I was recently asked whether, with respect to those of us in today’s Western world who think unconventionally, “even if we wouldn’t be physically persecuted, aren’t there certain ‘sacred cows’ that must be respected even to get a hearing in today’s society?”
This is somewhat true, though increasingly less so as there come to be more diverse outlets for intellectual expression. This is where a pluralistic society actually greatly benefits individual creativity and freedom: if one outlet is closed (because one’s views are deemed “politically incorrect” or some other variant of “incorrect”), others may still welcome one’s ideas. I have seen this a lot with economics in recent years, as alternatives to the conventional Keynesian and Neoclassical schools are becoming more prominent and respected.
Furthermore, different thinkers may be deterred by “soft” censure to different degrees. Some people could not care less and would be content to be pariahs, as long as they were permitted to pursue their work in peace. Others will try to be more diplomatic and tiptoe around the “sacred cows” while subtly injecting their own ideas into public discussion. Others still will try to obtain independent sources of support, outside the paradigm they are trying to influence, and in this way “buy” themselves time and influence. It is true that being outside of the “mainstream” today will probably deny one certain opportunities – but virtually every major intellectual or career choice will do the same. One trades some possibilities for others; the important question is whether those tradeoffs are palatable in the sense of achieving one’s own goals while enabling one to lead a reasonably comfortable life.