There are many teachers among the VanCore member pool, and Kate’s one of them. Lately Kate has been teaching the British philosopher John Stuart Mill, who has strong opinions on liberty. Mill raises fascinating questions about how much freedom the individual in our culture ought to enjoy. Just the stuff of a great Table Topics Session.
Item: It’s illegal not to wear a bike helmet in Vancouver (if you’re riding a bike, that is. Nobody has yet to be issued a summons for sitting and drinking coffee while lidless.) Is this a gross violation of individual rights? Or… Renee argued no. Head injuries are a burden on all of us, through high health care costs and the shared indignity of trauma.
Item: In the winter, when the temperature drops below a fresh-freezing -25 C, the homeless are brought in off the streets and taken to heated shelters – whether they want to go or not. Outrageous breach of individual liberty. Or… Actually, that’s the welfare state doing what it does best – taking care of its citizens. Especially those who, like many street people with mental-health issues, may not be in a position to make good decisions for themselves. That was the position of newcomer Dylan, and he argued it well.
Should food like soda pop be banned like tobacco because it is just so bad for our health?
Should liquor be allowed to be sold 24/7?
Should heroin be legalized?
There are no right or wrong answers to questions like this, of course, which is what makes them so great. Rarely in life are we asked to take a position on things that are clear cut.
After her TT session, Kate was asked to weigh in herself on Mill’s big question of individual freedom. She craftily avoided showing her hand, but did show Mill’s hand.
“Mill would argue that it’s the individual’s right to destroy their own life.”
When the state, bit by bit, is allowed control over the lives of its citizens, the people are kind of … homogenized. “What’s at stake here is our freedom to be different.”
A reminder that next week we meet away from our usual digs again. We will be at 1055 Hastings, Second Floor, in the Eclipse Boardroom.
Of course, VanCore members and guests are free to exert their individual liberty to go to our usual meeting place at 889 West Pender. But no one will be there.