We Can't Just Shut out Disagreeable Opinions

By Hamill, David | The Scotsman, August 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

We Can't Just Shut out Disagreeable Opinions


Hamill, David, The Scotsman


A s I recall, it was James VI of Scotland who, totally convinced of the validity of the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, considered that anyone who disagreed with him was either a fool or traitor. Given that his actions and beliefs were directed by divine guidance, he was necessarily infallible and there was no possibility that he might be wrong.

Such dogmatic insistence on the correctness of one's own beliefs, allied to an intolerance of other people's views or opinions, is alive and kicking today, 400 years later. Although there are many examples, we saw it quite vividly during both referenda: Scottish Independence and Brexit. Supporters of both sides were frequently inclined to portray themselves as true patriots and those who opposed them, in James VI's terms, as fools or traitors.

Each side regarded their position as the only one of integrity, while that of their opponents was dishonest and dishonourable. The outcome was and still remains an atmosphere of mistrust and poisonous divisiveness.

Nor is such intolerance restricted to those whom we might normally consider to have closed minds.

We hear calls all the time for a variety of views or beliefs to be proscribed. These calls are made because a section of society regards these opinions to be offensive. Don't get me wrong - we have every right to be offended by speakers or writers who preach racial or religious hatred or who deliberately incite violence.

However, on many other issues we seem to have developed incredibly thin skins. …

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