Where’s the Line?

Allow too many freedoms and people take advantage. Take away too many and it’s called oppression.

Last night I read an article that asks if it’s time to ban Halloween candy. The writer discusses the impact plastic wrappers have on the environment and how they’re virtually impossible to recycle. Banning candy is an option, but the idea of banning things in a “free” society has me asking two questions: “Where’s the Line?” & “How do we define it?”

California recently banned plastic straws and hotel toiletries hoping to reduce pollution. My personal stance is to agree with their rules, but my concern involves how far the powers-that-be are willing to go. It can be a slippery slope if lines go unchecked.

We’d start hearing things like, ‘It’s for your protection’ or ‘It’s for your own good.’ I’m reminded of a movie called Equilibrium where government overreach is taken to new heights. They justify giving civilians pills that repress “bad” emotions to “keep people safe.” I think something similar could happen in the U.S. (other countries have strict methods of control that don’t involve a pill but use brainwashing tactics to keep people in line).

Some Thoughts to Contemplate:

Consider the damage cigarettes, e-cigs, fast-food, guns, processed foods, alcohol, etc. can have on the human body. All of them have created public health issues, if not full-blown epidemics. Should they too be banned?

Morals and societal norms vary in a free society. They differ by class, religion, gender, and so-on. So which group gets the final word? The questions are further complicated when we evaluate all variances in ideology within communities. An example would be Christianity vs. Secularism and their opposite stances on abortion.

We must also consider various forms of media and how they can be addictive or possibly influence behavior (see #1 below for more thoughts on this). Is too much screen time addictive? Is over-stimulation the cause of the ADHD epidemic (or do we now have the tools to diagnose something that wasn’t recognized in the past?)? Does violence in video games, music, and movies cause violence in the real world? How much can the media really alter one’s perspective?

The media, generally taken as reliable and truthful, undoubtedly influences people’s opinions. Take, for example, anyone who watches Fox News; you can probably assume what their stance is. The same would apply to anyone who reads Vox or the Huffington Post regularly.

There are endless studies about all of this. After reading some of them I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody really knows what’s going on (I strongly suggest you read some for yourself). There’s too much ambiguity in the data and reasonable validity cannot be established, even in many double-blind accounts (see #’s 2 & 3 for a couple of examples).

Let’s Pretend the Research is Conclusive and We Start Banning Things

We’ll start with video games, one of my favorite pastimes. Let’s say we remove all nudity, violence, and anything deemed inappropriate for any given reason. We would now have to consider banning other mediums that carry similar content. That would mean the same filters would have to apply to movies and music.

But it technically shouldn’t stop there. Art would have to be censored if it depicted acts of violence or displayed nudity that could be interpreted as objectifying or demeaning. The next on the list would be books. We’d have to burn pretty much everything except children’s books and maybe some Young Adult ones (even Harry Potter has been scrutinized for its violence, sexism, and racism. See #4).

We’d have to censor the media too. It could only show us happy stories of cats and other mindless things. Instead of the “useful” information it gives us now. North Korea does something like that, on top of endless propaganda

While much of the content we receive is considered questionable, I have to object to censoring/banning any form of art, no matter how terrible. To me, art is about truth and the expression of what secrets lie in the depths of the human soul. Some say these expressions are normalizing, glorifying, or sensationalizing horrific acts but I think they are more of a reflection of the world as it is.

Plus, the beauty of it all is that art is subjective and up to the individual to interpret its meaning and its effects and how it relates to them.

Now, Let’s Talk Candy.

I’d debate banning candy if we were discussing combating childhood obesity. I can’t say I’d outright ban it, but maybe we could talk about some restrictions. As for the writer’s argument, I would ask to find other methods to limit pollution instead of getting rid of Halloween candy completely. But again, if we do ban something, it’s a slippery slope.

If you ban candy due to wrappers then you must include all items contained in questionable materials (probably wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen!) The problem with selecting one item to ban is it raises additional ethical questions about fairness. In a fair and balanced society, we can’t apply rules to some things and exclude others.

If Candy distribution ends because of childhood obesity, you’d have to ban all other things considered equally as bad. Again, who gets to decide and where do we draw the line?

Possible Solutions
  • The government can and should force companies to be more transparent about their products.
  • Society as a whole should provide better education on what potential harm can come from consuming certain things (food, media, cigs, etc).
    • Parents, teachers, and peers can encourage children to eat better or limit candy or find alternatives to the binge-fest that is Halloween.
      • Kids should still have fun though so it’s a tough one!
  • The government can also help make common-sense regulations to limit the number of materials that cause damage to our eco-system (there’s money involved in this and I know it’s not that simple).
  • We could find better ways to sway public opinion so that they too want to see the changes we want to see.
  • Perhaps we can all do better to limit the amount of media we consume each day so that it does not control/influence us as much.
    • This will likely be a part of any educational initiative.
    • I don’t think the government should impose restrictions on usage. It should be encouraged by them and teachers and leaders.
  • As studies become more conclusive and accuracies in the science improves, perhaps we can couple media usage limitations with teaching materials that help people understand the difference between depiction and reality.
    • This is assuming the forms of media we consume are responsible for social conditioning.
Final Thoughts!

Unfortunately, humans don’t always know what’s best for themselves. Too often we take a leap of faith and trust some of the misleading information received about the healthiness or safeness of a substance. Sometimes we don’t care what harm is done and pump bad things into ourselves anyway (YOLO!).

Ignorance, stubbornness, and several other factors outside the media we consume are also responsible for some societal issues we face today. Even if changes are in our best interest, they’re sometimes tough pills to swallow so I don’t think we should completely place blame media consumption.

You may not want to hear it but government intervention may be a necessary evil—from time to time (so long as they’re not corrupt).

Lastly, we want people to live their best lives, healthy and happy. We also want them to have the freedom to choose for themselves. It’s confusing and paradoxical no matter which way you slice it! Too much freedom and people take advantage. Too little and it becomes oppression. Where’s the line?!?!?!

Additional Notes!
  1. Despite what we hear in the media and voiced by popular public opinion, the research doesn’t always confirm this to be true. Correlation does not mean causation. It’s complicated to quantify what media affects what behaviors, if any (I had an article to cite but can’t find it. I will update this article when I do).
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174603/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6449671/
  4. When I was a kid, I remember several religious groups wanted to ban Harry Potter due to witchcraft. I’ll ask again, who gets to decide what should/shouldn’t be banned? Subjectivity should always be considered.
Before you go!

I do think media contributes to our culture both positively and negatively, I just don’t know how much. That’s why I’d advocate for better eduction in understanding the difference between depiction and reality.

I’m interested to read your thoughts on the matter and will be diligent in responding so please be sure to voice them in the ‘Comments’ section! If you’d like to contact me, please fill out the form on the ‘Contact Us’ page!

Lastly, Awesome News! My book, Through the Devil’s Eyes, is now available on Amazon! If you enjoy my writing or are interested in a story about God and the Devil fighting over our souls then you should check it out (both ebook and paper copies are available!)!

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