Daring To Think Can Be Dangerous

Imaginative, thoughtful and creative individuals have always had a hard time.

Look back in history and you will find countless examples of citizens who were harassed or persecuted simply because they dared to think for themselves - and tried to share their thoughts with others.

Our world has never welcomed the original, the challenging, the inspirational or the passionate and has always preferred the characterless to the thought-provoking.

Those who dare to speak out against the establishment have always been regarded as dangerous heretics. The iconoclast has never been a welcome figure in any age.

* Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, was dismissed by his political masters and his books were burned. Those who didn't burn his books within 30 days were branded and condemned to forced labour. Two and a half thousand years later Confucius's influence was still considered so dangerous that Chairman Mao banned his works.

* Described by the Delphic Oracle as the wisest man in the world, Greek teacher Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens, arrested for being an evildoer and `a person showing curiosity, searching into things under the earth and above the heaven and teaching all this to others'. Socrates was condemned to death.

* Dante, the Italian poet, was banished from Florence and condemned to be burnt at the stake if ever captured.

* After they had failed to silence him with threats and bribes the Jewish authorities excommunicated Spinoza in Amsterdam because he refused to toe the party line, refused to think what other people told him he must think and insisted on maintaining his intellectual independence. He and his work were denounced as `forged in Hell by a renegade Jew and the devil'.

* Galileo, the seventeenth century Italian mathematician, astrologer and scientist got into terrible trouble with the all powerful Church for daring to support Copernicus, who had had the temerity to claim that the planets revolved around the sun.

* Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (known to his chums as Paracelsus) made himself enemies all over Europe because he tried to revolutionise medicine in the sixteenth century. Paracelsus was the greatest influence on medical thinking since Hippocrates but the establishment regarded him as a trouble-maker.

* Ignaz Semmelweiss, the Austrian obstetrician who recognised that puerperal fever was caused by doctors' dirty habits was ostracised by the medical profession for daring to criticise practical procedures.

* Jesus Christ was crucified by an establishment which regarded him as a danger.

* Henry David Thoreau, surely the kindest, wisest philosopher who has ever lived, was imprisoned for sticking to his ideals.

I could go on with this list but I suspect that you've begun to get the idea.

Original thinkers do not go down well.

But although all these individuals were persecuted for their beliefs - and many of them died for their ideals - they did at least have a chance to develop, to learn, to speak out, to teach, to write, to publish and to attempt to change things.

Today, things are worse than they have ever been for the iconoclast.

Incompetence and mediocrity thrive and are now subsidised, supported and encouraged by our increasingly bureaucratic and intrusive society.

Schoolteachers and social workers encourage mediocrity because they themselves are mediocre. Talent frightens them witless.

Among bureaucrats and administrators incompetence and mediocrity are esteemed virtues; these besuited morons revere the banal and worship the bland. They support the establishment in all that it does and everything it stands for and they sneer at and scorn the unusual or the eccentric.

Politicians are frightened of anything new or challenging. They reject the innovative, the creative and the imaginative in favour of the accustomed, the comfortable and the ordinary.

It will not, I fear, be long before mediocrity and incompetence are regarded as essential virtues; the necessary building blocks for personal and professional success. In schools mediocrity will be taught as a social necessity; compulsory for commercial or personal success. Creativity will be regarded as politically incorrect and therefore unacceptable. Originality will be suffocated.

The danger now is that the great thinkers of tomorrow will never even develop - let alone survive or thrive to find themselves struggling against the eternally powerful barriers erected by the establishment of the day.

This is a tragedy of monumental proportions for the lone eccentric voice, speaking out against perceived wisdom, is often right and the experts and the officials are often wrong.

If the politically correct have their way and the social workers and bureaucrats take over the world there will be no place in the 21st century for great thinkers and leaders like Christ, Paracelsus, Galileo, Confucius or Socrates.

The future will lie firmly in the hands of the mediocre and the incompetent.

Taken from Spiritpower by Vernon Coleman, which is available through the shop on this Web site.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2004