On Jan. 10, in the middle of a speech completely in Italian, Pope Francis spoke two words in English: “cancel culture.” His speech, known as the “state of the world address,” called attention to a controversial European Union (EU) manual from Nov. 2021.
In the “Union of Equality,” the EU sought to replace the word “Christmas” with that of “holiday period,” as well as substituting various other religious names and phrases. Although the changes were ultimately discarded due to backlash, Pope Francis warned against the “one-track thinking” of the EU officials.
He described their thinking as “a form of ideological colonisation, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”
“Cancel culture” has been dubbed by some as the “modern form of ostracism,” and is most frequently used to call out celebrities, companies or brand labels for misconduct of varying levels of certainty and severity. Most know of at least one celebrity that has been “cancelled,” such as J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, Johnny Depp.
While the idea of “cancelling” began in the world of the rich and famous, it is now used as a catch-all term to describe any activities that attempt to limit free expression. What started out as a form of accountability for those in the public eye has escalated into a dangerous mentality, one that minimizes the importance of independent thought.
Cancelling has gradually shaved away the openness needed in public discussion and replaced it with the narrow view of what is politically correct. Personal opinions must now adhere to public opinion.
In the case of the EU, individual religious beliefs must be hidden rather than allowed to flourish in the open. Pope Francis describes it as leaving “no room for freedom of expression.” If the EU can attempt to cancel the word “Christmas,” what’s next?
The essence of cancel culture, and the fact that it often occurs through social media, means that anyone, anywhere can participate. And while this may have initially been some kind of advantage, it now leaves us wallowing in a society that is saturated with the idea of “cancelling” even the smallest misdeeds of which we are even unable to personally verify.
What happened to the Christian values of patience and forgiveness? It’s difficult to escape a mindset that has become so ingrained in us that we hardly even realize it’s there.
Even at UD, a school praised as “the Catholic university for independent thinkers” we fall victim to the cancel culture. How often do we find ourselves cutting someone off when they say something we dislike? Or refusing to acknowledge others’ thoughts, simply because we don’t agree with them?
The concept of “cancelling” others has invaded our lives outside of social media and the news. It’s much easier to dismiss another student when they have wronged us than it is to forgive them or to acknowledge that they have matured.
We have become a culture dedicated to “cancelling” others, rather than uplifting and celebrating them. Next time a celebrity posts on Twitter or a classmate makes a comment in class, treat them with respect and expect the same in return.
It’s only in broadening our ability to acknowledge others that we will be able to bring back the importance of independent thought, and with it a society dedicated to understanding rather than cancelling.