What happens when a society, once a model for enlightened progress, threatens to backslide into intolerance and irrationality—with the complicity of many of its own citizens? How should that society’s stunned and disoriented members respond? Do they engage in kind, resist, withdraw, even depart? It’s a dilemma as old as democracy itself.
Twenty-four centuries ago, Athens was upended by the outcome of a vote that is worth revisiting today. A war-weary citizenry, raised on democratic exceptionalism but disillusioned by its leaders, wanted to feel great again—a recipe for unease and raw vindictiveness, then as now. The populace had no strongman to turn to, ready with promises that the polis would soon be winning, winning like never before. But hanging around the agora, volubly engaging residents of every rank, was someone to turn on: Socrates, whose provocative questioning of the city-state’s sense of moral superiority no longer seemed as entertaining as it had in more secure times. Athenians were in no mood to have their views shaken up. They had lost patience with the lively, discomfiting debates sparked by the old man. In 399 b.c., accused of impiety and corrupting the young, Socrates stood trial before a jury of his peers—one of the great pillars of Athenian democracy. That spring day, the 501 citizen-jurors did not do the institution proud. More of them voted that Socrates should die than voted him guilty in the first place.
După ce am analizat şi răsanalizat, am măsurat, am cântărit şi testat fizico-chimic şi termodinamic mie mi se pare că scenariile 1, 3 şi 5 propuse de Comisia Europeană ar fi ce ne trebuie, viabil ar fi scenariul 3, care ar rupe gura târgului iar dezirabil ar fi o combinație între scenariile 1,3 şi 5 care ne-ar coafa corespunzător.
The diminutive iceberg was an afterthought by the time it broke apart. I was riding a soft inflatable boat towards one of the great glaciers of Spitsbergen, an island located north of Norway and east of Greenland. Spitsbergen is part of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, deep within the Arctic Circle and about halfway between mainland Europe and the North Pole. A tall ship had carried me there along with a troop of photographers and writers and scientists for an improbable artist residency. We stared at the glacier’s calving face in Fuglefjord, where it stops gouging the earth and splinters into the sea. We were trying to catch one of those awesome, humbling instances when ice splits like marble in a quarry and crashes into the water. Momentary respects had been paid to a distinctive but small iceberg (no bigger than a stout Victorian house in San Francisco) but we puttered past en route to the glacier itself—where we thought the action was.
We shuddered when the iceberg broke at our backs. Turning in unison with my shipmates, I felt the air change. It had become so fresh it was almost repellent, as though an ancient sepulcher had cracked open to release a saturated gush of oxygen. Dark, clear ice below the berg’s surface began to rotate upwards, cranking horologically into its new position. After a collective gasp, we hushed and watched.
Let us eschew the familiar examples: the disinvited speakers, the Title IX tribunals, the safe zones stocked with Play-Doh, the crusades against banh mi. The flesh-eating bacterium of political correctness, which feeds preferentially on brain tissue, and which has become endemic on elite college campuses, reveals its true virulence not in the sorts of high-profile outbreaks that reach the national consciousness, but in the myriad of ordinary cases—the everyday business-as-usual at institutions around the country—that are rarely even talked about.
A clarification, before I continue (since deliberate misconstrual is itself a tactic of the phenomenon in question). By political correctness, I do not mean the term as it has come to be employed on the right—that is, the expectation of adherence to the norms of basic decency, like refraining from derogatory epithets. I mean its older, intramural denotation: the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.
I recently spent a semester at Scripps, a selective women’s college in Southern California. I had one student, from a Chinese-American family, who informed me that the first thing she learned when she got to college was to keep quiet about her Christian faith and her non-feminist views about marriage. I had another student, a self-described “strong feminist,” who told me that she tends to keep quiet about everything, because she never knows when she might say something that you’re not supposed to. I had a third student, a junior, who wrote about a friend whom she had known since the beginning of college and who, she’d just discovered, went to church every Sunday. My student hadn’t even been aware that her friend was religious. When she asked her why she had concealed this essential fact about herself, her friend replied, “Because I don’t feel comfortable being out as a religious person here.”