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Life as performance art

Life as performance art

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By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

Chin, the first emperor of China, built his famous wall to keep invaders out of his country. For the most part, it was successful long after he was gone.

The real problem was it kept his own people inside the wall. There wasn’t much trade with other nations, so few new ideas came in that might have improved quality of life.

Tyrants, dictators and bullies like that because they are intimidated by people who think and have ideas. The result in China, as in other countries that cut themselves off from the rest of the world, was it became a repressive society.

Whatever you think about a wall along the U.S. southern border, our technology has changed and we won’t be cut off from the rest of the world. We don’t need a wall for that because we are perfectly capable of creating our own invisible fence-closed society. Think in terms of electronic fences dog owners sometimes install around their property.

It will be ever so nice, much like living in one of those retirement communities where everyone wears a nametag. Just sit down, conform, fit in, smile and be cheerful or you get happy pills.

Bavarian Corp. Hitler tried to enforce conformity with nighttime book-burning bonfires, but that’s old style. He needed support from folks who wore black shirts, brown shirts and other assorted thugs.

We’re more sophisticated now. We use electronics, which is one reason I’m wary of e-books. If someone doesn’t want you to read something, if an idea is too unpopular or unorthodox, just a few taps on a computer keyboard and instantly it simply never existed.

This electric gate-keeping isn’t the monopoly of a government. There are countless self-anointed arbiters of what we should say or read, many of whom would like to decide what is unacceptable thought. Either support their agenda or be ready to be labeled almost anything that ends with the suffix “ist.” The next step is to “cancel” someone as if they no longer exist.

Anyone who objects that this is censorship is told it is for the benefit of society (i.e. their idea of how society should function.)

I had my first lesson in that back when Mao ruled China and published his Little Red Book of pithy statements. It was translated into English despite objections and available here.

I went into a bookstore to buy a copy and the clerk wouldn’t sell it to me because it was a “bad” book.

When I told my mother later, she was livid — not at me but the clerk. We went back to the store and in no uncertain terms Mother told the old bat no outsider was going to decide what someone could or could not read, and she would sell me the book. The clerk backed down.

For good measure, the next week Mother gave me the money and told me to buy a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook. The clerk’s hands shook in fury.

I brought the book home and Mother confiscated it. I objected because it was filled with good information on how to make things go boom.

Mother held firm and taught me a life lesson that day: No one outside of parents has the right to censor what their child does. The second part of the life lesson came later: be your own censor.