Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freedom of Expression is Messy (Pt 2)

I commenced the thought that of all the rights and freedoms a person can have this one is the messiest. Probably because this has more to do with us as ourselves then any other right. After all, the freedom of religion and assembly, do come from the same source as the expression, and do speak of our true nature, although they tend to do with where we gather and what truth we have accepted. As for freedom of the press, that is good, but for the most part, we enjoy this right, we don't participate.

I considered the words of Rene Descartes: Je pense donc je suis. The idea is that if we are capable of thought, we exist. We are real, this is not a dream existence. I'm wondering if there may be another interpretation, it is in thinking and our expression plus our thoughts that reveal our true selves. Our thoughts are who we are. Now again, that is very messy, because there are a number of times we say or think things which we are probably not proud of possessing as thought. However, it is in our thinking and reasoning, or some times, the lack thereof, that we find our true selves.

Whether we or others like it or not, we come up with thoughts, sometimes totally independent of what the social norms are and what is considered proper for polite company, or as in the case of a dictatorship, what the leader wants you to think. While in some countries, you are simply told what you are to believe, and you had better not sway, but deep down inside, there is something totally different.

Perhaps this is why dictatorships and tyrannies always end up, eventually on the losing end, because people know what is the truth. They know when they are being fed a bunch of garbage, and while they can along with it for years, there will come a point when they say ' I'm not putting up with this nonsense any more'. Vacel Havel wrote in his essay "Power of the Powerless":
Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth. . . .

It would be far simplier for the greengrocer to continue to display what he knows is a lie. He would be able to live a life that is relatively safe within the confines of his society and culture if he votes as instructed. Many people do, even though they see through the farce. But then there is the reality of existence, I think, therefore I am... or to reverse, I am, therefore I think... and he throws the sign away. Then the first cracks appear in the system.

This is why governments are so quick to suppress this right. Its perfectly fine if you continue to think as you should, because its safe. Even in a democracy such as Canada, bad things won't happen to you if you think bad thoughts. Although some may think what you believe falls under the category of a hate crime, then you will a few problems. Of course, the definition of hate crime has a tendency to expand and not remain static. It's not just new groups that are now protected from hate, its that the definition expands. Before it might be encouraging violence against a specific group, now it could be said if you hold a negative view towards another group then you are involved in hate crime. Or you are a victim of such.

I came across an article that stated, hate crime is on the rise in Canada. The question is, real increase or just more people are getting angry and reporting it. That is the big question. What becomes fascinating is how many actual crimes there are, 892 or so. Almost non-existent in a way.

Let me say hate crimes are never right. One should never espouse the death of a specific group in a society. If there is any limits on freedom of expression I will accept its that, that's the area of the government. It is often the role of government to tell us who to hate. It's called 'war'.

Still people do hold those thoughts, it is who they are. The problem of suppression is when one attempts to suppress anything, it goes underground. It does not go away, in fact it might be the basis of a whole new level of hate. Now a person thinks, they are unfairly 'protected' by the government. This leads to the bizarre conspiracy theories.

What do I suggest, with a few exceptions, let them express themselves as long as its not threatening or not destructive. For if you open your mouth to express your opinion, you invite me to open mine. If you are going to be a total jerk, I should have the right to point out what a jerk you are, it is only fair.

Still, this is where it all gets messy, all these not correct thoughts be express. It's noisy, it makes people upset. Yet, it is our humanity in full and some times, ugly display.

I think I've got a few more things to say.

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