“Have all the previous generations been so threatened by other people’s ideas that they’re driven to attempt to anonymously silence them?”
“I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. It could be that we’re living in a time that enables that sort of thing.”
He hummed, a contemplative noise, the human cognitive equivalent of a cow chewing its cud. I kept tapping away at the keyboard; the code wasn’t going to write itself.
“I’d like to know,” he said, “if Victorian-age people would work so hard to fight against things they perceive as social justice. If they’d persecute others for wanting something as basic as equality.”
“Probably. Where do you think that comes from, anyway?” Tap, tap, tap. My caffeine-fueled fingers moved with expert grace.
“Are you saying-”
“Fear of ideology doesn’t just spontaneous manifest itself. It needs an ideology to hate, for one thing. This would require mass communication and freedom of expression. Any time to pass before those thresholds in history you’re less likely to find suppression. Victorian era? Sure. Early Grecian? Unlikely. But people meeting in forums would still sling garbage at people who said things they didn’t agree with, and the greater the perceived power of the opposition the larger the amount of crap they’d hurl. Now you’ve got anonymous mobs that could consist of a single person, or thousands. It’s that uncertainty that creates a kind of amplification effect.”
Again, he hummed. “I still think I’d need a time machine to decide for myself.”
“Then you’re never going to come to a decision. Why do you care, anyway? If we’re talking about what I think we’re talking about, you do know that those arenas where those conflicts occur are completely voluntary, yes? Anyway, social justice is a lot like religion.”
“It’s best practiced, rather than verbally expressed. It’s the whole deeds versus words thing. I think our mass communication networks have just made us lazy, and established this sort of illusionary reality where we’re made to believe that we’re affecting change, when all we’re doing is being distracted and diverted. The only casualties of cyber-wars are people’s hurt feelings. Oh, sure, they’ll act like the sky is falling, that there’s people preparing to come and take your freedoms away, but really? You can turn off your computer and go about your business because reality is still a place where people are packing guns to protect their rights, and there’s a maddening spaghetti-laced system of checks and balances to navigate before anyone’s civil liberties are revoked.”
“In this country, at least,” he said.
“That’s what we live here, isn’t it?” I asked, and leaned across the desk to give him a peck on the cheek. He smiled, the first I’d seen that morning.