The importance of free speech

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We live in a world of diverse ideas and opinions. Everyone seems to be an expert in something. The concept of right and wrong in a pluralistic environment can seem so rhetorical and passé. Absolute truth does not exist (or at least, out of our grasp) and relativism reigns supreme in terms of the prevailing ideological zeitgeist. To live amidst such a chaotic world can sometimes be infuriating and overwhelming. But, there is something quite beautiful about it all. There is beauty in the chaos.

When I think of communist countries, or countries ruled by dictators, the picture changes. Voices of dissent are stifled, sometimes stilled, by either threats, persecution or even death. There is no flourishing of ideas. There are no arguments. Silence is the name of the game. To break that silence is to court potential harm and danger. In such a world, words are rendered impotent.

When I went to university, I was exposed to a lot of ideas. Some ideas I agreed with, some ideas I disagreed with. In fact, I STRONGLY disagreed with some ideas. As much as it boggled my mind that someone could actually think such foolishness as I believed their views were, I am really happy that they are free to say whatever they said. I’m happy that just because they disagreed with me did not mean that their life should have been threatened or eliminated. I’m happy that my country (Canada) stands up for the rights of people in the minority whose views are decidedly different from others.

Armed with this freedom to speak whatever we want, let us be cognizant of the responsibility that we all must share in having this gift. Let us use this gift to further causes that will help humanity and not to oppress it. Let us use it with kindness and not with anger or malice. It’s ok to disagree with others. But it is never ok to humiliate or denigrate others who have differing views to ours. It is never ok to use this freedom to promote immorality or injustice. Let’s make sure that this freedom will promote more freedom with the people we encounter.

Words are powerful. They have the power to bind someone in chains of oppression or it can release them from bondage as well. The fact that we have the freedom to use words freely, does not entitle us to freely waste it. I love this phrase from the Book of Isaiah where it says “come, let us reason together.” We may have conflicting views, but it does not mean that we should live in conflict with each other. Let us use our words to persuade, not mandate. May our freedom to speak freely allow us to speak more humbly and wisely. May it encourage more words of life and encouragement instead of death and despair.

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2 thoughts on “The importance of free speech

  1. You don’t need to be a communist country to experience repression, Harper is doing a good job here, Freedom of speech is not an enshrined right, it is not in our charter.
    Fundamental freedoms (section 2), namely freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
    here are a couple of his wrong doings
    http://www.canadianmennonite.org/articles/canadian-mennonite-warned-political-activities
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/03/23/f-federal-scientists.html.
    Remember this next election.

    • Thanks for sharing that info Carl. It’s true that freedom of speech is not an enshrined right in our charter. I’ve always found it weird that it hasn’t been yet.

      While I have questions sometimes about CBC’s veracity in their reports, I don’t share the same suspicion when it comes to the Canadian Mennonites. And yes, you don’t have to be in a communist country for freedom of speech to be curtailed. However, as a society, you have to admit that the freedom of speech in our country is more tolerated than in others. How long that remains true is certainly up in the air. Which is why freedom of speech is so important! =)

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