Updated: Sep 22
I feel like a fundamental part of living a free life is becoming comfortable with the idea of holding ideas or beliefs that are alien to the culture around you. Not necessarily to reject the culture or jut up against it but to just accept that it’s ideas aren’t fundamental truth and stop expecting your true feelings to be supported or reinforced by the culture around you.
Culture is always limiting in some way, it homogenizes beliefs and tastes just enough so that millions of people can get along in a fairly harmonious way but it doesn’t often have enough scope to appreciate all ideas, lifestyles and philosophies. However, many mavericks have decided to live according to their own inner compass regardless and have taken society with them, creating new norms.
It seems in our culture we expect everyone to fall in line with the current truth. Like we’re reaching towards a future ideal of a uniform set of beliefs, but progress almost always feels uncomfortable and freedom of thought can’t just apply to those we deem to be on our side of truth, it must apply to everyone, including those we find abhorrent. If we have enough faith in our ideas we won’t be intimidated by allowing the other side to be heard. Hateful ideas will always show their true colours when allowed to be shared freely and unpicked with a critical eye.
And yet sometimes the mainstream culture itself is the one holding the archaic beliefs, you only need to look at the last hundred years of our own history in which being a homosexual was a crime worthy of imprisonment or where women weren’t entitled to vote or where people from Africa and Asia were encouraged to move over here, many working in public services only to face extreme persecution.
The lesson in this for me is that if you have a belief that seems like a burning truth then hold onto it proudly regardless of the prevailing norm, many of the people we hold up as historical heroes were condemned and imprisoned in their time. However, I think it’s also important to stay open to criticism and differing beliefs. Many of histories greatest crimes have been committed by those convinced that they had the truth on their side. There is a healthy middle way between righteousness and openness.