While I didn’t dive too deeply into political philosophy while in school, I do muse on it from time to time. I grant that my knowledge about political philosophy can be charitably labelled as “naive,” so please forgive some of the silliness I’m about to wade around in.
On the whole, I tend towards the idea that the protection of liberty is good, even at the cost of bad actors. I think the State should limit as few liberties as they can to ensure social cohesion and social protection. This will come with a few hard to manage examples where people’s liberties can come into conflict (e.g. the right to free speech and the right for people to not give platforms to people they disagree with).
I won’t attempt to give a comprehensive exploration here. I just want to comment on why good media is important for moral education.
Last week, I was rolling around with an idea I was tentatively calling “dynamic homeostatic liberty.” I don’t know if this concept has been expressed by anyone else, but the term refers to the idea that the rights respected by the State are dynamically recognized and abide by the principle of homeostasis according to the social and economic conditions at play at any given time. During times of war or disaster, rights are constricted to maximize good while also achieving some sort of political aim (think curfews and forced redistribution of material goods, for example). There would have to be some mechanism that says the State owes more responsibility of care to the people in proportion to the amount the State restricts the freedoms of its people. And this would also recognize that when the strife is over, liberties are relaxed and the State removes itself from meddling in people’s lives.
This is a fantasy, of course, because it assumes the government would always keep the best interests of the people in mind and not lead to tyranny. It also assumes people would freely give up their rights for better protection and better outcomes.
I was wondering how well a system like this would work, then I watched the season 4 episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Drumhead.” The episode covers a situation aboard the Enterprise which leads to a series of conspiratorial speculations about members of the crew. A set of minor accusations ends up leading to wild allegations and a full-blown future version of a witch hunt.
The voice of reason on the ship is Captain Picard, who pauses throughout the ordeal to question whether things are spinning out of control, and people are letting their passions and righteousness get the best of them.
Watching the two speeches above made me realize how silly my idea of “dynamic homeostatic liberty” is. The truth is, there is no way to ensure that the restriction of liberties would be in the best interests of the people who need their liberties protected the most. The powerful have a tendency to allow themselves to be corrupted by their righteous fury and perceived moral authority. It was a fantastic example of why we need good media that makes us think and reflect.
Good media helps to elevate us and educate us morally. It helps us to empathize, and see ourselves from outside our perspectives and lived experiences.
I often think about what kind of media I will want to promote to my children. I think about what stories I want to tell them to give them a good, moral education. I think Star Trek will definitely be on that list.