There is an adage that states, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” It is meant to remind monks that true enlightenment is not something that can be purchased or even given, but must come from within. It is somewhat ironic, then, that we consider our society enlightened. While it is true that we have made significant advances in human wellbeing in the past century, it has come at the cost of the only true freedom that exists: personal responsibility.
Rather than holding the individual accountable for their actions, we mitigate and deflect that responsibility by blaming those actions on the ideas and words of something or someone else. This offense is further compounded by efforts to use the actions of the individual to dictate the rights of everyone. The moment a book, song, movie, comic, or game is censored or banned, we have sacrificed an essential liberty, and hammered another nail in the coffin of personal responsibility.
The logic behind censorship is fundamentally flawed:
- Censorship protects no one; ideas are rooted in the culture that spawns them, they cannot simply be turned off like a faucet.
- The only truly free society is an informed society: if you’re worried about a new idea taking over, maybe you should re-examine your own beliefs.
- Personal beliefs do not equal law: the sacrilege of one person may be the gospel of another.
Despite these flaws, people continue to try and censor others, with increasing success rates. We have found our roadside Buddha, and he’s offering censorship wrapped in the pretense of enlightenment. We need to collectively realize that it’s a false promise; cultural enlightenment, like spiritual enlightenment, begins and ends with the self. The true cost of enlightenment is personal responsibility.