Article by Ian Wendt
I reserve the right to be opinionated, to speak, to strongly hold ideas, ideals or ideologies, and to advocate them.
I reserve the right to make truth claims, to hold positions even if others may take offense. But I will not abuse others.
I reserve the right to be idealistic, optimistic, not cynical or jaded, nor comfortably relativistic or postmodern. Others are free to be any of these.
I reserve the right to believe in things for which there is more hope than evidence.
I reserve the right to be wrong.
I reserve the right to experiment with ideas that I am not sure about. I reserve the right to more strongly advocate ideas than I actually feel.
I reserve the right to change my mind as the world changes.
I reserve the right to hold ambiguous, complex and sometimes contradictory ideas or ideals in complicated circumstances. I have not figured everything out; I never will.
I reserve the right to advocate policies in one time or situation, and oppose similar policies in other times or situations, especially if those policies – upon testing them – turn out to be ineffective or damaging.
I reserve the right to compromise to achieve good, but not perfect, solutions to bad problems.
I reserve the right to hold ideas that do not fit orthodox ideological molds. I refuse to be defined by others’ categories or philosophies or terms.
I reserve the right to be a hypocrite – if what you mean by hypocrisy is to really believe in something and advocate it, but not always be able to live up to it.
I reserve the right to disagree with you, to disagree with my friends, to disagree with anyone (maybe even myself in part). I reserve the right to voice that disagreement openly, but respectfully, by speaking energetically, incisively, sometimes passionately, but not abusively.
I reserve the right to sometimes be silent – to not have an opinion or an answer, to not advocate a position, to not define myself, to not assert expertise. I am not obliged to weigh in on everything.
And I freely extend the same right to you.
Somewhere, sometime, someone decided that public debate and politics meant you had to assert you knew everything, that your worldview had to be simple, complete and perfectly ordered, and that everything your opponents thought and said was just spin and lies. Well the world is not simple, and my views on it are not simple either. I am passionate about some things, interested in many things, and often ambivalent or conflicted over other things. It is a shame that more of our public figures do not freely assert the right to change their minds, to disagree respectfully, to sometimes be wrong, or to sometimes be silent. Silence from pundits and politicians – wouldn’t that be a change!
This bill of rights is fundamentally about the purposes of civil society and civil discourse and public debate. You would probably write a slightly different set of rights for yourself in order to frame, develop and express your ideas. But that is exactly the point. We may all speak. By speaking and writing and publishing, we grapple with the world and its knotted problems. If the world’s problems were simple, then smart people would have solved them a long time ago. The world’s problems, conflicts and tragedies are fraught with ambiguity and differing perspectives.
The power of civil society is the democratic power of multitudes speaking, discussing, testing and trying ideas. As one set of policies proves itself less effective, we try others. Some of the proposed ideas, policies or solutions are bound to be wrong-headed, or foolish, or just not work. In that case I hope I will disagree. If they were my ideas, my speech, or my advocacy, then I take responsibility for them. Then I may admit I was wrong and change my mind. In many cases, we will simply have to disagree.
I reserve the right to have opinions and passionately advocate them, to believe in idealistic positions, to sometimes be wrong, to change my mind, to compromise, to disagree with others, and to sometimes be silent.
And I freely extend the same right to you.
Ian Wendt is the editor of http://www.ideologyforum.com an online journal and forum dedicated to exploring, discussing and debating the ideas that shape our world. Ideology Forum is open to the widest array of ideological and political ideas. Its authorship is completely open to all readers and users. He is also an assistant professor of History at an American university.