The West was built on doubt. When it fails us, when we slip into the blinkered certainty of ideology and out of erratic but beneficial advances of democracy, we lose the best of ourselves. Without doubt we stagnate.
Those of us willing to acknowledge the role of Judaeo-Christian beliefs in shaping Western civilisation know well the role of doubt. The heroes of the Bible are those who felt doubt in their hearts, who questioned their faith and then pushed on.
There are no ‘Mary Sues’ in the scripture and every story that readers of the good book hold dear contains heroes who traversed the character arc of crisis, trials and resolution.
Even Christ on the cross finds His own doubt and His despair at feeling forsaken in his last mortal moments has resonated down the ages to all who have known those ‘chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty’.
Those of us who’ve taken a more atheistic view are, in their rejection of religion’s influence on Western civilisation, themselves embracing the doubt we so desperately need. Doubt invites the competition for ideas that underpins all healthy democracy.
Doubt is neither good nor bad but essential.
Equal in value to democracy, the scientific method is another Western gift that cannot survive in the creative vacuum of strict ideology. Every advance made on our slow march towards the righteous and the good has begun in doubt. Doubt of ourselves, doubt of others. Doubt of our perceived or proscribed limitations, doubt of the common truth.
It was doubt of British intentions that gave us the United States. It was doubt of the science of the time that put a V8 engine into a Ford motor car. Doubt of Bill Shorten that put Scott Morrison in The Lodge.
And it was doubt that condemned Unity of Queensland student, Drew Pavlou, to the flaccid and flailing lashings of his once-great university. Bound in its Chinese dictated ideology, the UQ could not stand to let Pavlou express doubt at Chinese intentions.
Pavlou was suspended by the university for his criticism of the Chinese regime and his university’s ties to it.
Though the young man may be surprised at the support he has received from so many on the right, it is important to understand just what it is at play. Conservatives are battling to conserve doubt in Western civilisation. We simply cannot let the freedom to doubt be taken from us.
There was a time when the Left stood up to fight for doubt but the silence from that quarter over the Pavlou case has been noted. The forces that once stood for the right of workers to challenge their conditions now stand for the right of the powerful to silence dissent.
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