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An Open Letter to Safe Space Occupants at University

07/04/2016 11:59

Dear 'safe space' occupant,

Just what were you thinking? Did anybody warn you about the dangers of attending university in Britain? Did you, even for a moment, stop to consider whether life at home or a job at your local Subway would protect you from the whirlwind of intellectual adventure, hellhole of differing opinion and carousel of aggressive debate that make university so worthwhile?

Have you bothered to think about all those who must suffer in order for your mistaken dogma to be enshrined within and forced upon student life? And what, by the way, gives you the right to be unconditionally sheltered from offence? Without too much hard consideration, I am convinced that the answers to these simple questions will be uninspiring and thoughtless, but nevertheless, I am disturbed by the trendy clamour for offence-taking that even many young people now frequently resort to.

Universities are the very foundations of intellectual discovery and political and social enlightenment. They provide young people with the tools not just to prepare for the outside world, but to understand it from a healthier, more balanced perspective. University is a breeding ground for ideas and debate, and if we remain intent on breaking up this unique structure, we threaten to stifle the ideological progression of society.

After all, freedom of thought, speech and assembly is who we are as a species. It was by these very principles that we have been able to overcome oppression, challenge outdated concepts and seek new information. Human advancement across the globe would not have been possible without openness and the freedom to question authority. Without the freedom to express thought, man himself becomes the imprisoned metaphor of a rigid and heavily restrained society.

It goes without saying that nobody has the right not to be offended or criticised. By attempting to mould such a protectionist society, we dissuade individuals from experimenting with new ideas and create an atmosphere of fearful isolation. Safe spaces are, therefore, a fundamental breach of the values that have driven the success of humankind.

It is, I must say, a peculiar time of life to occupy a safe space. One would assume that such a position might better be taken in a person's later years, when life has been lived and lessons have been learned. Though not without difficulty, I suppose I could come around to the idea that pensioners might want a peaceful end to their existence; one sheltered from outside critique and conflicting opinion.

But such a life cannot be lived by a young person. The young are far too precious to any society, with minds vastly untapped and waiting to be nurtured. It has been said that any effective revolutionary should target his indoctrination towards the young, simply as a way of ensuring that his ideas carry weight with future generations.

Yes, this world can be an unforgiving place in which to live. Often it is completely natural to dislike criticism or opposition of one kind or another, but if we learn to humour social differences and confront bigotry, then younger generations are far more likely to be open-minded and tolerant. It is, therefore, absolutely true that contrary to the assertions of safe space advocates, restricting free speech does more to foster bigotry than it does quell it; perhaps due to lack of open dialogue.

Students are blessed with blankly canvassed minds. To close doors on great expanses of information seems to me to be peculiarly counter-intuitive to the very purpose of education. The world is, by its very nature, not a safe space, and so by helping 'safe spaces' to crop up among students in Britain, universities are only helping to project a false sense of reality. One might argue that in doing so, universities betray the very basis upon which they exist.

Safe space occupants must be careful. The utopia that they hope to bring about will, in the end, do much more harm to those calling for it than good. So I ask members of the safe space community to consider their position more extensively. Though thinking may not be your forte, you will do well to embrace the beauty in intellectual and ideological conflict.

It is precisely this diversity, after all, that makes humanity so wonderfully well-equipped to deal with challenges presented by exactly the kind of people who confine themselves to the fragility of their own perception.

People like you.

Sincerely,
A pitiful Oliver Norgrove.

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