Why Freedom of Speech Makes You Look Childish

     
 
So, Sand Got in Her Eyes's article about freedom of speech got on my thinking toes, and this had been a (nearly) reflexive comment. I'm probably not reading her article right to begin with, but the arc of this opinion - more or less - remains the same.


Decree of the National Convention Abolishing Slavery in the Colonies, 4th February 1794,
Photo by Nicolas Andre Monsiau

Sometimes I think that people who demand free speech are a bunch of very pissed off, whiny little adolescents and that the movement for free speech - in my silly opinion - originally came from children who weren't allowed to tell their parents that they're uptight and out of date.

As is the case with the robust citizens from Saudi Arabia and other unmentioned Western and Eastern countries; who risk their lives demanding their rights as taxpaying citizens to object and question the powers-that-be, such as clerics, governments, parents and gods.

What could be so wrong with controlled speech? 

In the days of Suharto regime, a country as colossal and ethnically diverse as Indonesia rolled somewhat smoothly for three decades and the funny thing is that, once Suharto's gone, and free speech got on with its happy feet and everyone got to say whatever they thought, the Indonesian economy, daily conditions of the people, the culturally embedded corruption did not change.

It actually got worse in some areas, and even though Indonesia now has 34 political parties, democracy and the power to say whatever one has in mind does not make direct impact on improving the livelihood of rural farmers, urban dwellers, or improving traffic flow on the streets in Jakarta.

[That said, it's not surprise that near half of the voters (40%), consisting mostly of intellectuals, practiced their right to not vote, knowing how little effect voting may give impact on their immediate lives. Sources (Indonesian): Here, here]

The Faces of Freedom of Speech

Okay, maybe Indonesia isn't the best example of a country with free speech, and let's look how far free speech has gotten with the folks in New Orleans, LA, or Harlem, NY, or shanty towns of Johannesburg, South Africa. How far has freedom of speech served in the betterment of the individual's quality life?

Cuba, Syria and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries that still stand on its feet, despite the rigid control of what the public may think, or say, or feel about that control. The Cuban Family Code probably saved a lot of court hours that could have been spent on custodial disputes . The Syrian censorship did not stop the poet Tellawi from publishing and winning awards for his (rather risqué) body of work. And Saudis indulge on ridiculously generous scholarships like no other country citizens I've ever heard of, whether or not they deserve such awards.

Cutting Chases
Summarized in a couple of spiffy sentences, I'm basically saying;
  • Speech is just another tool of expression and - like any other protected freedom - it should always be delivered into the public with deliberation and class.

  • Freedom of Speech does not always give clear indications to how well or badly a country is performing on individual (intellectual) levels.

  • I'm severely biased saying this, but I'm inclined to believe that freedom of speech became movement when a number of angry individuals - who are not allowed to point fingers at others for their own unhappiness - were told to look for other means of blame, a.k.a themselves.

  • While silencing the thoughts of the Demos has been proven just as harmful, I would like to know if having too much freedom of speech could be any more useful.

  • Shutting up from time to time can be a good thing, no matter how strongly you feel. It's not always about what you say, but how you say it.

  • Quoting by verbatim my uncle, Ario Helmy, "It doen't matter what language(s) you use in blogging, as long as you could use it (them) responsibly "communicative"".

Hence, living with the kind of near-destructive freedom, it is now my turn to practice what's necessary: to sieve and stuff it.

 
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