At a time when being against freedom of expression is equivalent to being a heretic at the time of the Inquisition, do most of us unknowingly enforce censorship?
Freedom to and freedom from: this line is one that has haunted the lives and times of civilisations for millennia.
And who can blame us? It is no secret that freedom of expression can often lead to people being insulted or even vilified; that it can create problems for a government or state security; or that it can destroy moral traditions within one generation.
But considering the fact that many of us think we’re free to do and express ourselves as we please, are we actually our own worst self-censors?
With the advent of the Internet came the freedom to express ourselves to our hearts’ content. We say what we will, and trash what we don’t like – but we also hate it when others contradict us or make it known that they don’t agree with what we stand for or have to say.
You have people like Daphne Caruana Galizia, for example, who some hail as a ‘saviour’ of Malta’s journalistic scene and others call a ‘witch’ – and while everyone reserves the right to comment on what she writes and her opinions, many would love to take away her right to keep on writing and express her opinions.
Freedom of speech is a very delicate subject, and hardly a black-or-white world. It is a concept that expects you to suffer other people’s ideologies, while allowing you to practise yours. But most would rather just be allowed to speak their minds and stop at that.
When someone comments about how irregular immigration affects our society, some are quick to label that person ‘racist’; when someone shares his or her opinion on whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt, he or she is sometimes labelled ‘homophobe’; and when someone is thrown into a mental asylum for protesting peacefully, he is neither fought for nor hailed as a hero to our ideology – and this apathy to understand what true freedom of expression is, might cost us dearly.
By expecting those who don’t agree with us to shut up, we are essentially negating ourselves the right to freedom of expression, and to creating a world that is homogenous in ideas, boring and reminiscent of Galileo’s plight. We should embrace that which we don’t agree with and we should respect other’s right to say it.
We are obviously free to call each other ‘racist’, ‘homophobe’ or ‘witch’, but if we use that right, then should we not give others the right to speak their minds – even if they want to say that the earth is flat or that a woman’s place is in the kitchen? Think about it.
What do you think of James’s argument? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments’ box below.