After I was finished watching the above video, I was hit with about five different contrasting feelings all at the same time which was a little bit surprising to me. The reason I was surprised by this sudden jumble of feelings that entered my mind after viewing what was a very mature and very calm conversation (that took place on a college campus no less) was because I should have been left feeling uplifted and invigorated after witnessing a type of conversation that is so rare these days and to some degree I was. But I was also left with a very prominent feeling of frustration mixed with a hint of sadness after watching the exchange. Why? Because watching this video reminds me just how far our culture has fallen in the last five or so years.
Calm, respectful nuanced conversations should not be this rare in places where the primary goal is to educate people. An expected form of conversation in universities should not involve swearing, or shouting, or petty name calling or baseless accusations of racism or bigotry used to try and shut down the free exchange of ideas. The conversation between this student and Ben Shapiro should be commonplace. It should not be note worthy. It should not be something that people write about, akin to how people would write about a unicorn sighting. So whilst I congratulate the student for how he handled himself, I can also point to a huge number of cases where students, some of which are amongst the most privileged people in the world, have reacted to new ideas, differing views and somewhat polarising figures in a way that I can imagine would make the bright young individual in the video hang his head in shame.
But please don’t misunderstand me, my message is one of hope. People like the one in the video, and support for what he said, shown in the comments section of said video, are definitely signs that things are changing. To put it simply, people are running out of patience at the sight of young adults who are benefiting from every luxury that western civilisation has to offer them acting like spoilt children, trying to block people’s ability to freely share ideas and calling everyone who tries to reason with them Nazi’s and fascists.
So things are no doubt getting better but are far from fixed and the question of how exactly did we end up here needs to be asked. Because if we don’t figure out exactly what went wrong, even if we do manage to make colleges and universities truly inspiring places to send our children, we may find ourselves having to again fight a battle that should have been done and dusted some amount of years down the line. Personally, I could do without.