Monday, August 15, 2011

Heresy is the Best Policy: Why The World Needs Heretics (Part 2 of 2)

The world needs heretics. If every philosopher, every writer or every artist agrees with what’s generally accepted, society will never progress. If no one dares to be a heretic, there will be no improvement for humanity. The most obvious example is in science: If every scientist simply accepts the established paradigms, no research will take place. So why call yourself a scientist if you do not seek to improve, augment or even challenge the accepted paradigms? Similar questions could be asked for other vocations: Why call yourself a philosopher if all you do is simply swallow and restate the prevailing philosophies? Why call yourself a writer if your main goal is just to appease the powers that be or to elicit a positive reviews? And why call yourself an artist if you are afraid of offending the sensibilities of the public?

Any proper PhD is a PhD is heresy.

If there is no one around bold enough to disturb people’s minds and sensibilities, people will start to become comfortable with their beliefs and tastes. Society needs heretics to offend the orthodoxy and rattle the established order. When there is no one around to challenge the prevailing beliefs and tastes, dogma starts to take hold of the minds of the many. But since truth is mainly in the search itself and since to accept dogma is to abandon the search altogether, it is therefore true that to embrace dogma is to forgo truth.

It is therefore the duty of heretics – of every true scientist, philosopher, writer or artist – to force people to clean their intellectual and aesthetic consciences and to constantly force them to ask themselves the following questions: “What should I believe in and why should I believe it? Whom should I believe and why should I believe him? What should I value and why should I value it?” The heretic’s role in society is to force everyone to think. In short, his role is to make everyone a heretic like himself. Heresy is a virus; this is why the establishment has always killed heretics.

It is one of the greatest legacies of the Enlightenment to recognize that there is great value in heresy. After all, what are universities, libraries, art museums and theaters if not the breeding ground of heretics? Universities are useless if all of its professors and students simply appease public opinion and art museums are pointless if all its artists simply regurgitate old motifs to please the masses and are scared of offending the public’s sensibilities. It is the responsibility of the professors at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, for example, and of the artists whose works are exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to disturb us, to disconcert us and even to offend us. Society funds institutions such as PUP and the CCP because it needs its regular dose of shock and agitation, because it needs it heretics. Institutions hosting heretical professors and offensive artists are supported by public money because these people serve as the gnats of society, reminding its people to be ever-vigilant and thoughtful. Without our heretics, society would be in slumber. That, or we get our money back. Oh yes, I believe we deserve a tax refund due to the fact that Poleteismo was pulled down from CCP. Our tax money is wasted on the CCP if the CCP is not able to exhibit and host “blasphemous” and offensive works of art. The fact that the conservative Catholics won’t understand this argument stems from the fact that they still want to live in the Middle Ages when theocracies were not yet considered evil and when the Enlightenment has not yet introduced the value of heresy. It seems that the conservatives will always fail to comprehend the fact that the freedom of religion and speech is the freedom to become a heretic and to offend.

The conservatives who want society to remain sleeping and silenced naturally hate the heretics who stimulate the people to engage in constant conversation. The sound of dissenting opinion cuts them to the quick. A society in conversation and discussion is their worst nightmare. Perhaps this agoraphobia is proof that they cannot defend their so-called "truths" in the agora of ideas. What more, the powers that be are scared shitless of the heretics because heretics challenge the source of their undeserved power. They will use any means possible – force, the threat of excommunication and eternal damnation, political machinery or obscene stock market wealth – to silence those who disagree. 

But the heretics – the scientists, philosophers, writers and artists – will not be silenced. This they will say in the face of fierce intolerance: “I think, therefore I am a heretic. I refuse to give up my sacred right to think and to surrender my obligation to offend.”


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Quezon City, Philippines
Pecier Carpena Decierdo is a male specimen of the primate species homo sapiens. According to Pecier, one of his main goals in life is the justification of his species’ name. Close proximity to his most preferred carbon based life form, Rose Anne, causes Pecier’s brain to become saturated with phenylalanine, and being with the said Rose Anne is also known to bring about attacks of involuntary spasms called “laughter” in Pecier. Aside from Rose Anne, the subjects “philosophy”, “science” and “literature” are some of the other things that fire up his libido. He has so far survived twenty-two roundtrips aboard his home planet and he has no intentions of quitting soon.

Venerable Verses

The cloud-clapp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind: we are stuff

As dreams are made on; and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

-William Shakespeare, The Tempest-

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