Well, dear reader, it certainly has been a while since I have stirred the proverbial pot… But last week’s email certainly did that. 
The responses came flying in – and they really demonstrated how polarised our readership (indeed society?) has become. It was truly a “Love or Hate” reaction, with no hint of feeling in between. 
But I don’t believe that any situation is so black and white. The world, whether we acknowledge it or not, is filled to the brim with nuisance and every shade of grey. 
For instance, it is always possible to criticize and critique one side while not necessarily belonging to the other. Likewise, just because a movement has a name that you can’t disagree with, doesn’t mean the movement isn’t doing things you disagree with. Anyone who has studied rhetoric… or marketing… or PR can spot this powerful tactic. No one, for example, would say they are anti-life or anti-choice. 
But whether or not it’s unpopular, the ability to discuss opposing ideas is essential for a healthy society… and democracy. 

In a recent article from Pano Kanelos, former president of (my alma mater) St. John’s college Annapolis, he addresses the worrying trend of shutting down any or all those who disagree with the prevailing attitudes, for better or for worse:

“The numbers tell the story as well as any anecdote you’ve read in the headlines or heard within your own circles. Nearly a quarter of American academics in the social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.

“The picture among undergraduates is even bleaker. In Heterodox Academy’s 
2020 Campus Expression Survey, 62% of sampled college students agreed that the climate on their campus prevented students from saying things they believe. Nearly 70% of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports at least 491 disinvitation campaigns since 2000. Roughly half were successful.”

Now, I’m not here to defend the individual ideas… that’s not my job or even desire. But I do think it’s important that we allow different perspectives to be expressed… and heard.

Can you imagine what would happen if interlocutors, inspired by the ancient Skeptics, were capable of listening purposefully to something they don’t agree to… and with an open mind? 
A famous skeptic.. Augustine of Hippo by Sandro Botticelli
We need to prepare the next generation to be antifragile, to contend with ideas, not identities, because there can always be bigger issues at stake.  

I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to live in many countries and under many regimes. I’ve experienced first hand socialism in Norway and in South America, authoritarianism in the Middle East and in Russia. I’ve seen the Taiwanese struggle to form their democracy while in America it slips away.  I’ve had friends’ passports confiscated and jailed for writing economic articles against a sheikh, seen friends harassed and extorted by the cops for being foreign, as well as witnessed my father’s former employer waste away in a gulag. 
No one wants to end up here…

I’m always the outsider looking in. As such, my purpose is not to choose sides, to promote one agenda over another. In fact, I like to discriminate indiscriminately. Like the Socratic gadfly, my purpose is to annoy everyone

Well, not ‘annoy’, the actual goal is to get to the truth of the matter, to understand the situation fully. That is why having these discussions is so important. And to that end, I want to bring the conversation to you, dear reader.

Everyone wants a better society… less poverty and crime, more opportunity and freedoms. The disagreement, therefore, comes to how to get there and to what extent this can be achieved. 

But I think we’ll make more progress together if everyone can at least talk to each other.

That’s why I want your input… and to get us started, I’ve put a bit of the reader feedback from last week’s letter below. But before we get into it, I want to ask you:

Are the classics being canceled? Is our society becoming less open minded? Are we capable of allowing unpopular views? And if we aren’t, what can we do to change it? 

And to further this extremely important topic, this month I have asked Anika Prather, Professor at Howard University to join myself, along with Alexandra Hudson of Civic Renaissance, to discuss whether the Classics are being cancelled… whether we should have a canon… and if so, what should it look like? 

You can join us for this very important conversation completely FREE, taking place November 23rd at noon EDT. Register your spot here.