• Flux Magazine

"Are Freethinkers Facing Extinction?" by Noelle S. Dahl

A few weeks ago, I was enduring a monotonous English lecture when my professor railed off-topic and prompted a discussion on diversity in the workforce. I was only listening half-heartedly until one of my peers asked if our workforce is diverse enough today and how a company should hire its new employees. His answer? “Today, a company should [exclusively] seek diversity, not merit.” His response is not what shocked me, this is quite typically what I’d expect from a liberal arts professor in Northern California. What left me staggered and feeling uneasy was the number of students who agreed with him, without question

We are all too familiar with these situations and they come from both sides of the spectrum, but where do we draw the line between free thought and abiding by the authority position? Why are so many students falling victim to trusting an authority figure’s opinion as truth? You see, during my college experience, there have been various instances where authority figures on campus have attempted to reeducate me. Here’s a handful: It has been mandatory, for me, to attend a protest on campus. Discussions have been cut short when I have, respectfully, disagreed with staff members. I’ve been called “offensive” and “aggressive” while I never raising my tone nor acting uncivil, but only requesting evidence. In short, political nonconformity is not tolerated. 

We’re living in dangerous times where politic positions have altered from moral standpoints to social trends. Public apathy no longer means having a lack of interest in politics but refers to those who will mindlessly absorb the nine worded headline that pops up on Snapchat when they’re crossfaded at Denny’s at 2 AM. The ones who do not follow these trends and independently research are the freethinkers; I’m beginning to believe that not only are they endangered, but could be facing extinction at a much swifter rate than our classic sci-fi novelists, like Orwell and Huxley, could’ve imagined. 

As rare as it may seem today, the concept of free thought is nothing new. It was first coined in the 17th century to prevent individuals from unequivocally abiding by the teachings of religious leaders. Freethinkers base their opinions on their logic and reasoning, not by what the authority figure’s perspective is. Indeed times have changed, but free thought is still necessary. 

Today, freethinkers are those who reject having “trendy” political ideologies for the sake of being “woke”. The truth is most of those people care more about looking like they care than the real issues themselves. It is easy to say, “I fight for what I believe in,” when what you believe in conforms with the popular opinion. There is a small about of people who think for themselves in this climate and I applaud those who do. We must demand platforms to exercise our freedom of speech and preserve our right to speak as openly about these political issues as our authority figures do. 

Back to my professor, who unfailingly reduces his status from educator to “white male”. I’d ask you this— if you truly believe that one should be hired solely on their race or sex, how would you react to the termination of your employment based on exactly that? And to the perpetual head-nodders at the front of the class, stop assuming that what your educator is saying is fact. It is not. And we have the right to question everything as we should be doing.

I’ll end with this quote as I believe it is, too often, skimmed over. No longer is this a segment of fiction. It is a genuine warning and we should acknowledge its reality

“In a way, the world-view of the Party posed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding, they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.” 

- George Orwell, 1984

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