safe spaces

(Wikimedia Commons/Coentor)

By Arsentiy Novak

Implausible though it may seem, a few months ago I found myself in the most heartless of places. London’s Camden Market.

Although I would normally avoid such a Hades of cultural appropriation, on that particular day I went there voluntarily. A date with the most lovely of non-binary individuals pressed me to do so.

Some good came of it. I was reintroduced to George Orwell.

I hope I need not educate the reader on the significance of his “Brave New World.” However, it was Orwell’s other account — of an animal farm — that struck my fancy.

The animals coming together to revolt against the oppression of the privileged, against the farmers Mr. and Mrs. Jones and their fellow confederates. Reforming the expired system, Napoleon the Pig manages to bring about what we have been trying to do for many years: Sell our liberty for the sake of peace and quiet.

Racing through the novella in mere hours, it became clear as British summer that Orwell is on our side. Inspired to no end, I decided to offer my own defense as to why we must preserve zones of intellectual progression.

I’d invite you to raise your hand if you’re a conformist.

In this essay, I shall prove that the recent movement to create “safe zones” or “safe spaces” in universities is absolutely necessary, and why opposition to the movement stems from neo-fascism.

I think an organic beginning would be to state the obvious: we are individuals.

I am an individual. You are an individual. Yet there are some who have not quite accepted this blissful state and must be given an opportunity to realize it.

What a travesty to deny this to someone out of immodesty of opinion. Do free-speechers not recognize that words can cut like daggers? Precisely these daggers that risk popping the slowly inflating balloon of someone’s growing individuality. Can’t risk that.

We need our individuality to feel good about ourselves — “you only live once” and all that jazz.

I’d invite you to raise your hand if you’re a conformist. Nobody? Voilà, I rest my case.

Let us breathe our own fumes.

We mustn’t be sheep, as that old shepherd Nietzsche used to say. We must transcend the usual blabber of the right that poisons our virginal air with its offensiveness.

What better way than to cut the crap? Cut away the stream that enters our pipes; cut away their repulsive, ignorant opinions. Let us breathe our own fumes. That way, at least, our individuality is unadulterated by cisgendered white members.

Let me give you an example. Just yesterday I was witness to a young (probably straight) white man attempting to silence the voice of a minority.

A flamboyantly dressed, Middle-Eastern man at Strand in London was desperate to be heard. He spoke quite loudly into a megaphone about his late friend Muhammed and was gesticulating wildly at the passing audience.

A wonderfully unique, exotic performance. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it since watching William Friedkin’s movie “The Exorcist.”

In any case, the aforementioned white man didn’t get it. As the gifted street performer reached a high note in his monologue, pointing at passers-by to great effect (just like the little girl in the film), the young, white ignoramus decided to intervene with his “civilized conversation.”

It caused the poor performer to lose his concentration and, following that, temper. After the two had argued for a second, the white man backed off, suddenly fearful of the knife that was suddenly produced (idiot, it was obviously a prop that was part of the act!). In a typical Tory overreaction, he decided to call the police.

This was an obvious invite to police brutality, I thought. So I took all my human solidarity in hand: “You sir, are a racist, imperialist, homophobic pig!” I said, jabbing my finger in the white man’s eye.

All the pig managed was a disgruntled “huff and puff” from his snout.

I turned on my heels and made my exit, nodding in sympathy to the man I had just protected. All he asked was, “Why did you call him homophobic?” I winked at him and smiled.

I understand the look, my brother, for I myself am queer.

Privileged white men

Does this help you understand the sheer gall that the privileged white men have in silencing minorities?

Take the situation of the recently-surfaced Jordan Peterson, with his abhorrent views on women and misanthropic stance on gender politics. How is it that we allow him
to engage in the public spanking of female journalists? Cathy Newman deserved no such ordeal.

Yet we are seemingly alright with it, because Peterson holds a degree in psychology. Perhaps B.F. Skinner was right in concern to behaviorism, but women aren’t children, Jordan. They don’t tolerate spanking unless they have a sock in their mouth.

What am I driving at, you ask? An idiotic, brain-dead wave of right-wing youth who are falling to their knees before their new messiah, Mr. Peterson. A messiah who makes radical generalizations concerning the left and the weaker sex, utterly unfounded by data.

Or take the case of Douglas Murray, a known Islamophobe, who is given platform to pronounce his views against the Muslim race. Dare I ask you to switch on the BBC’s TV program “The Big Questions” to catch a whiff of this white supremacy?

Murray shields himself with the pretense of it being a “free speech issue,” but for goodness sake dear, play the world’s smallest violin, why don’t you?

No questioning, no interrogation

Truth, as any enlightened post-modernist will tell you, is absolutely nonexistent. Why then do we even bother with allowing dogmatists like Murray on our shows, if we know that what he’ll spout are falsehoods?

As you will notice, I have done my homework on the matter and approach it rather logically.

Safe spaces protect our fundamental right of being deaf — upon entrance you can imagine two lovely ear plugs popping in — blocking out any unwanted conversation. You are granted full immunity from any thought other than your own, which, as you have guessed, for me is the most profound experience.

What’s even more splendid is that all my fellow compadres bathe in that same thought, in relation to themselves at least. Or rather that’s my guess, for they wouldn’t say it in the safe space.

In retrospect, it must have been how the animals felt in Orwell’s farm. Going by their everyday, not having to worry about anyone being out of order, bathing in equilibrium of peace and quiet. No questioning, no interrogation.

Isn’t it wonderful? Just the sort of atmosphere that universities have been birthed to accommodate. How else do you fight dogma? The only way to stand up to neofascists, who are doing all they can to stop our freedom of enjoying our thought, is to silence them.

The white, the male and the straight

Still unconvinced? Then I fear you are on the other side. You are on the side of such charlatans as J.S. Mill, W.F. Buckley, C. Hitchens. They have been known to poison human conscience, and I feel pity if you drank from their chalice.

Their ambrosia will make you blind to the struggle of the queers, the colored and the trans. You will never know of the need to erect barriers (both soundproof and social), of the saintly segregation of those who are different to reinforce their difference, of the need to ignore science for the sake of our belief that we can mold reality to wish.

The limelight has for far too long been directed by the white, the male and the straight.

To the list of monsters whom I mentioned you can add Voltaire and Locke and Kant and Rushdie — many others. They knew that there exist among us crippled shadows who cannot bare the limelight. Who cannot take reality as is. They knew it, and they shone the light despite this.

I say we flip the switch. Turn off the light and submerge us into darkness. Give the shadows space to breathe, to hide from the Enlightenment.

How else to do you propose to defend ourselves against the White Man who is behind this? We need a final solution. We need a safe space. Preferably world-wide.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. Do you think the author himself believes that safe spaces must be erected against certain types of speech? Are there hints in the article that the author does not side with the narrator?
  2. Why does the author refer to George Orwell?
  3. Are there limits to free speech?
  4. Do you believe in safe spaces on campus?

Arsentiy Novak was born in Ukraine. For most of the past 13 years he has resided in Britain. A recent graduate from King’s College London with a degree in Philosophy, he is currently working as a correspondent for the Fast Anchor Film Festival. He is especially interested in religion, metaphysics and political philosophy.

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Culture Discovery In defense of safe spaces. And the right to be deaf