Nathaniel Lee, who allegedly became increasingly disturbed, was admitted to Bethlem Hospital in 1684. Protesting the decision, he described the situation as one where ‘they called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.’ This brings me to the question of “who is mad?”
A while ago, I posted something on the subject by Emily Dickinson:
Assent – and you are sane-
Demure – you’re straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-
I was listening to one of the world’s leaders claiming he was so right about something that anybody who didn’t agree with what he had done should have had his head examined. Guess what? There was hardly anyone who dared to question his action.
Basically, the rule of the day is what Dickinson conveyed in her poem in 19th century though it feels as if we were farther back in the times of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where no one dares saying anything. We all know the answer to the question, “Who was mad? Those who kept silent or the child pointing out to the madness of the naked emperor strolling in the streets?”, but sadly enough, this “not daring to question” is happening more and more in the democracies of the world. These are the only streaks of light in an otherwise dark, gloomy sky, which flickers with merely enough light to allow us to envision hope for a better future, for possibility of dissent without being accused of being mad or being chained.
History is full of dark moments which sometimes last for centuries of one group of people managing to stifle opposition. Democracy is more fragile than those of us enjoying it may care to admit. We will look nothing but mad to those in the future if we take our responsibilities toward civil liberties including free speech lightly. Let’s guard our right to disagree and more importantly to dissent.