The Crazy Guy on the Diag
Maybe it is just me, but whenever I walk by that man on the Diag that chants at people saying, “You are all going to hell!” I get a little embarrassed. Even though he is directing his speech at everyone, I still can’t help but think, “what did I do?” In John Stuart Mill’s writing, On Liberty, he explains how all opinions matter, even the wrong ones. Mill explains how, “…there must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted” (pg. 602). Do I think this crazy man is right? No, but now that I think about it, I do appreciate his expression of liberty. The reason I say this is because it reminds me of the great country I live in today. A country where I can do whatever I want (to an extent) as long as I do not harm others. Yes, his raves and others that are similar to his might make us somewhat uncomfortable but, to me, this is the ultimate sign of freedom. People can stand in a public place and go off about something that probably almost no one believes or agrees with him on, and be perfectly right in doing so. As Mill explains, “…the only permanent and unfailing source of improvement is liberty” (pg. 628). I would say this is a pretty good indication of liberty, wouldn’t you?
The crazy guy allows me to use my opinions to say that he is wrong. Mill would also point out that the crazy guy’s speeches allow me to examine myself and consider what I believe to be the truth and why. For me to have the opinion that I am not going to hell is one thing, but it really doesn’t mean much until I consider why I believe that I am not going to hell. The crazy guy on the Diag allows me to reflect on my opinion and not just take it as given. Wouldn’t Immanuel Kant feel as though this brings about enlightenment because I reflect on my own opinions and not just take them as given?
Yes, I agree that some of the people who yell out hate speech are wrong, but I do not think that I have the right to tell them that they cannot believe that way. If it is directed at a particular person, that is one thing, but can I tell him that he has to stop directing his speech towards a group of people? What do you think? How do we know when someone has overstepped the boundary of professing his or her opinions and is stepping on our rights? Do you think people like the crazy guy are a good sign that we have a great deal of liberty in our personal fulfillment or do you believe that the cost of hearing such people talk outweigh the good?
Wootton, David. “John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008. Print.