Let’s Be Grateful for the Mess We Are in

If it looks stupid but works — it’s not stupid.

Embrace the suck.

Photo: Ricardo Viana

If you’re annoyed with those many dissenting opinions, take a moment. Indeed, many (if not most) of the positions in public debate are wrong, stupid, and sometimes even harmful. From the good to the bad to the ugly all those voices in sum make up public discourse. Discourse needs dissenting opinions.

Yes, it can be tiring listening and replying to idiots. When we want to despair over the cacophony that is public discourse in an open society, let’s remind ourselves what is so great about this cacophony: The fact that it exists.

Despite its ugliness, our liberal democratic system can test ideas in the public forum and weed out the bad ones. Of course that requires the very pillars to be protected against those seeking to implement the worst ideas. But there is no point in keeping people from voicing them.

If we are allowed only to voice opinions in a predefined corridor we lose our ability to discover better ones. Then we end up in North Korea.

Yes, the colorful choice of opinions is rarely pretty. The consequences of not having this choice are still uglier. Where people are officially punished for any difference from the norm, everyone suffers.

Scientific, social and economic progress ultimately suffers where speech is not free.

It’s good not to live in North Korea with its sterile and boring public discourse. Let’s remember this and be grateful for living in this messy open society.

I didn’t come up with this. but I was recently reminded of it, when this thought popped up on my Facebook timeline (my translation from German, slightly edited for readability):

“How to tell which system you live in.

If you live in a country where people

  • abuse the government,
  • condemn the system,
  • complain about the conditions,
  • lament,
  • protest,
  • publicly defame their political opponents,
  • spend a lot of time trying to show their political opponents the stupidity of their ways,
  • argue whether the worst offenders are in politics, business, or the media,
  • behave in spite of high prosperity as if they were starving,

then you are probably living in a democracy.

If you live in a country where cheerful people

  • go to work more joyfully,
  • are dancing and singing,
  • are expressing their joy that their beneficent system provides so kindly and wisely for them,
  • hold hands in a chorus of harmony,
  • praise the goodness and cleverness of the political leadership,

then you probably live in North Korea.”

Nailed it.


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