Freedom of Speech. It is so much a part of my consciousness that I assume that it is a right that all are born to. That every individual has the right to say whatever they think. The brain clicks over as I remember that not all are born into the privileged circumstances that I was. With the ‘right’ skin colour. Into a wealthy first world country. A read of wikipedia declares my ignorance and I see that there is no defined right to say what I think in Australia … and yet I get by nonetheless. I write down these lines as they are appear in my mind. I am not overly worried at any offence I may cause. I am free to think, free to type.
Lately, I have been trying to impinge the freedom of speech of those who I spend most of my time with. My children. In the autocracy that is our family (albeit run by two rather than just the one), there are selective freedoms. And most of these freedoms come with consequences if you push them too far.
For instance, you have the right to express yourself through speech. However, do not repeat what your mother said to your father about the current circumstances of friends, family, politicians, teachers or any other member of the human race. Or cats or dogs. Let it be known that that is not a freedom you enjoy. The consequence … you will be ejected from the room for any interesting discussions. A torture far worse than death for any ten year old girl.
Respect is an attribute that we would like our children to show to the people in our lives. Especially to the adults in their family. Even if not all the adults show the same level of respect to each other. That’s a tough one. It keeps you on your toes. Our children emulate us in so many things, especially those areas we fall short. If we decide to interrupt the lengthy description of a torturous year because we get the general gist and don’t need to hear the intricate details … should our children behave otherwise. Their interest in the details of why their behaviour offends me is probably worthy of a far larger yawn than any I could muster.
When those in the spotlight place their point of view over others, with little respect for how it will be received or the hurts it may cause, what kind of freedom is this? It goes against every word that I have spoken to my children or my mother spoke to me. It goes against the fabric of the society that I believe I live in.
That society is changing. It is relaxing and many of the changes bother me not at all. The fact that my children and their teacher’s are on a first name basis … that’s fine. The fact that we do not have to bow and scrape, that all are believed to be equal and there are no manufactured levels of privilege … fine. None of these changes, in my opinion, negates the fact that we should show each other respect. That we should live out the commandment to “do unto others” whether we are believers or not.
Freedoms bring with them greater responsibilities. The freedom of speech allows us to express ourselves, our thoughts, our beliefs. I do think we are all entitled to it. ALL! There will always be consequences to our speech and I think we should be mindful of them. Whether we live in a society where our speech is limited or where we do have the freedom to say whatever drops from our mind. In every case, we should be mindful how we express our thoughts, our opinions. It is what we try to teach our children.
The benefit … less idiotic headlines, retractions, outrage, drama. It would definitely be progress.