hear the critics complaining, “Too old, outdated, why waste your time?” Perhaps, it is because I am old, though not quite that old; perhaps because I have been told that I am outdated, a relic of another time; or perhaps it is because I have the time to waste and thoroughly enjoy old, outdated essays. Personally, I believe I am on solid ground here, thoroughly convinced that we have much to learn from what has come before; history does repeat itself, you know.

What caught my eye as I scanned the first few pages gave me pause for it was as if the thoughts were yet wet upon the page. The Social Media Technocrats of Silicon Valley and the liberal media, in concert with the bureaucratic swampmonsters and their armies of “Fact Checkers” are nothing new. As Mill wrote in his Introductory: “The subject of this Essay is … the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. … It is so far from being new, that, in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages, …” He then proceeds to speak Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion—for those who may miss his meaning altogether, he is speaking of fundamental rights: Freedom of Thought and Expression or Freedom of Speech.

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. … But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

First: the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common.[1]

Let us now pass to the second division of the argument, and dismissing the supposition that any of the received opinions may be false, let us assume them to be true, and examine into the worth of the manner in which they are likely to be held, when their truth is not freely and openly canvassed. However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.[2]

To be sure, fact checkers, should they come across this brief reflection, will undoubtedly flag it as misinformation, partially false or misleading. Their rationale: it checks their feelings and disrupts their karma. What is worse is it red checkmarks the infallibility of their assumptions with absolutely certainty and they simply cannot live with that.

Just my thoughts for a Wednesday for what it is worth.

Check me out on Parler @ChuckLanham #dadeacon #wakeupamerica


[1] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (London: J.S. Parker, 1859), 14-15

[2] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 29.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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