A couple of days ago, we published an opinionated and argumentative article on the benefits of censorship. We hoped you liked, and, to follow it up, we have another one for you right here. Use it in every group, in which you find yourself in AEGEE, or even in your personal life, because you should not take what you adore seriously; sacrality is evil.
Like in the previous article, we do not mean that all worship is morally objective, merely one small aspect of veneration, both religious and secular, that can have calamitous consequences. When worshipping, when venerating someone, something, or even yourself, it is extremely important that you do not become or think you cannot become immune to criticism; this is the fundamental danger of sacralisation.
This is a phenomenon that you are all familiar with; if not in yourself, you will have seen it in others. In the case of worshipping someone or something, you may have seen a situation in which, let’s say, a friend of yours has been obsessed with someone, for example, their romantic partner or their hobby. Let’s be clear here, there is nothing wrong with really liking the person with whom you’re in a relationship, but at a certain point the adoration can go so far that you cannot say anything critical about this person.
Some people like their partner so much that you cannot say stuff like that their significant other has behaved appallingly recently. The adoration of your friend for their significant other is so strong that they will not condone any criticism or any phrasing that deviates from the image of the significant other that your friend has created inside head. If your friend sees their partner as beautiful, kind and friendly, then every factual statement that you use to contradict that statement will not be excepted and will be seen as a secular equivalent of a sacrilege.
The main problem with sacralising someone or something happens when you take the sacralised person or object too seriously and start to project it in your head as infallible. The problem with infallibility is that it cannot be wrong in any way, and therefore cannot logically be critiqued for being flawed, even most minutely flawed. One of the best solutions to counter this problem is to accept that nothing is sacred, or at least not too sacred to be flawed.
To use a real life example: the paedophilia scandal in the catholic church was very hard to address for years, because the Church was too sacred to be investigated, until the reporters at the Boston Globe broke with the sacrality of the church. In order to address a negative aspect of a sacred person, object or institution, in this case the catholic Church, it was important to first acknowledge that the sacred could be flawed.
Another example can be seen in Bill Cosby’s rape scandal. For years, nobody dared to confront the alleged rapist, because he was too much adored to be criticised, until one woman came forward. Because she accused Cosby, he was no longer to sacred to accuse, and multiple other victims followed suit.
The idea of the sacred, however, is more banal than just the divine, celebrities or your person for intimate stuff; there are, arguably, also things in AEGEE that are venerated too much to touch. To name only one example, I once met a board of a local, and one of its members venerated the position of board member a bit too much.
The problem with this board member was that they reasoned that, because the board of this local was really actively engaged with its members, and, because the board spend a lot of time and resources on improving the local, they, as the centre of the local, were best to make decisions. And one could certainly construct a case for this reasoning.
The problem with this board member was that this person had become convinced of the sacrality of a board members infallibility that every decision a board member made or every opinion a board member had, was always better than what anyone else of a ‘lower rank’ made or had.
At the event that I was attending, this board member incessantly tried to change, although this person said “improve”, things that the organising committee had worked on for months. That is not to say that a board member is not allowed to comment on the work of a committee member, but it is not productive to try to fix something that is not broken, when the event is currently happening, in front of all the participants.
Nevertheless, because the position of board member was so sacred to this person, this board member continued to see any deviating opinion from this person as a sacrilege; humiliating the committee members and stonewalling and verbally bitch-slapping everyone who voiced their own thoughts. This included things like where to eat, if the group could split up during the group’s free time, or even whether a joke was funny.
The general take away from this article is simple and comes in three parts. One: worshipping or venerating someone, something or even yourself, to a point where the venerated person, object or institution becomes infallible, or too sacred to critique, is detrimental. Two: one way to counter an institution, object, person, or even yourself that has become immune to criticism, is to acknowledge that this thing, person or self is not too sacred to be flawed. Three: concepts, people, et cetera that are too sacred to critique are not limited to the divine or celebrities; it also happens in AEGEE.
Not everything is sacred, but everything is flawed, and this article is no exception. Would you like to respond to the arguments of this article or would you like to write your very own opinionated article about AEGEE or Europe? Ask about the possibilities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen