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Nalini Joseph: Cancel culture dangerous for children

By Nalini Joseph

While I was doing a little online research on cancel culture, I found a few things that disturbed me about this new culture that seems to be engulfing some of us. 

Most of you know the basic definition of cancel culture. Wikipedia describes it as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles.” Urban Dictionary defines canceling as “to dismiss something or somebody” and “to reject an individual or idea.” A young high schooler in California described cancel culture as a good thing — a tool for social change. He described what happened at his school: a girl was making online racist remarks and, as a result, she was suspended for five days. All her peers “cancelled” the girl by ignoring her and blocking her on social media. 

My questions are these: did “cancelling” change the heart of this young lady? Did her administrators, friends and peers manage to change her ideology and core beliefs? Abhorrent as her views are, her right to possess and express her views is still guaranteed by the Constitution.           

Cancel culture is detrimental and dangerous, especially in a world of social media, which can be used for so much good and yet also for evil purposes. It only exacerbates the problem of our young people who take courage behind a screen but lack the ability to personally confront an issue face-to-face.

Very often, a youngster finds something another youngster has written, said or done that’s distasteful. He then finds 10 other friends who share his opinion, but not a single person talks to the offender. There is no discourse with the person. There is no conversation, no argument, no rebuttal. Don’t we all love movies or TV shows where confrontational, smart lawyers on both sides present convincing arguments? Instead of an argument, the intent of the “canceller” becomes to destroy that person’s life.   

By supporting cancel culture, we are encouraging our children to become vindictive and malevolent persons without a capacity for healthy discourse. Our kids lose the art of debate — they fail to prove their point and, as a result, no mental or spiritual growth takes place. Cancel culture intends to hurt another person on a core fundamental level – for teenagers, their social world and self-esteem. For adults, it’s often their reputation or their livelihood. Imagine that someone was to disagree with my viewpoints that I express in the Salisbury Post each Sunday. What if, instead of emailing me or asking for my phone number, this person decides to somehow impact my livelihood negatively? They then track down my boss’ phone number and call her to make a complaint about my opinion. 

The only outcome that I foresee in a conversation with my boss about my personal writings is one of defensiveness. I don’t have the opportunity to have a conversation with the person who was offended; I’m only left to wonder who would deliberately harm me in my intent to help parents make their child into a great child.        

Cancel culture brings out malice and vindictiveness. Ten friends in a small circle can very quickly morph into hundreds of kids when each friend contacts 10 of their friends, asking them to join in their opinion. The power that a group of people possesses to “cancel” (a nice word for destroy) an individual is the kind of power we do not want to teach our children to enjoy. Real power comes in making changes that touch people’s hearts and souls. How many great contributors to society were people who refused to teach to a flawed opinion?  What if our political leaders “cancelled” constituents who disagreed with their political actions or inactions? Our children must understand that you can’t cancel everyone out.  

During this pandemic, we have learned the value of face-to-face human contact. Let’s teach our children to embrace this luxury of spoken opinion and conversation that we have in our great land.     

Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at nalinijones1@hotmail.com.

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