I recently became a member of the Good Men Project and had one of my articles posted with them. But just when I began to have hope that I might find a platform out there which genuinely engages in dialogue and open, honest conversation, I was again disillusioned. The Good Men Project claims that they wish to foster a community of conversation, but they are ultimately unable to tolerate radically open conversation in the spirit of American liberty. Therefore I’d like to share the following article of mine which they declined printing, in an appeal to them to re-think their culture of conversation:
The Good Man is the Sincere Man:
A Radical Embrace of American Liberty
Let me begin by asserting that I fully understand and accept that the perspective I am about to set forth is my own and may not reflect the present culture of The Good Men Project. I nevertheless offer this sensitive reflection in the spirit of the great conversation that GMP so nobly aspires to:
When I first heard of The Good Man Project, I wondered. Is there any such thing as a definition of goodness today, in the midst of our many cultural mixes, including gender fluidity, feminism and even fundamentalism? In our environment of moral relativism which imposes itself on the contemporary person like a giant elephant in our global room? Yet I know very well that the human need for a sense of rightness, a measure of the mainstream, if you will, can never die—since we must ultimately find a way to interact with one another. So we encounter the crux of the matter. What should become our new and self-evident custom, which might provide a proper stage upon which we may all freely enter into conversation?
One of our most famed philosophers of civil liberty, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), referred to this most troublesome fact of the centrality of human custom which can unfortunately result in bias and social tyranny. He writes:
They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals…Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.
Therefore in our present-day society which benefits from the long and hard-won history of philosophies of liberty, I say we must understand “the good” in such a way as to empower each and every one of us to speak freely, to represent ourselves via a uniformly acceptable point of view. What could this be? We might adopt the idea that a good man is a sincere man. We might very deliberately decide to place the sacred freedom of conscience at our apex.
Now an objection might naturally arise concerning this risky standard. What of the clearly abusive man who is most sincere in his thoughts and actions? Can we ever legitimize him as being “good?” This question gets to the heart of the very important distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of action. Freedom of action is mitigated by law, but I feel it is essentially American to assert absolute freedom of expression in order to safeguard the sanctity of conscience. This is why I believe The Good Men project, as a platform of conversation which requires such freedom of expression if it will be genuine and effective, should adopt the standard of sincerity and freedom of conscience. It may even get to the point where virtually every participant in the conversation condemn an “abusive” participant’s opinion as contemptible. Yet this would be quite ok, even if such a person is the very founder of the platform of conversation itself. For to censor his or her opinion because the content is deemed “abusive,” in effect, crosses that line which our esteemed father of civil liberty rightly identified as things in which society “ought not to meddle.”
Do I have a deeper reason for presently making this case on our GMP platform? Yes indeed, for we have a perfect example of this dilemma which touched the Good Men Project itself, most intimately. In deciding whether I should become acquainted with this Project, I decided to research what is being said of GMP outside of GMP. In her article titled “How Did the Good Men Project Get Hijacked by Such Bad Guys” on mic.com, author Lis Hall Magill shows herself guilty, in my opinion, of just this kind of tyrannical judgment. I will not get into the details of her argument due to article length restrictions on my part here but she brought up the controversy of how the founder of the Good Men Project, Tom Matlack, wrote an article titled “Being a Dude is a Good Thing,” how he seemingly espoused the opinion that most women want men to be like them, how he engaged in “gaslighting” in defense of himself when criticized, seemingly revealing himself as a “men’s rights activist;” and how, finally, “he left the Good Men Project in April of 2003.”
In opposition, I propose that The Good Men Project, inasmuch as it aspires to become a genuine platform of conversation, should very deliberately adopt a culture of conscience and absolute freedom of expression. We should disarm anyone who endeavors to criticize us from any particular sense of social “rightness” if we will avoid participating in the social tyranny that John Stuart Mill speaks of.
As an aspiring founder of my own social movement, I find appalling the possibility that I may have to leave my life’s work due to controversies which attend matters of my private conscience, in a country where freedom of conscience should be most protected, and open conversation in the spirit of liberal exchange of ideas, most celebrated. Controversy notwithstanding. For I feel that by the massive hand of controversy, much useful debate is today being smacked down, to the detriment of genuine social progress.
I must confess I don’t know Tom’s perspective on the matter of leaving GMP. He may well have realized that he did not wish to commit himself to this movement, but if he did desire to stay, he could have remained a fruitful and even edifying force, exemplifying the truth that no human being is perfect or should be held to some impossible standard of holiness. In the case of my own, New American Spring movement, I have anticipated this threat from those I deem “the enemies of human progress” and have addressed the matter both in my blogspot.com blog titled “The Holiness Fallacy,” and in the last chapter titled “Founders Disclaimer” of my upcoming book. See my main website on my profile if you wish to explore this matter more.
Therefore let the “abuser” speak, let the “white supremacist” speak, let the “sexist” and “feminist” speak, let the “civil rights advocate” speak. So long as they are specking from the perspective of men, about being a contemporary man, or to men today. Or in my case here, about the conversation itself. We ought to have the humility to realize that our labels are reflective of our own judgments and should not be used to tyrannize over others through the discrimination of censorship, no matter how “good” or “bad” we judge the characters of our fellow men and women to be. Critique your interlocker from the point of view of your conscience, as you should always feel free to remonstrate with your brother and sister, and not from a pretense of goodness or rightness which you endeavor to mandate for all. For in embracing this truest spirit of liberty, even to the level of freedom of conscience, I dare say you might just find that ultimate truth is not but the freedom of the human heart and soul to be itself, unfettered from all forms of tyranny of ideas.
Let us ultimately listen to one another and find truth in each other, in all humility and in all sincerity.
Because The Good Men Project was unwilling to print this article, they prove that they are not a truly open platform of conversation. Even if they are unwilling to engage in such a radically open culture of dialogue, which they are in the full rights not to, they could at least have had the honesty to print it for the sake of demonstrating some degree of transparency, which always bolsters credibility.