Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Even before we are born, we are listening for voices. Among the few sensory perceptions a child acquires in the womb is the ability to hear his mother’s voice. That is when we learn to speak… and ironically, forget it when we begin to understand. 

Freedom of speech is a basic human right which means that it is accrued to us the moment that we are humans, irrespective of our racial origins, of the level of development of the country we inhabit and of how we are ruled. Many take their fundamental rights for granted. Many do not know about their rights. Many do not even know they have rights. For some, speech is sadly detached from freedom: their voices are throttled as a way to block their thoughts and dim their existence. For others, speech is pathetically attached with fear: fear of being opposed, fear of being persecuted, fear of evoking a taboo, fear of being different, and often, fear of the silence. It is easier to speak when everybody else is doing the same, but much harder to do so when a dead silence prepares for the first voice to be clear and distinct.

History displays eloquently that the most advanced civilizations of their times were those that privileged dissent and dialogic discussions— the Greek philosophers of Athens, the Roman Courts, literature of the Ancient Egyptians, the tolerance of heterodoxy and debates during Akbar’s and Ashoka’s reign in India. All of them shared a will to speak that helped shape creative cultures and prosperous nations. Like Americans today do on a second to second basis. What is right in America is a willingness to discuss what is wrong in America (Harry C. Bauer, U.S. prof. of librarianship). Voice is crucial in the pursuit of social justice. It is our prime tool to fight against the social evils of discrimination, prejudices, slavery, oppression, war, and unnecessary rebellions. Only when equipped with liberty of speech can the search for truth and the quest for the best be possible.

Man speaks in two ways: either he has something to say or he has to say something. Plato considered the former wise and the latter, foolish. Who has to say something speaks what others want him to—we meet here those who speak with fear. And who has something to say adds part of himself to the world—his speech mirrors his soul. People do realize today that they are free to speak. What they do not realize is that they are also free to think. Freedom of speech without freedom of thought is comparable to an engine without oil: at some time it will stop and will have to be pushed by others to move forward.

If only people could muster enough will power to get rid of their fear and voiced out their thoughts and sided with the truth, injustice around the world could be overcome. Do not choose silence because it’s the easy way out your human fellows have adopted, instead feed them with a voice. Be a lawyer to those who cannot argue their own cases and a journalist to those who are not able to reveal the injustices committed upon them. Liberty of speech provokes other liberties to be used. You will fear freedom if you let everyone around you remain in chains. Speak to discover what the world has bad and change it to good. Speak because that is when you truly exist. Speak because you can. 

Ram Mohun Roy shared an enlightening vision with the world when he wrote in a 19th century Bengali poem:

Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be.
Others will go on speaking, and you will not be able to argue back.

Picture source: Motifakes by Faceplant31


  1. But sometimes freedom of speech can be detrimental. If everyone is allowed freedom of speech they will have conflicting views. And conflict will arise...

    But I do agree that some degree of freedom of speech is necessary, like 80%.

  2. Interesting. So, from your point of view, 100% freedom would inhibit the freedom of others.

    Well, what you are saying is not wrong, and you totally are right to be expressing your conflicting opinion. But for me, personally, I don't think opposition is bad. We can judge which side of the coin is better when we've seen both of them. Contradiction teaches people to respect different opinions. Where the fights arise is where this respect is lacking.

    1. But don't you think too much time will be wasted on arguing which is better? Yes, you said correctly, "Where the fights arise is where this respect is lacking". Many people lack respect.

    2. Positions of authority confer power and demand conformity. Does being free necessary mean rebellion in face of every decisions? That should assume people have no rationale?

      If they are free to choose who will lead them, who will choose for them, and free to claim their rights when power is leading to corruption, or at least if meritocracy prevails, I don't think the majority will be resistant to authority.

      That takes time, true. But if properly done to avoid chaos and generate positive outcomes, wouldn't it be worth the time?

    3. Being free does mean rebellion... Just look at the so called "Arab spring". Widespread anarchy due to those 'springs'. In libya, it invited foreign intervention.

      It looks good theoretically, but in practice I think it will result in conflicts, especially if the no of people involved is large. I am not saying that it should be 100 % autocracy. But that it should be like 85% democracy.

    4. Politics is different everywhere. In post-colonial countries that have supposedly gained 'liberation' enjoy part-democracies, for international viewers. They simply changed from illegitimate oppression to legitimate oppression through democratic routes travelled partly.

    5. Yes, that's correct. So, basically, you agree it is not realistic to have 100% free speech?

    6. I won't say it's unrealistic because that would make it sound impossible for people to enjoy free speech. It's idealistic. But then, still, a possibility.