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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Voice: A writer’s return to controversy

Published: April 18, 2008
Section: Opinions

In the February 29th edition of The Hoot, I announced my sorrowful retirement from controversy. I had proclaimed that I could no longer take the tension and agitation that comes along with saying sometimes offensive or unpopular remarks. I wrote that my skin was no longer thick enough to take the countless assailments from the people who found my comments unfavorable. Since then, I have tried to contain my detested beliefs. Outside of my column, I have held my tongue on a number of occasions, and inside The Hoot, I have published some of the worst dribble ever written in a college publication. A month and a half wiser, I have finally reasoned that my previous actions were not appropriate. In our contemporary society, pathetic malcontents have nothing better to do than to take offense, and I must not succumb to the craven attacks of this vociferous group. In addition, nothing would ever be accomplished if everyone in my predicament simply quieted down. Our society thrives from the free marketplace of ideas, and I must contribute to this institution. I cannot tread the middle ground; I cannot try to appease the majority. This would make me just as bad as the spineless people who have no conviction and merely pursue the admiration of others. I cannot remain silent. I cannot be quiet any longer. For the following reasons I announce my triumphant return to controversy, offensiveness, or whatever else you’d like to call my legitimate opinions.

I have come to the conclusion that some unsatisfied people will always take offense at certain things that people say. If I use the word “he” as my default pronoun, some crazy-person will protest that I am succumbing to the male-dominated patriarchy. If I use the word “I” too much, people may believe me to be egotistical. I originally became aware of this phenomenon after I published my first “dull” article, which was about my recollections of the Dachau Concentration Camp. I thought that this article was completely sensitive, that the piece had no teeth whatsoever. Nevertheless, some unsatisfied reader thought that my comments about American pride were inappropriate, as if patriotism goes out of style. I was so unnerved by this incident that I felt sick to my stomach. How could someone take offense at my unobtrusive article, what motivated people to become so easily agitated?

I think that some people just naturally love to take offense at things. Their lives are so menial that they must spice it up a bit with a statement of agitation. Taking offense is also an egotistical affair. They place themselves and their opinions as superior to others and go out of their way to exert their beliefs. I pity these individuals. Is your life so lame that you must attack me? Are there no other channels for your unbridled need to be frustrated and offended? I shall no longer allow these individuals to influence my work. They are pathetic and deserve no consideration whatsoever.

I am a person who has read John Stewart Mill’s On Liberty, and believe that the principles expressed in that masterpiece are valid. All points of view, regardless of background, need to be expressed in the free marketplace of ideas in order for society to progress. By communicating all views, people can see for themselves the validity of certain beliefs, and the melting pot of contemporary thought can be enriched. Most of the time, the only views expressed on this campus are the screeching ideas of liberal propaganda. This demonic choir howls amazingly biased beliefs, and there is oftentimes not a single voice of opposition. Oftentimes, I think that our school motto should be “seek liberalism even unto its inner-most parts” to reflect this reality. This unanimity is bad. It does not add to the intellectual debate. It does not enable people to expand their beliefs. I must continue my expression in order to break this condition. In doing so, I also hope to add my views to the marketplace of ideas. In addition, I also desire to express a point of view that rarely gets conveyed on this campus. Eventually, Mill’s suggestions shall be advanced as new views will be voiced.

I also realized during my hiatus that I had become everything that I hated. One of the reasons why I retired in the first place was so that I could appeal to everyone and reduce the amount of negative feedback I had generated because of my beliefs. I was also running for Student Union office, and knew I had to be as unobtrusive as possible in order to maximize my likelihood of victory. This stance turned me into a completely undesirable self. I tread through life without a spine, biting my tongue at every occasion to argue. Sure, I had appealed to many, and possibly generated a positive image among my peers, but these were shallow rewards. I had no conviction, no real fervor. I had become the smiley, passionless drone that I had always hated, and this was a wretched experience indeed. It is so easy to tread the middle ground, so easy to appeal to everyone and reap the rewards of positive perception and community approval. It takes a real person to show conviction, to go against the grain and shout out a voice of opposition. These people, after all, are the movers of our society, and I would love to once again assume this role. I now cast away my superficial desire to gain acceptance, and bear the burden of expressing views that may sometimes be offensive or controversial.

A senior editor of this paper said I would only last a few weeks in my retirement, and he was right in the most part. I can no longer be the shallow soul that I had tried to become. I shall no longer take my opinions off the marketplace of ideas, and now firmly place them out for the selling. Finally, I can no longer bite my tongue, but must ardently expresses the views that I know are right. My return was not provoked by any one person, and I hold no grudges against any critics (Emma, no haters, your columns rock!). I only ask you, dear reader, not to attack my character in your responses to my pieces. Ad hominem attacks are never warranted, but your arguments are greatly appreciated. In conclusion, I know now that I must not be one soft voice of appeasement. I must, rather, once again become one tall voice, and not care about the negative consequences that may come my way. Get ready dear reader, I’ve got some amazing ideas brewing in my head waiting to be written. They may be offensive or controversial, but in the Millian tradition, they will add to the marketplace of ideas and benefit the Brandeis community at large.