Caution: Easily Disturbed!

Over the course of my life, most of which were spent in Malaysia, I’ve gotten a number of different responses by people whenever I speak of a taboo subject, use coarse language or simply question their beliefs. Let me outline some of the more moronic ones:-

I’m Offended by what you just said!

Really? Who cares?

A response such as this remains to be nothing more than a whine or a grumble. It, to me, has no merit or credibility whatsoever and is not even worthy of any attention.

I find it thoroughly putrefying that people assume that just because they’re offended by what I say that I need to apologise for it and then shut up; that somehow it gives them a Right to have me silenced.

If that is their logic, then, suppose I don’t like your face and I feel offended by it, could I insist that you talk to me while facing elsewhere? Wouldn’t seem like a very pleasant thing to do, would it? As much as your face doesn’t pose a physical threat to me neither can the words or language I use do the same.

But of course, being offended is absolutely natural. We are often times hurt when something is said that is contrary to our hardened views or stagnant perspectives. But what gives us the Right to ask someone else to shut up? To be silent? To censor himself? How did we derive this superiority; to instruct someone else on the language or words they can and cannot use? I submit, there is no such thing! You have to take your knocks like every one else in society.

If you want to say all that is on your mind, it is only fair that you allow another to say all that is on his mind, whether you like him or not. If you don’t like what is being said or you feel offended, respond to it with valour and conviction. If indeed your views are as strongly held as you claim it to be, stand like a civilized man or woman and argue for it. Write, speak and advocate your position. Why nestle behind disingenuous “political correctness”? Why insist on ending an argument you haven’t even defended? Why cower like a weak pathetic dog under facades of “hurt feelings” and “upset emotions”?

Further, being offended is a good thing. It encourages you to assess yourself. To ask yourself why you feel offended? To inquire into the root of your distraught. To locate the source of your distress. You are forced to think; to deliver yourself from your mind’s inertness and to engage in compulsive mental masturbation. You will be compelled to read more, to question archaic norms and primeval values. You will be inspired to seek knowledge, learn about foreign cultures and meditate on life’s greatest mysteries. One fine day, you might even stumble upon a personal revelation that will rock the very foundations of your conceptions on Life. Isn’t that what you seek in life? The truth? It would only be an utterly joyful day for you!

I see nothing but positive developments in being offended.

Please Respect my beliefs!

Rubbish!

‘Respect’ is a highly misunderstood concept. Most people go around expecting to be respected by others. This is a completely fallacious assumption. The only immutable ‘Respect’ that ought to exist is ‘Self-Respect‘. Respecting others is entirely relative.

‘Respect’ should never be asked or demanded. It is to be earned through mutual recognition. I treat you with dignity and acknowledge your freedoms and you do the same for me; this is construed as being ‘Respect for one another’. I always try to ensure I extend the same level of respect I get from someone else. It is, to me, the fair thing to do.

I also often respect people if they have proven themselves to be useful members of society or have amassed for themselves a reputation of being trustworthy, honorable and an intellectual. Having a dark sense of humour is always a welcome bonus.

But to respect someone’s beliefs highlights more than just respect to them as a person. It denotes that I must somehow have respect for what they believe in, which more often than not I don’t and I can’t, because I might find one’s beliefs to be ludicrous, preposterous and just downright dumb. Why should I respect the insipid, uninspiring and unenlightening belief of another?

I must be allowed to voice my opinions on it, to at the very least cast doubt on one’s beliefs so he can rethink his beliefs and perhaps adopt a new one – one that more closely resembles his expectations in life. That opinion of mine should also be able to take any shape; a skeptical inquiry, a joke, a caricature, a satirical play, a critical essay or even a 300 page book.

One is of course free to question and criticize my beliefs and I expect one to not have any respect for my beliefs – it is only fair that he does not, seeing as he doesn’t believe in it. I would be forcing my beliefs on him if I expected him to respect my beliefs.

For instance, I find that a belief in a God that cleanses ethnicities, subjugates women, procures infanticide, kills homosexuals, starts plagues, permits slavery, authorizes racism, encourages self hate, allows for immeasurable suffering to take place in the world today, creates evil and by His omission allows it to thrive, to be ridiculous, silly and rather comical.

