The Courage to Speak Up

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”—Edmund Burke, 18th-century Irish statesman and philosopher

I read this article a little while back about Yankees great Derek Jeter taking a stand against bullying and hate speech. It might seem that someone like Jeter is simply lending his powerful voice to a cause he believes in, but I think it’s more personal than that.

There’s a common misconception out there that if you achieve a certain amount of success or fame or financial freedom that you’re immune to the kinds of problems the rest of us face. But based on what I’ve observed, the exact opposite is true.

Public figures have to navigate a digital modern world where facts are less important than “perception.” If someone says something about you often enough and loudly enough, people either think it’s true or the doubt it creates in their mind is enough to obscure whatever the truth might actually be.

When any individual (or large group of people) can hide behind an anonymous internet account and attack or troll any one of us in this way, solely because of what we choose to believe and express, the pressure to simply keep our heads down and not speak our own versions of the truth is profound and ever-present. In this way, a sort of “digital mob rule” threatens to erode the individuality and creativity of our culture. This extends to artists and celebrities; it’s much easier to simply “be grateful” for what you’ve achieved than speak out about your beliefs and risk being eaten alive by the mob and losing your fan base and success.

To see something that has been such a profoundly positive influence in virtually every aspect of my life reduced to fictitious tabloid headlines when I’m buying my groceries for the week makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with people.

That’s why I admire creative, successful people who do stand up for what they believe in despite that risk, even when I strongly disagree with them. Civil society is defined, in large part, by the ability of any individual to speak their own truth as loudly and as broadly as they choose to.

In my 15 years as a Scientologist, I’ve dealt with that feeling of pressure and self-censorship over and over again. The level, degree and variety of misunderstanding, misinterpretation and even purposeful misinformation about what Scientology is and does can literally knock the wind out of me at times. To see something that has been such a profoundly positive influence in virtually every aspect of my life reduced to fictitious tabloid headlines when I’m buying my groceries for the week makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with people. And what exactly is it going to take to create a world where respecting the beliefs of others—where respecting each individual and the right to their unique viewpoint and opinion—is the rule rather than the exception?

Writing this blog post is my effort to help forge that new reality. And the silver lining to all of this is that the truth will always, ultimately, win out. The truth is that unshakable foundation that can never be erased or covered over completely. All the lies come later, but the truth was first and remains forever. And the truth is that people are basically good, that we are all on a journey together, and we will either rise or fall together. The degree to which we can each find the courage to allow for other viewpoints with respect and consideration is the degree to which we can rise to new heights and create a new reality that’s saner, more compassionate and more productive than anything we’ve seen before. That’s the reality I want to live in.

Author

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