I am a novelist. Have written five books that deals with coming-of-age. They are published in Kindle store.
What is the Meaning Behind Cancel Culture?
“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” (1). This statement was quoted in the novel ‘Brothers Karamazov’ written by the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. What did he mean by that? How do you quantify and qualify if the statement seemed to be arbitrary if taken at face value? Everything? Can God become non-existent? If we can erase God in our consciousness then God never existed independent of ourselves but was conjured up in our imagination. If this is the case, then the meaning of transcendental Deity possesses no pertinent meaning. What did Dostoevsky mean everything is permitted? Was he pertaining to moral imperatives or any other implicative human behaviors, even like food diet? But most likely Dostoevsky was directly linking human moral fibers with the existence of God since God is the ultimate arbiter of moral values. The cancel culture is mere, I believe a comprehensive element of society where how to interpret and measure what ought to be morally valued had been reinterpreted by eliminating the existence of God in the public consciousness. If God is not considered as an independent agent, who exists and instructs our very being with moral values then, individuals will come to believe themselves as transcendental (2). Moral consciousness is an essential aspect that distinguishes human beings from animals and because humans cannot function without a sense of understanding a moral value of human dignity, we must continue to act out moral imperatives even if transcendental reality is vanquished. Even relativization of moral values is an indication that upholding certain aspects of moral value is pertinent to our purpose and survival. You cannot make a statement like ‘what is right for you might not be right for me’ unless there is an intrinsic value of believing that there is such thing as moral understanding. Why am I raising moral imperatives when discussing a canceled culture? Because it is what I had stated earlier, taking God out of the public picture, we have become transcendental, not literally but at least functionally. We have become the arbiter of how to define what constitutes moral or immoral, and if that is the case then it is not surprising that when someone or a group makes an indisputable statement that signifies a rectitude, andthere will be an occasion where he or she could be canceled since we have become the judge of moral values. By canceling people’s viewpoints that pertains to human moral principle, by in large, we have become a substitute to what was once believed to be a transcendental moral giver. ‘You are in wrong, you need to be canceled!’ In practical reality, canceling somebody is expressing one’s moral superiority and this only happens when a person comes to believe he or she is the arbiter of moral transcendence. ( On the side note, if a person believes in moral relativism then there cannot be such thing as moral superiority, which how the cancel culture operated under. And also, if a person holds the belief in evolutional biology then he or she must accept cancel culture as part of a survivor of fittest.)
The other possible causation of cancel culture is (there are a lot more reasons why cancel culture is practice, like human guilty conscience of past injustice and so forth) that in this hyper-competitive environment, where the intrinsic value of a person’s worth is contingent upon how much a person had achieved professionally, academically or personally: a canceling someone is a form of exercising one’s power over others. Friedrich Nietzsche had argued, humanity is permeated in the manifestation of ‘power play’ (3). From birth to death, leveraging oneself over others is the basis on which humans generate purpose in life. Unless a person sees herself or himself better looking than others, or more athletic than others, there is no such thing as qualifying value like ‘I am attractive looking’ or ‘I am athletic’. If this is the causation of human existence, then why wouldn’t individuals will not be motivated by delegitimizing the plausibility of a person or persons who hold eminent stature? This concept should not surprise us because it has been manifested throughout human existence, especially in a highly evolved society like ours. All forms of nature are operated under the power of having leverage above others, and possessing leverage over others brings respectabilities because power itself is an element of self-preservation and we all desire for it whether by identifying with who holds the power or becoming the one with the power. If this is not true then there will be no purpose for elective government. And cancel cultures happens when we want to oppose whom we do not want to be under and abide by it.
And this is occurring more prevalently in the very competitive environment where it is difficult to qualify whether a person is more talented than the nominal. In the university settings or any other settings where the position of privilege is not clear cut whether the person in prominence was achieved through talent or through whom they had known, the cancel culture is more prevalent. The sector of society where the value of a person’s prominence is based mostly on individuals’ personal preferences is where canceling someone is a little more common: like in the arts and academics (4). How about eminent mathematicians? Where the subject expertise is harder to come by. Can a university replace someone whose ability to solve very complex mathematical problems where only a very few could solve in the world could be canceled if he or she makes controvertible comment? Possibly in short term, but in the long term, I am not certain. How about NBA star player? What if someone like LeBron James states something that is insensitive but can he be canceled for good? Terminate him from playing in the NBA? It does not take much acute observation, even for a novice basketball fan, that LeBron James is head and shoulder above nominal players. Since he is unplaceable due to his immense talent, society will be more willing to forgive him if he makes an unwise statement, but not with people like university professors. Because it is impossible to exam whether university professors are eminently superior, even above students whom they instruct, but superstar basketball players are definitely better than all of the collegiate players. Since we can more objectively observe the nature of athletic abilities, society is less likely to cancel the highly developed athletics because they possess an immense power of being a very few. But for university professors who possess a weaker intrinsic professional value, since their abilities are merely marginally better than the people whom they teach, they are susceptible to canceling criticism. It is no different than going to war with certain nations. It is more conducive to engaging in war with a nominal nation that does not possess a strong military by a nation like the United States, than going to war with a country with a more advanced military. Whatever the United States does, other nations cannot cancel the United States. This is also how power play is engaged and it will get worse because of the inclusivity of various forms of human beliefs in the society and over-the-top meritocracy.
(1) Grand Inquisitor, Brothers Karamazov: Fyodor Dostoevsky
(2) A Secular Age: Charles Taylor
(3) Will to Power: Fredrich Nietzsche
(4) ABC News: March 12, 2021