There is no reason at all why I should respect such anemic and lackluster beliefs.

This is a Sensitive issue!

The last shelter of a man with no replies and no arguments!

This is the kind of hogwash you hear often from the Government; it is the mark of a defeatist, an idiot and a hopeless nitwit.

The Government utilizes this phrase because it is the most potent weapon in controlling thoughts. If you instruct people on what they can and cannot talk about you inevitably control what they can and cannot think about.

The Government of Malaysia is notorious for keeping its citizenry uninformed while concurrently promulgating divisive lines of race, religion, sexuality, social background, political affiliation and titles. All are but devious attempts to keep the population subdued and divided in order to discourage unity, solidarity and a spirit of mature nationalism.

This is to be frowned upon. This is against what Democracy stands for and it is an insult to the dreams of our forefathers.

As for issues being sensitive, I can only ask the question, who is to say what is and what is not sensitive? Something may be sensitive to you but it might not be to me and that doesn’t mean I must stop talking about it.

All of this can only mean one thing: that there are no “sensitive issues”, only sensitive people. In fact, the phrase “sensitive issue” is an oxymoron. As long as something is an “issue”, it demands open discussion. And how does one resolve an “issue” if one cannot talk about it because it is supposedly “sensitive”? Even if there is such a thing as a “sensitive issue”, it can only cease to be “sensitive” if people are allowed to talk about it.

I don’t think it is in the interest of society to be held back by people with an inability to think, act and communicate in a rational and grown up manner. I find it utterly sickening that people can be so conceited to think that mere discussion of an issue must cause others to take their intangible and insubstantial “sensitivities” into account.

So what if your feelings are hurt? If you don’t like me talking about something, leave the premises. If you feel uncomfortable hearing it on the radio, tune out of the station. If watching it on the television makes you feel uneasy, turn your television off. Is it really that difficult? If you feel sensitive about something, you need to grow up!

I am immensely Disturbed by all of this…

…but I think I have stated my feelings of being offended, shocked and disturbed by the religious institutions, political institutions and socio-cultural trends of Malaysia rather aptly. I have also elaborated on these feelings of mine, for the past 3 days. No death threats were made. No animals were decapitated. Not a single drop of blood was spilt. Nothing has really changed besides the brewing of the minds of the people who have read my writings; everything is as it were 3 days ago. All is fine.

Civility isn’t so difficult, is it?


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16 Responses to Caution: Easily Disturbed!

  1. Minion

    Brilliant post and comments by Paiva. We are indeed fortunate to have such a great mind and heart in our midst.

    Keep rockin dude. Keep rockin. Your work is ridiculously good!

  2. Dear AP,

    DEFAMATION

    This is an excellent documentary which in parts touches upon freedom of speech and the attempts by the ADL and the right wing Jewish lobby to undermine this freedom. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It was directed by an Israeli,Yoav Shamir.

    I wonder if it will win any awards ala Michael Moore's Fahrenheight 911? Hahaha. I don't think so, the director Yoav, as I understand, is already a marked guy.

    The link is here. Enjoy as I say and will appreciate your comments.
    http://wideeyecinema.com/?p=7208

    Regards

    Freddie

  3. Dear Sir,

    I am truly humbled by your earnest response. It is rare to find one who holds true to his principles.

    To take time and painstakingly reply lucidly says much of your integrity and purpose.

    Please accept my sincere apologies to suggest what you passionately professed, thru these series of posts, as mere rhetoric. You have, by your deed, proven it to be otherwise. I must admit I did not expect such detail in your riposte.

    However, some details you provide need to be corrected for eg 6 million Jews did not perish as is commonly believed. I will trail the links you insert but Wiki is a bit risky rely for accuracy, if I may say so.

    As you may be aware by now, I subscribe to an alternative view of the Holocaust despite the limited information available, by design or restrictions.

    Please allow me time and space, by your permit, to solicit your views for my perspective of the Holocaust. I will truly be most obliged if you are able to comply.

    Finally, for all their promulgations, these countries have not only criminalised freedom of speech but also freedom of thought.

    I commend you for your uncompromising stand for freedom of speech and look forward to articles by your good self.

