Letter: Limiting explicit content is about public conduct

RE: Library patrons can view what they want, Sept. 28-Oct. 4

A few weeks ago, an Ottawa mother raised concerns about her children witnessing a man watching pornography in the Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. After bringing the issue up with the library, she found out, to her surprise, that watching pornography in the public library is not prohibited at all.

While some may argue that the OPL has the right to uphold the man’s right to freedom of information and speech, we need to recognize the benefits of putting limitations on these freedoms for the good of the collective, especially in public spaces.

We live in an age of relativism in which many hold the belief that truth is dependent on the observer. There are benefits to this understanding in certain contexts, such as the university setting where all can come together to discuss a topic from common academic ground. However, a backlash to this ideology has become evident.

This backlash is the belief that nothing is true because all truth is relative. Though this may not seem detrimental on the outset, it is wholly impractical. We all live under certain shared truths and we must do so if we are to live in harmony with one another and enact law and justice.

Now, our society has come to this conclusion because of a painful dogmatic past in which ‘absolute truth’ claims resulted in much coercion and oppression. This is why our society has rejected any and all claims to an ideal truth or any common aim that we may collectively reach.

But this rejection of truth leads us into a more separated, individualistic, and isolated experience of society with the cry that everyone is responsible for their own actions. No longer do we believe in the collective good. In our very efforts to promote tolerance and protect diversity, we have destroyed community and the systems which enable us to interact with one another in a meaningful way. We have taken the ‘other’ and applied it not just to dogmatic groups (whether political, gendered, religious or otherwise) but to every other person in society.

If we truly desire to promote respect, unity, empathy and acceptance we must throw off this extreme ideology and accept that there are some things we can agree upon for the good of society. 

This is why I believe that it is right to prohibit certain explicit medias from being displayed in public spaces such as the OPL. As a community, we should aim to protect vulnerable persons who will be negatively influenced by the things they view, and this especially includes children.

Just because explicit material is more easily accessible today than it has ever been through the internet, does not mean we should throw our hands up in defeat and make it permissible.

This is not a question of free speech but rather a question of how we can conduct ourselves publicly in an honorable and respectable way among other members of our community.           

Each of us is responsible for each member of society and this is not only relevant for children but for anyone who may feel demeaned, threatened or disrespected by pornographic images.