This notion of Free Thought is honestly quite the buzzword lately. But I ask, are blatant controversial and contentious declarations automatic examples of free thought?
“Do you feel that I am thinking free?” ~ Kanye West
Personally, I say no. But before I go into the differences of Freedom of Thought and Free Thought, there are two points I’d like to make.
Number 1: I denounce the talking points surrounding black people only caring when a white officer kills a black person. Or the now infamous suggestion that “slavery sounds like a choice”. I strongly believe words and rhetoric matter. To those who have a wide platform and audience to propagate their views, they have a responsibility to be clear. You cannot make insane statements coupled with moderate ones and expect people not to hone in on the extreme. So I believe the overall outrage is justified regardless of coffee table analogies or other points made in the interview (Full TMZ interview found here). I believe ignoring or downplaying offensive comments because of some other valid point is very dangerous and irresponsible.
Number 2: I 100% agree that African Americans do not need to be Democrats. But I don’t believe the Democratic party is somehow brainwashing, misinforming or controlling the Black community. Yes, some people need to understand why they think what they believe. But Republicans have done very little to identify, reach out and properly take the time for communities of color. And as a result, for a lot of people, Democrats automatically become the lesser of two evils. For Republicans who believe in choice and competition, they aren’t exactly doing enough to compete for a more diverse vote.
Freedom of Thought – A Universal Right
The Earth is round. Or the Earth is flat. Life is random and meaningless. Or life is the result of intentional intelligent design by a supernatural being. Barack Obama and the Democratic party are the answer to the challenges America faces. Or Donald Trump and Republicans are. If you think any of these statements, they fall within the safeguard of Freedom of Thought. Everyone has the right to their own opinions however true or nonsensical to others it may be. You have the right to feel, believe and examine whatever thoughts occur in the confines of your cranium. The United Nations defines in their Universal Declaration of Human Rights that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference”.
Kanye has every right to think slavery at some point was a physical/mental choice for those of African descent. Kanye has every right to think the Democratic Party mentally enslaves black people today. He has every right to think there is only outrage when a white officer kills an unarmed black person. He has every right to think love conquers all. These are examples of his Freedom of Thought. But there is a distinction between Freedom of Thought and Free Thought.
Free Thought – A Case for Evidence, Logic, and Reason
The External World consists of facts, reason and objective reality. The freedom to criticise and challenge with reason and logic comes head to head with the freedom of thought. An expression of thoughts does not mean automatic respect or tolerance from others. For example, the second you openly express that the Earth is flat, it is subject to the scrutiny and criticism of scientific fact. While originally used in the context of religion, a freethinker is:
a person who forms opinions based on evidence, logic, and reason rather than dogma and tradition.
Sure, there are things Kanye has said throughout the course of the past couple of weeks that may constitute Free Thought. There are valid points about unwavering political loyalties, obscure mental constructs forming from childhood and people being overmedicated. But not everything that he is saying holds up to evidence, logic, and reason. And taking Kanye’s seemingly unstable behavior as a whole, it is argumentative that he is a free-thinker at times. The use of fake Harriet Tubman quotes or deferring to Candace Owens for facts is not the profile of a person who is thinking freely. Wherever you stand on this Kanye divide, the point I am making is not everything that comes from the safety of Freedom of Thought is indeed Free Thought.
Conclusion – Question Everything, Think Critically
I close with a quote from the theologian Alan Jones that I believe everyone in this debate can agree with in regards to free thought:
“One of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions. In many cases, we have to rely on secondhand information in order to function. I accept the word of a physician, a scientist, a farmer, on trust. But I do not like to do this. I have to because they possess vital knowledge of living of which I am ignorant. Secondhand information concerning the state of my kidneys, the effects of cholesterol, and the raising of chickens, I can live with. But when it comes to questions of meaning, purpose, and death secondhand information will not do. I cannot survive on a secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation if I am to come alive.”
Likewise, we cannot survive on a secondhand worldview. Whatever you believe regarding religion, politics, the world, etc. ensure it is supported by reason, logic, evidence and objective reality. Because only then can it be classified as free thought.
Do you agree with this definition of Free Thought?