    Best regards

    Freddie

    • Aston Paiva

      Dear Freddie,

      Not a problem at all. If anything, this shows why Freedom of Speech and Expression is crucial. Without it, we couldn’t have had this exchange and both would be a little less enlightened.

      You are most welcome to take my views for your perspective of the Holocaust or whatever research or study you may be conducting.

      All the best ahead!

      Abuzayd,

      I do apologise for the delay in getting back to your comment. I had missed it entirely. Aside from Freddie’s issue on the Holocaust, yours was also an issue I raised, rather elaborately, on my final draft but it had to be edited out owing to space constraints.

      The issue of the Muhammad cartoons.

      Now, for some reason you seem to think that the Muhammad cartoons were made to incite hatred. I think you have it deeply mistaken. The Muhammad cartoons were nothing more than caricatures; to humour the population, for people to laugh and be merry momentarily before getting on with their lives.

      I do not see why humour should be criminalized. If you don’t find something funny, move on. There is no need to kill the jester or his family or even anyone that dresses like a jester.

      The people who are really inciting hatred are the ulamas and imams who instructed their followers to burn down the Danish embassies across the world – that is what inciting hatred is; that innocent Danish people need to be killed because someone of their nationality drew some pictures that a few people got sensitive about, that the international law of diplomatic immunity needs to be violated just because some people’s feelings were hurt. If anything, that, my friend, is what Racism and are Hate crimes are.

      Further, who ever said that Islam is immune from satire and parody? It is just as open to other people’s inquiry, jokes and laughs as every other ideology, perspective or viewpoint. That is the very nature of a liberal democracy. Nothing ought to be elevated higher than anything else and all is subject to contemplation, discussion and even ridicule.

      If Muslims, living in democratic states, find this to be a hazard to their conscience, then leaving the country and going back to the deserts of Arabia is the wisest option for them. Why reap the economic benefits of European free trade? Why bask in the beauties of fundamental liberties and human rights? Why send your children to some of the most prestigious universities in the world? Live in a tent in the desert, ride a camel, beat and force your wives to cover themselves and watch your daughter get lashed for merely speaking to a boy.

      Also, if indeed depictions of Muhammad are prohibited in Islam, why is it that the doctrines and teachings of Islam apply to non Muslims? Who are Muslims to force their beliefs on others? The non depiction of Muhammad should and must only apply to Muslims not to non Muslims, for to apply it to non Muslims would simply amount to an imposition of one's religion over another; that is grossly unfair!

      How would the Muslims fare if I started a religion tomorrow whose teachings included raping anyone caught with an Islamic veil and my adherents proceed to do so? Are Muslims going to just stand back and respect my beliefs? Or would they rise and condemn the actions of my adherents?

      In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, a US Supreme Court judge deserving of the greatest of respect:-

      "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

      Say what you will. Draw what you will. Write what you will. As long as you cause me no physical harm or besmirch my reputation, you'd have my leave.

  4. Dear Sir,

    I humbly seek a sagacious reply, should it be forthcoming, on a matter not disimilar to your opine.

    Can you Sir, tell me how and why a mere denial or even a discourse of the Holocaust is an offence in the EU?

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/850644.html

    If by chance you decline to comment, then I will make an assumption that the series of posts you prose with such bravado, is nothing more than hot air.

    Thank you

    Freddie

    • Aston Paiva

      Dear Freddie,

      Thank you for the comment.

      I must also thank you for bringing this issue up as I had removed it from my final draft to keep things concise. This matter in fact, requires an entire article of its own but I shall try to state the relevant bits here. I shall if time permits work on a further article talking primarily about Racism and Free Speech.

      I propose to deal with both the 'How' and 'Why' of your enquiry simultaneously. I also note that your link to Haaretz is dated 19/4/2007 – some 3 years ago.

