I’ve put myself in a precarious position early in my career. At 20 years old, several publications have afforded me the platform to have a voice in the national conversation—not because I’m an expert of any sort, but because they recognized the importance of broadening the generational dialogue.
For this I’m hugely grateful, but it comes with one problem: Anyone who has ever been 20 years old knows that human beings change and grow as we age—a lot. I do my best to maintain a curious and open mind, but I don’t yet have a totally solidified worldview.
As such, there are already moments I regret in my short career. At times I’ve looked back and wished I’d worded a point more artfully; other times more conversation and information has changed my vantage point entirely. Now, all of that is immortalized in print. But I’m okay with it because I maintain the humility to change.
Culture is always in flux, ideally progressing toward a more robust understanding of truth and justice. Change is a beautiful thing. Even in very recent history, we have changed our minds dramatically. A great example is the acceptance of gay marriage; even Obama campaigned against it in his 2008 presidential bid.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that all eras have their misguided practices and beliefs. Many of our revered Founding Fathers were also slaveholders, after all. Today, we’re most certainly in the midst of our own cultural missteps, but entirely unaware as we’re swept up in the temporal tides.
We’re most definitely all going to change as the dialogue progresses, both personally and societally. But there’s a roadblock in our way: Our culture has lost the humility to do so.
The rise of cancel culture is symptomatic of this inability. Our society has become obsessed with applying defamatory labels to individuals with any unorthodox beliefs. We tarnish them forever as racist, sexist, or whatever -ism is coming next. Frequently, the cancel culture mobs resurrect artifacts to nail their targets, oftentimes digging up old tweets from years before.
But doing so makes the assumption that people are static, unchanging entities. Furthermore, it permanently attaches ideas to individuals. As such, our culture attacks “bad” people rather than bad ideas.
This practice favors orthodoxy and lends itself to an us-versus-them mentality. As such, it undermines the classically liberal ideals that lay at the foundation of our nation and free societies. If we hope to continue to progress, as individuals and as a society, this must stop. Dialogue and open expression are the only paths to truth.
We must reclaim the right to be wrong and to change in order to risk putting ourselves out there to air our opinions in the marketplace of ideas. Tarnishing one another, as is the present cultural norm, will get us nowhere. Rather, diverse perspectives meeting through dialogue and debate will foster well-considered progress.
We must afford tolerance of differences and lend forgiveness for mistakes. As a society, we must reclaim the humility to change. That means sometimes admitting we were wrong—after all, nobody has a perfect track record. We will all be better for it; through personal progress comes societal progress.
This is precisely why I, as I turn 21 years old, am confident putting my ideas out in the open. The only path to truth is conversation, and it’s an honor to be in the midst of the national dialogue. I engage, not with the conviction that I’m right, but with the knowledge and humility in knowing I will change.
Rikki Schlott is a writer and student based in New York. As a young free speech activist, her writing chronicles the rise of illiberalism from a Generation Z perspective. Schlott also works for The Megyn Kelly Show and has been published by The Daily Wire and The Conservative Review.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.