The label ‘phobia’ is designed precisely to shut down debate about the matters that most need to be debated. And the speed at which this label is attached today to the latest transgression is bewildering. Why is this? A partial answer is that the hate police never rest and are perpetually on the lookout for potential heretics who refuse to embrace the radical inclusion doctrine. We now have increasing numbers of people who believe that differing opinions are crimes and punishable, and those who carry out this punishment win special favor within the prevailing orthodoxies..
I believe the language of heresy is the proper framework through which to understand what is going on all around us today. Heresy is more than difference of opinion. People were not burned at the stake or excommunicated simply because they held divergent views. Heresy strikes deeply into the heart of an orthodoxy and is subversive of that orthodoxy. The heretic is saying that the entire community could have been, should have been, and yet may be constituted in an entirely different way. Deeply held assumptions are challenged. The heretic calls everything into question. It is for this reason that heresy falls into the category of crime. Heretics destabilize the very basis of a community and its self understanding.
The assault on free speech we see around us is the post-modern equivalent of the Inquisition. But it is not, finally, communities that are being defended. We are in a time when the wagons are circling around the sovereign wilfulness of the individual.
English Philosopher Roger Scruton writes, “In universities today, students—and certainly the most politically active among them—tend to resist the idea of exclusive groups. They are particularly insistent that distinctions associated with their inherited culture—between sexes, classes, and races; between genders and orientations; between religions and lifestyles—should be rejected, in the interests of an all-comprehending equality that leaves each person to be who she really is.”
Yet this cloak of inclusion and open mindedness covers a radical intolerance. And what is not tolerated are the old sympathies and distinctions which have characterized western civilization. Now, the individual is sovereign. No qualifying distinction can be permitted to impede whatever self-defining identity the individual claims.
As a result new phobias emerge at a frightening pace. There may be no knowing in advance how the new heresies might be committed, or what exactly they are, since the ethic of radical inclusion\nondiscrimination is constantly evolving to undo distinctions that were only yesterday part of the fabric of reality.
Again, Roger Scruton writes, “We cannot freely discuss any of the iconic issues singled out as defining political correctness—such as sex, gender, orientation. We are wandering in a world of utter relativity but bound by orders that are absolutes—the order not to refer to this, not to laugh at that, and in the presence of all uncertain things to stay silent. In all this we are losing our sense that some things really matter, and matter because they are true and not just because some group of benighted people believe them, or some other group has decided to enforce them.”
In closing, let me dust off my greek, turn the tables and toss a label in the direction of the current inquisitors. The temperament of radical exclusion toward everything that challenges deserves to be recognized as the greatest phobia of all: ‘alitheiphobia’ – the fear of truth.