Monday, May 28, 2012

Dangerous ideas (3)

In future it will be possible to scan your ideas before you enter an aeroplane in order to prevent that you’ll make an attempt. It works only, of course, if you got your intention before you went into the plane and not when you were already there. And it works only if what they “see” in your brain is really a dangerous idea and not something else that looks like it but what is in fact completely innocent or just very positive. But before the big brothers who are watching us have perfected brain scanners far enough, they’ll have to resort to more traditional means and they do. So recently an FBI agent and a Dallas police officer spoke with philosophy and religion professor Adam Briggle of the University of North Texas about specific materials in a syllabus for one of his courses on civil disobedience. In his syllabus Briggle had included an article that supports “monkey wrenching,” an act of sabotaging equipment performed by activists to stop projects they deem damaging to the environment. Briggle himself believed the FBI agent and officer were only seeking information. “They told me they are acting proactively and preventatively to smell out any signs of trouble for any potential eco-terrorist strikes revolving around the gas drilling issue on the Barnett Shale,” Briggle said. But have you ever heard of a chemistry professor being questioned by the security police because s/he explained how to make explosives? It seems that teaching chemistry is of another order than teaching philosophy, certainly if this philosophy is about civil disobedience. Or what to think of a political science professor who treats in his courses what nazism and anarchism stand for?
It’s true, Briggle propagates civil disobedience and he is also an activist. Moreover, he counsels his students to break the law. “Just the unjust laws,” as Briggle said. But in view of this, Briggle does nothing else than what people like Gandhi, King and many others did, who are the heroes of today. But apparently the authorities still see civil disobedience as a kind of continuation of terrorism and violence, and for them it is only a matter of degree. For what other reason would security officers have for interviewing Briggle about his course in civil disobedience and ask him during the interview whether he had heard anything about improvised explosive devices? (They repeatedly said that there is a difference between protesting and violence, indeed, but isn’t this actually a way of expressing that for them there isn’t?) But in fact, security officers and others who see civil disobedience and non-violence as dangerous are right: these are “dangerous” ideas for they might be effective. So there are good reasons to question a philosophy professor, even when he stays within the limits of the law and basically does nothing different than what, say, a chemistry professor does. However, it’s just one step to repression and controlling our minds.
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