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Dr. Seuss and the Great Purification

by Chris Hearn 2 months ago in opinion

We Are Going Through A Concerning Period That Needs To Be Acknowledged.

Image by Scott Webb/Unsplash

It has been announced by Dr. Seuss' Enterprises, the company who manages the Dr. Seuss catalogue of books, that they will stop publishing six of the good doctor's books because it is felt that some material in them is racist and hurtful.

The following was part of what was said in a statement released by the company:

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

Now, online, the reaction has been mixed. Gosh, who would have seen that coming? A mixed, but intense, reaction online? That never happens. Regardless, there are those who are cheering on this decision and proclaiming a moral victory. Then, there and those that proclaim that this is another case of cancel culture, censorship and a moral decline.

RELATED: Yes, Cancel Culture DOES Exist

On it's own, it doesn't seem that unreasonable that Dr. Seuss' Enterprises would decide to stop printing these books. That's fine. They are a private company. They may do what they wish.

However, this action is a part of a greater trend that we see in our societies right now to purify seemingly everything in order to scrub it clean of any offensive ideas or depictions. THAT is where the concern comes in. It's not the individual case here, it's that it's part of a new norm.

So, should we all be concerned? Well, maybe not about the Dr. Seuss decision on it's own. But, yes, we should be concerned by this great purge. We should be concerned as we see more and more art, writing, lectures, performances, movies, TV shows, cartoons, etc., being wiped clean to conform to social justice values. We should be concerned about the cancel culture that comes with it. We should be concerned about censorship. It might not be out and out government censorship, but it is peer pressure resulting in self censorship or corporate censorship which are equally problematic.

RELATED: Freedom of Speech is a Human Right

At the moment, there is little room for offensive material, it would appear. There is no appetite for content that does not conform to social justice demands. There is a strong desire by some to want to have absolute control in our society of what others are allowed to see, read, hear or experience.

Why? The idea behind it is to get rid of racist or sexist or homophobic or otherwise hurtful stuff. Often this is decided arbitrarily, generally based on emotion. But, the question is, why DO we have to get rid of it? Isn't part of the human experience this very stuff, especially in a historical context? Do we want art and culture to reflect real human beings? Or a fake, purified, perfect utopia where no one ever says anything offensive to anyone...ever? The latter isn't reality. People say and do things to hurt one another, either intentionally or not. Part of existing as a human is to experience a range of emotions and experiences, including anger, hurt, and pain. This is what it is to be human.

By deciding to make sure content is purified for consumption to create a more civilized society, we are inviting authoritarians to trample over the human rights of freedom of speech and expression. We are inviting them to rewrite history and sanitize it for everyone's protection. We are allowing them to rob others of experiences that can be real teaching moments, believing that other humans are too stupid or immature to figure out on their own that racism or sexism or hatred of others is a bad idea.

It's not that those who are calling for this purification are evil. Often, their hearts are in the right place. They believe that they are doing this for the good of society, to create a better, more inclusive world for are. But, that still doesn't make all of these efforts to purify everything any less concerning.

So, yes, the Dr. Seuss decision isn't much to write home about on it's own. It is a decision by one company to no longer print a small number of titles in their catalogue. But it is the greater trend here that should be looked at with concern and challenged.

opinion
Chris Hearn
Chris Hearn
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Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

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