Freedom of Speech is a much misused term these days. Everyone wants to exercise their Freedom of Speech. That’s a good thing to do, sure! But, does that really mean you can say anything and get away with it? Or that you can say anything and not expect a backlash? Or say anything, face a backlash and say even meaner things?
Disclaimer: This writer has all the Freedom of Speech to say anything because she feels like it (ok, I know I am being a hypocrite here. But maybe this will inject some humor into this post)
Today I got into a twitter debate with a complete stranger about Freedom of Speech. It all started when a certain “Godman” deemed a certain 16 year old activist of not deserving a Nobel Prize. So a certain actress/blogger made a joke about him, comparing him to another certain Baba and the foot being in the bearded mouth. This aforementioned actress later deleted the controversial tweet and apologized but ended up sparking a debate, where I responded in her support. Next morning I saw that a stranger had responded back to me talking about the FoS (Not Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, but Freedom of Speech). Now I don’t really understand how a random girl like me can affect this random guy so much so that he ends up debating with me endlessly. Neither can I understand how come he has so much time on his hands. Basically this guy was a troll.
I was having my breakfast at work, thought I’d use the time to respond back to him. But he kept debating and debating. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty, he basically did not acknowledge that the Godman was wrong but everyone who opposed him was wrong. Just to end the conversation as I had a lot of work, I told him that I think this certain Godman is bullshit and I have zero respect for him. Then he called me a potty mouth. Although I did not let him spoil my mood or my day, it did get me thinking. I wasn’t being disrespectful to the Godman before, but this guy began calling me names and I told him to take a hike. It is a vicious circle which only ends in people attacking each other. Instead of that, we could just hold restraint in what we say and dig deeper to find a solution.
Yes, the Godman has every right to question the Nobel Committee, but terming a courageous teenager who is fighting for the basic rights to education for girls as unworthy isn’t fair to her. At least he could have lauded her efforts, spoken about what she is doing is very important and then said that maybe the Nobel Prize was a bit much. What she has done deserves some amount of respect.
Yes, a celebrated actor speaking out and saying that they do not want to live in this country anymore because it has major problems may be FoS for him. When this aforementioned celebrity had a talk show of his own and when he brought people to the centre stage to make us aware and suggest solutions for many social issues, he shed tears on camera and gave out heartening messages of hope and resolution, but isn’t it hypocritical to then go on and say that he and his wife want to run away from this country?
Recently, on a group called Win Bangalore Back on facebook, a guy wrote about how Bangalore, the greenest city of India had deteriorated and that it will die a miserable death and that is why he is leaving the city forever. Many of us commented that he is free to run away but we, the responsible citizens, would rather stay and work on improving the city and bringing it back to its former glory.
Wouldn’t it be better that if the celebrated actor or this common citizen could suggest solutions to change the situation rather than suggesting running away? Especially when the ultra successful and rich actor has the sort of influence he commands or he has the power to make his voice heard, wouldn’t it be better to come up with practical solutions and mobilize his legions of fans to promote the said solutions?
Yes, a university student has every right to question the government, but does he have the right to sympathize with a terrorist whose actions resulted in many people losing their lives? We talk about their humanitarian rights, but what about the humanitarian rights of the people who died? Is it fair to them and their loved ones when we talk about the human rights of a terrorist?
What I think about Freedom of Speech is that yes, all of us are entitled to it, all of us can exercise it, and we can do so without sugarcoating anything. But, we also need to take into consideration how it can affect the bigger picture. A person making racist comments also is free speech. But do we really want to be racists in the name of free speech? Why can’t the same logic apply in every case? And Freedom of Speech also does not mean that we can say whatever we want, we can debate and speak our mind, but in a measured way and suggesting practical solutions rather than just offending people. Even Hitler spoke his mind, but look where he got us.
Some people might call me wrong and it’s their FoS. And I don’t mind it either. But all I say is, let’s think of practical solutions and how we can implement them rather than just whining and running away.
“With great freedom, comes greater responsibility”, a slight twist to the iconic words spoken in the Spiderman movie.