      I’m sure you’re aware that European states have spent centuries at war with each other over ideological, political and social differences. The worse of this, I personally think, is what culminated during WWII with the massacre of 6 million Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Poles, homosexuals and the disabled at internment and concentration camps in places like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/

      One must look at the history of this entire event to fully comprehend what led to it. Hitler and his cohorts didn’t draw up the Final Solution from thin air. They derived it primarily from the past actions of others; most notably the Armenian Genocide of 1915 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against more than a million Armenians. Hitler even said – “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hitler_Armenian

      Till today, Turkey continues to deny the existence of this black mark in its history despite heavy lobbying by the EU and the US. Do please read about it here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

      President Barack Obama, with all his diplomatic fervour, was unable to fully deal with it while in Turkey last year – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europ… He instead tip-toed over it and sought to appease Turkey.

      Even in Malaysia, there is a denial of sorts of the Armenian Genocide. Our history textbooks are quick to point out Kerajaan Turki Uthmaniyyah as a powerful Islamic empire without even once alluding to their cowardly actions against the Armenians. I also, never recalled reading anything about the Holocaust when I was in school and always wondered why our history books are silent on the topic. One can certainly expect “Ini dasar kerajaan Malaysia” as an answer if one were to ask our Minister of Education.

      Let’s get back to Germany. Hitler was aware of the fact that quick erasure of past genocide accounts and covert propagation of the Final Solution coupled with disinformation to the public is crucial towards distorting history and subduing the majority of the German population against bigoted anti-Semitic acts. At the heart of this, the machine, which churned out all the hatred, prejudices and violent racist propaganda was none other than Germany’s own Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda led by Joseph Goebbels.

      The German population were dehumanised by the propaganda and millions of innocent people died simply because they looked different from their blonde/blue eyed counterparts or wore clothes that were different or had an odd sounding surname. The Final Solution went into full gear and the Jews were brutalized.

      Coming out of the Holocaust, one can certainly expect the Jewish population to be angry by the sheer apathy from various fronts. Pope Pius XII for instance was well aware of the atrocities but made no open denunciation of it. The Jews very obviously began ensuring that this disheartening period in Jewish and Human history would never go unetched in history books, especially the history books of European nations.

      The Jews, I would think, went on lobbying intensely to ensure such laws, criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust, would come to pass in places like France and Germany and they were successful at it when the respective national governments saw fit for such laws to be put in place. They would, I have think, have received support from certain other quarters as well, who are concerned with race hate and crimes of that nature.

      It is, in my opinion, brilliant advocacy on their part to highlight a nexus between one forgetting or denying the Holocaust with that of an increase in anti-semitism, hate crimes and racism. But whether 'criminalizing the questioning/denial of an event effectively polices racism in the 21st century' is an argument which I still think deserves thorough public debate. But, the relevant parties, for now, have been successful at convincing respective national Governments that that is the case.

      I should also note that from the link you provided, a nation is free to opt out of having such legislation. The UK for instance doesn’t have such a punishment but one could be charged for inciting racial hatred which I think denotes something a lot more than mere denial i.e. there has to be an objective assessment that what is said is truly racist in nature and even then the threshold is very high (the existence of the British National Party would be testament to this). What’s interesting about the UK is that there isn’t any kind of provision to make denial of the Holocaust an offence despite anti-Semitism and hate crimes being on the rise. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8499450.stm.

      To me, this would be the correct approach to take for no issue is above question or inquiry. If there are hate crimes, then prosecute people for committing hate crimes. Governments should work to solve racism through proper initiative and action – encourage ethnic minorities to be a part of the greater society, allow the media to highlight the plight of ethnic minorities, educate children to not make frivolous distinctions of race, religion and colour etc. but why deny people the privilege of speaking, thinking and asking? To me, making denial of the Holocaust a crime is disproportionate to whatever aim that is sought to be achieved.

      While I do acknowledge the argument that denial of the Holocaust or the trivializing of it might spark an increase of hate crimes decades ago but I think it is no longer applicable and is an argument that is weak at best. We no longer live in the dark days of ignorance and stereotypes. Neither do I see a repeat of Nazi Germany where demagogy could be so openly implemented and people adhere to it obediently. I can see how it might have worked for Hitler but it is certainly no longer applicable in this day and age. The outpouring for Darfur highlights how great an importance people pay towards eliminating genocides and crimes against humanity.

