In order to effectively author his famous novel 1984, George Orwell must have spent a great deal of time and effort carefully choosing the right way to frame his dystopian world. The following line is one that stood out to me in particular due to its prescient value to our society today. 

“Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness” (George Orwell, 1984).

It functions as a warning, imploring us to develop our own unique sense of consciousness and to be wary of those who would otherwise seek to artificially construct and preserve unanimity of thought. 

Photo sourced from the Fairfield University flickr.

I would ask you as the reader to think back to the Spring of 2022 when University President Mark. R. Nemec, PhD gave a speech surrounding the removal of a Black Lives Matter flag from the student health center. He was quoted as stating that the University accepts “anti-racist as well as anti-anti-racist viewpoints,” when it came to the greater questions surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As we all know, this movement is of great societal import. It reflects the current struggle that Black Americans continue to endure in search of social, economic, and political equality in this country. As such, the University president remarking on such an issue was sure to spark a strong emotional reaction. One would expect many voices speaking out on the matter from various angles of thought. Only, this was not the case at all.  

President Nemec was castigated for supposedly refusing to uphold the Jesuit values of inclusion and acceptance, with some alleging that he was even tacitly accepting modern forms of racism on campus. The student body received email after email from both the student union and faculty expressing their outrage with President Nemec, as well as their firm support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

While it was absolutely the right of the student union and faculty to voice their displeasure through mediums such as The Mirror, it was jarring that at no point did anyone seem interested in providing alternative perspectives. Even more concerning, those perspectives did not seem to be welcome in any official school publications, with many students fearful of academic and social consequences. 

Orthodoxy had unfortunately set in. President Nemec was painted as a racist, the University did not support equality, and anybody who thought differently was discouraged from speaking up.  

Of course, as with any orthodoxy, there are many viable alternative perspectives.  

Popularized by the intellectual Ibram X. Kendi, anti-racism is a modern progressive framing of race relations in the United States. One of the ideology’s main principles holds that  many of America’s founding institutions are inherently racist and must therefore be rejected, dismantled and rebuilt. This definition includes our system of governance, the education system, and the military. 

When President Nemec said that Fairfield supports “anti-anti-racist viewpoints”, one could contend that he merely acknowledged that there are valid arguments and critiques against the modern concept of anti-racism.

This is not to say that I or my peers take the side of President Nemec – some of us do and some of us do not. What is important, however, is that we all believe it is worth considering alternative perspectives, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. 

As Orwell describes in his novel, if we simply allow orthodoxy to take root without pushback, our ability to think critically about important issues will fade away, leading to the overall decay of public discourse and our passive acceptance of the mainstream worldview.  

Our goal as Fairfield’s student body should be to explicitly refute the idea that the University is composed of identical people with largely uniform beliefs, values, and ideas. In reality, our University is made up of diverse individuals with unique thoughts and perspectives.

Adding alternative voices to mainstream perspectives will only serve to enrich the intellectual and academic horizons of the student body, ideally advancing the quality of dialogue and discussion.

Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *