Freedom is the hallmark of a civilised society and so is mutual respect! Free speech is not a permission to indulge in defamation or libel. Why am I writing a post on the freedom of speech? I had written a post earlier on free speech https://antoniarapheal.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/free-speech-or-just-an-excuse-to-be-insensitive/
And I came across very interesting comments. Many held the opinion that reprimanding commentators, writers etc. to be more sensitive and curtail their insults or jokes that satirize individuals by drawing inferences to the disabled was a hindrance to free speech! Although thoroughly upset with the behaviour they still defended it in the name of free speech.
This post is to illuminate my well-intentioned fellow bloggers (no, I did not want to argue on a discussion forum) on the basic tenets of free speech. In the wise words of a great thinker (if memory serves me right its Abraham Lincoln but Google doesn’t support my notion), “You are free to say whatever you like but not in any manner you like!”
Freedom is indeed precious and the birth right of every individual, as is the right to a person’s emotional and mental well-being, in simple terms no one has the right to poke fun at you because you are different in the name of free speech. While I am not calling on a crack down on name calling, what I am trying to highlight is, when did we as a society begin to shy away from our moral responsibility to defend the oppressed and abused? Which school of thought has brainwashed us into believing that people have every right to deride and joke at the less fortunate or different all in name of free speech and those derided have no rights to respect and equality?
When did the right to an opinion get distorted into the right to abuse and discriminate? It is not a right but an offence and it saddens me that in today’s age we have evolved to such a tolerant degree that we have incorporated an offence as a basic human right. What’s next? Declaring schoolyard bullying as the right to freedom of expression? For those still in doubt here is the multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that covers Freedom of speech:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals.
Yes, the right to freedom of speech carries with it responsibilities, to be mindful of the right of an individual to mutual respect. Power without control is useless and freedom without boundaries is chaos.