      The foreign media, the internet and the press do an amazing job in highlighting how diverse yet similar we are as human beings and I’d like to think people are far more informed now than they ever have been. It would be insulting to even assume that critical inquiry or denial of the Holocaust could cause one or cause others to go out and burn a synagogue. To me denial is an opinion in itself. And it is to me shameful that Europe could take such a step backward.

      To me, censorship of any kind only shows that someone only has something to hide. Allow the population to debate and decide what the truth is. If there is someone that wishes to challenge the number of people that were killed in the gas chambers like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, David Duke or David Irving, let them do so. Allow the people to listen to them and decide who to agree with. It would be a very bad precedent to set, if politicians enacted laws thinking the population was ‘easily confused’ or ‘prone to public disorder’. These people are not meant to be leaders if this is their take on leadership and nationalism.

      This, all in all, is in line with what Freedom of Expression is; it is a marketplace of ideas where the most favourable gains support and the least favourable are discarded. It is what is expected of a democratic and free society.

      The US, by its First Amendment, disbars any kind of abridgment of free speech without a heavy countervailing interest. There is therefore no offence of denying the Holocaust.

      Further, only subjecting the Holocaust to immunity would also be displaying favouritism. What about the Armenian Genocide? the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia? Rwanda? Darfur? The Kurds? Srebrenica? Mogadishu? Tamil Eelam? What of the millions who have died in all these genocides? Can I then argue that the EU’s lack of denunciation for the atrocities of the Sri Lankan Government against the Tamils amounts to a denial of the event taking place? A point to ponder indeed.

      And working on this point, it would also become alarming why we should never allow immunity to prevail like this. Such immunity will only cause certain groups of people to conclude that somehow they are handicapped in their present development owing to their past history and this in turn will cause them to require everyone else in society to pander to them and to feel guilty about the sins of their forefathers. Immunity akin to this becomes a trump card towards diminishing the rights of others and gives them the impression that they are entitled to greater protection of the law than everyone else when in fact ALL must receive equal protection of the law.

      This above reasoning I hold to be true when I see these mundane idiotic brutes taking to the streets in Malaysia and saying “Jangan cabar hak orang Melayu” or “Jangan soal hak-hak Bumiputera”. Justice Thomas (who is himself African American) in the case of Adarand Constructors v. Pena 515 U.S. 200 (1995) valiantly held when referring to affirmative action (or Art 153 as is in our country):-

      “Unquestionably, "[i]nvidious [racial] discrimination is an engine of oppression," post, at 3. It is also true that "[r]emedial" racial preferences may reflect "a desire to foster equality in society," ibid. But there can be no doubt that racial paternalism and its unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination. So called "benign" discrimination teaches many that because of chronic and apparently immutable handicaps, minorities cannot compete with them without their patronizing indulgence. Inevitably, such programs engender attitudes of superiority or, alternatively, provoke resentment among those who believe that they have been wronged by the government's use of race. These programs stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority and may cause them to develop dependencies or to adopt an attitude that they are "entitled" to preferences. In my mind, government sponsored racial discrimination based on benign prejudice is just as noxious as discrimination inspired by malicious prejudice. [n.*] In each instance, it is racial discrimination, plain and simple”

      In short, this ridiculous ‘non denial of Holocaust’ provisions have got to go!

      Bona Fide,

      Aston

      P/S: Do feel free to disagree with my account of the Holocaust at the beginning of this reply of mine.

  5. k.

    I value and agree with Aston's thoughts on this on a grand scale of things, but i'd want to raise a potential pitfall which we as human would too easily get our knickers tied up because of careless evaluation of a discussion.

    Aston has indeed covered the grounds rather immaculately, but i'd still feel the need to spare some further consideration:

    If ‘Respecting others is entirely relative’ means that you would just speak out all you want into the face of the person who has a different belief than you do, then you may feel free and happy to do so until the end of your days, however it's at a price. That something you would have to pay for is your social acceptance. In other words , you'd be a very lonely soul, bar for the likes of the others who thinks exactly like you , on your matter of discussion . I'd even go ahead to presume that you'd end up being lonely, but maybe it's already sufficient for you to be soul-fulfilled , to have only the like-minded people, or "your type" around you most of the time.

