Thursday, December 6, 2007

Freedom of speech

In classical monarchies, as we know them, the king's judgement was never (openly) doubted, and could never be directed questioned without fear. To add insult to injury, he did not allow for such practice : his word was golden, and he regularly refused to listen to alternative opinions. The practice of silencing an opinion still persists in modern times. In some countries or cultures, freedom of speech is not taken for granted, not just at a personal level, but at the government level. This translates into censorship and fear of being prosecuted - or worse. One might argue that those countries and/or cultures aren't as developed as ours, and this is largely due to freedom of speech.

John Stuart Mill exposed some arguments for the freedom of speech, which I will try to explain here.

  • Only rarely does one possess the whole reality on a subject. Most often than not, truth is shared between people and between points of view. By silencing an opinion, one will silence part of the truth.
  • A valid opinion which is regularly challenged by outsiders, is likely to be remembered better than one which is never challenged, and will not become simply custom and die off : people will actually understand the opinion and make it continue.
Nietzsche had a much nicer way of saying pretty much the same thing : Truth is not something helpless, which must be protected at all costs; it is quite strong, and takes different heights of the spirit to grasp it.

The same argument was simply extended to the eighteen and nineteen century western society. It is rather absurd to assume the dumbest of men to be smarter than the smartest woman in such a way as to not allow her to vote or take certain functions in society. If we agree that this is absurd, then it becomes evident as to how certain societies currently hinder their own progress, due to censuring their women.

On the other hand, proponents of those societies may say that women do not want such responsibilities, and that women are naturally meant to raise the kids, and nothing more. Odd that this argument sounds exactly like the one racists have used in the past to enslave black people. In our times, it is pretty much obvious that the black man is capable of self-government.

No comments: