I stumbled on an essay by Prasanta Chakravarty that deals with a relevant topic today — that of freedom of expression. Philosophers understood that persecution of free speech was a given and Leo Strauss published a book titled Persecution and the Art of Writing explaining to the readership that it is possible to maintain creative integrity even if governments clamp down on free thinking. How?, you may ask.
By writing between the lines.
He talks about two kinds of writing- esoteric and exoteric, of which exoteric is the more desirable. However, Chakravarty sees a flaw in the argument in times such as these when free speech tools are available to all and sundry.
“The special problem of our times, for those who deal with specialised knowledge, is a certain kind of populist levelling down in public discourse and human interaction……
Consequently, political mobilisations of persecution are often happening, owing to these changed equations in social lives. Suddenly the lines between the democratic and the populist are completely broken. Unlike Strauss, there are ample reasons to believe that such a climate of retribution and moral turpitude has developed owing to multiple historical reasons, exacerbated in the last few decades.”
Navigating through such times requires patience and intelligence, qualities that most creatives have in spades.
Read The Writer’s Dilemma in Times of Persecution and try to get a hold of Levi Strauss’s book as well.