    The world that we live in is so wide and varied, full of people from different practices and beliefs that you'd never thought would exist if you do not open your heart to experience , to see , to listen , to breathe in , and , to learn from. This process is a privellege to be had if you have enough respect and keep your opinions within the limits. Well if you ask me , i can't be too possessive of my own limits, because others have theirs too. You make the call of the suitable limits specific to each situation you're in, part of human ability is to have the wisdom to make your own judgement call, weighing the sacrifices or the benefits you would reap as the result of your actions (or words) .

    Like Aston had indicated that respect is reciprocal, the need to be allowed to voice your own opinion is also reciprocal.

    Everyone has an opinion , just very much like everyone has an arsehole. But having an arsehole doesn't mean i'd pour dump infront of people whenever i see that their belief is different than mine.

    I hope my hypothesis or elaborations raised in this argument, in this little comment box doesn't lead you to stray away from a main point that i'm trying to make. Which is , beware of the pitfall of voicing your opinions. It's a very thin line to dance on , healthy relationship between the speaker and the listener is at stake if this balancing act of fairness would be done in a careless manner. Some shits may be shared, but some shits may best be left inside. Otherwise if you can't contain the urge, your shit may be poured out among a group of like-minded people who wouldn't mind. I base my argument to apply within a social context.

    Team A says Jesus was alive , went dead , came alive again , went dead again. Team B says there's no such thing as Jesus , there's only God. Team C says there was a Jesus but please spare me the bullshit of a virgin who gives birth.

    So if i come around and voice my opinion and say … nope you're all wrong , come on , there's no such thing as a magical super being and i'd argue to the end of my lungs to voice my opinion… and THEY would do the same to defend their beliefs, that would mean Team A , B , C and myself wouldn't be speaking to each another very much for a long time to come. What if they're worthy friends and all we've done now is sacrificed that healthy relationship because simply voiced our opinions carelessly , because we have different beliefs which , in the end none of these individual beliefs or discussions touches on cleansing ethnicities, subjugating women, procuring infanticide,..etc ? ie: They're harmless , individual thoughts ?

    As i said, dance on the thin line , be tactical of the pitfall.

  6. InjusticeSistem

    Brilliant piece of work……*applause*

    I was wondering if it is possible to get som1 to translate it into Bahasa Melayu….u noe, so that these 'sensitive ppl' can read n understand how to deal with 'sensitive issues' instead of foaming at the mouth n burnin effigy of som1.

  7. abuzayd

    Freedom of speech is all fine, just don't use it as an excuse to incite hatred, e.g. Prophet (peace be upon him) cartoons or Antisemitism. There's just no reason for it.

  8. I am disappointed to note that there are so few responses to these articles, if only to disagree. Perhaps very few Malaysians appreciate the ideas and the way it is expressed.

    My response on it HERE.

    Antares – the dude may have untwisted intelligence, but he's definitely got a twisted sense of humour.

  9. Chuck

    Regarding the vile verses from the 'holy books' you cited as evidence of offensive, shocking and disturbing materials blithely accepted as divine revelations by their respective supplicants, well, the usual response is they have been quoted out of context, invariably followed by oftentime convoluted, disingenuous explanations to whitewash the egregiousness of said texts.

  10. Exceptionally well-crafted and perfectly timely dissertation on freedom of expression. Aston Paiva, if ever our orbits intersect, I do hope you'll introduce yourself so I can shake your hand in congratulations. So refreshing to see a ray of untwisted intelligence!

  11. AnesthMO

    Great articles. Put into words what I have been thinking and feeling.

  12. HumHum

    Excellent!!! Very well said. I'd not use coarse language when a minor is around, though, and I dislike people speaking LOUDly but content-wise who cares what the other person thinks, just tell it like we see it. If they can't handle a frank opinion it's their problem.

  13. KohJL

    Sensitive people – Poor bastards, give them lollipops.

  14. Jojo Black

    Superb series of articles that smashes taboos.

    Why can't the Muslims and Christians face up to and address directly the negative content and exhortations in their respective holy books?

    How would they justify these verses and the attitudes that these verses creates in their adherents?

    How would they justify the misuse of these verses by religious educators to poison the minds of their students?