We Need To Talk About The Real Cost Of Freedom Of Speech

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As with everything in this world, too much of anything is bad for you. I don’t need to list down the cons of exorbitance for you to know what I’m talking about.

I know that the Freedom of Speech is a right that is essential to many people in this world—it certainly was hard-won in a country like my own after the atrocities of the era of Martial Law, for example. I cannot pretend that I am an expert in either subject, but that isn’t what this is about.

This is about how that same freedom works in the world we live in today (though I’m guessing that you know where this is going, coming from the first line—walk with me anyway).

Growing up, I used to be proud of this particular right, and I practiced it with conviction whenever I believed I was correct. I do not profess that I applied it the right way, as I did not speak up for every wrong that I had seen in my life. But there were definitely times when I used this liberty against people abusing their “authority”—for instance, I talked back to a professor in college when I was certain that he was being unfair about how he dealt with a classmate’s report, and walked out after a few hard words were exchanged—with half my class, and not entirely by choice. To have passed that class in spite of this incident was a relief, and merely taught me about how important it was to speak up.

I was not always so careful with this freedom of expression, however. I was (and I mean to say this with a lot of shame) one of those girls who took to online posting to bash people I had conflicting views with (like when they made eyes at the boyfriend I had during the time in question).

I’d like to believe that I’ve grown since then. These days, whenever I come across a post online that I have strong opinions about, I post my thoughts on my own account as articulately as I can, and always try to include points as to why I either agreed or disagreed. This isn’t to say I don’t get annoyed when I read comments that I don’t agree with on particular issues or call them “idiots” in my mind.

But that’s the kind of liberty I’m talking about. In the era of Social Media, it’s so easy to debate with someone of opposing beliefs online, debates that are usually not “healthy” and end up with someone calling someone else a two-syllable-name that their grandparents would lecture them for if they knew.

And exactly how many comments or posts have you come across on your Feed that show one’s views written in a harsh and unapologetic way, where people are no longer concerned that there are two (or more) sides to every story. For as long as they don’t they feel that their opinion is right, that is all that matters, and to hell with how they say it, to hell with listening to the other side (which by the way, can help us comprehend different views on the same stories).

Freedom of Expression is the argument that you use when you tell the world exactly why you believe it is your right as a human being to speak up about the things you do and in the way you do—and it is alarming at how many people are now taking this right for granted.

It is not just a right, I think we have forgotten that. To be free to speak our minds is both a right and a privilege that greater men and women before us fought so hard to gain — with their lives even. Not just in my country, but around the world as well, the same world where there are some who still do not have this same independence.

And we repay their long hard-won battle by one hate speech after another on stereotypes and issues, each one more offensive and vulgar than the next. And all the while, little by little, we get used to it. Because it is, after all, our freedom. No matter the cost.

World Peace is a long shot in this era, let’s be real about that. And day by day whispers of a brewing war on so many fronts creep into our knowledge, but these are brushed off with thoughts that another war simply isn’t possible because we are so much smarter now, we should know better.

But World War II began with men who were intelligent, too. Men who divided this same world and gave rise to the unspeakable atrocities of a war so terrible that generations later, people who weren’t there can recall with vivid clarity the horrors that transpired.

And it all began with the tiniest flutters of dissent.

This will become a world where this very liberty desensitizes us to the point where we are not just divided, but where we no longer even care.

You keep at it because you just refuse to grasp the fact that there is such a thing as excessive freedom. So yes, you are practicing your Freedom of Speech, because it is your birthright. But ultimately… at what cost? TC mark

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