Few things in life are as emotionally rewarding as donning the robes of the righteous. Like Moses descending from Mount Sinai clutching the Ten Commandments, it is wonderfully exhilarating to pronounce that your insights into this wicked world have, at last, given you the foresight to name all that is true, just, and holy, and by extension condemn the sinners among us—which is to say those who don’t share your views.
Omniscience is a great thing. It allows one to be judge, jury, and executioner.
Censoriousness abides deep in the human psyche, and no one is immune from its allure. Except for the genuinely pathological, we all like to think we embody the virtues of truth, beauty, and justice. Our opinions arise from sweet reasonableness, while those who oppose us do so because they are cranks, lunatics, irredeemably corrupt, or grossly uninformed.
Now fast forward to the story of two Canada Post letter carriers in Regina who were suspended for refusing to deliver sample issues of The Epoch Times. One found the editorial slant not to his liking, while the other complained that the paper was anti-Chinese, which is rather like complaining that the Jewish Times is anti-Semitic.
The story caught my attention in part because I am an ex-postie and fondly remember my time working for Canada Post. However, I am of a generation that did not believe in censoring the mail. Among the biggest challenges during my time at the post office was finishing my route as quickly as possible so that I could meet my fellow posties at the King Edward Hotel for a liquid lunch. But I digress.
As a condition of employment, I was compelled to swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown, a ceremony that my supervisor invested with the appropriate gravitas. Despite thinking that this was a somewhat archaic ritual, it did impress upon me the seriousness of my new job. Snail mail may not be as crucial as it once was, but it is still an essential form of communication.
Like every letter carrier, I frequently delivered material that I found offensive. For example, one of my customers was a subscriber to Soldier of Fortune magazine. I found both the publication and the customer disturbing, but it never crossed my mind that I could choose not to deliver the journal. Similarly, one of my female colleagues objected to the pornography she routinely delivered. The option of not delivering these magazines never occurred to her.
As letter carriers, none of us had the luxury of deciding what mail we would or wouldn’t deliver. And the same is true today. By what right do letter carriers decide for their fellow citizens what they can or cannot read? Who are they to tell me what ideas I am allowed to consider and which are forbidden? Are they not aware that interfering with the delivery of the mail is considered a serious crime in every jurisdiction in the world, including Canada?
But perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh. After all, we live in an age where the big tech oligarchs are purging and banning from their platforms people, ideas, and opinions they dislike. Perhaps our censorious posties are only channeling their inner Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg, who, like technological Torquemadas, are busily consigning to their electronic bonfires people, thoughts, and views they find heretical, unorthodox, or nonconformist. We live in a democratic age, and if censorship is good for our technological overlords, then why is it not suitable for our letter carriers?
Censoriousness is an all too human failing. But it brings in its wake dangerous and even devastating consequences. If I believe that my views and judgments reign supreme, then I am morally compelled to rid the world of those voices that oppose or challenge my truth. And as the poet Heinrich Heine reminds us, “Where they burn books, they will too, in the end, burn people.”
It strikes me that it is a very small step from censoring the internet or interfering with the Queen’s mail to the burning of books.
Patrick Keeney, Ph.D., is an academic, columnist, and associate editor of C2C Journal.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.