The 21st century, nothing like anyone has ever seen before, gifts its citizens’ freedom and liberty to its fullest. The American dream promises the liberty of achieving what one wants through hard work without the restriction of race, gender, government or any sort of medium. I would say it is the freedom and liberty to achieve what one dreams.
Alongside that, the freedom to live where we want, eat what we want, and buy what we want are major aspects of this century. But why does it feel like we are missing something?
The “something” has been discussed numerous times in history in famous documents like The U.S. Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Rights of Man, and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.
Yes, it is the Freedom of Speech. It has been established and re-established innumerable times that logically it should be the main aspect of the century, and many believe it truly is.
It is factual that through the development of media and democracy, the world has achieved, to some extent, the freedom of speech.
But why is it that Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats had to resign? He had clearly distinguished his personal Christian views from his professional life. He said, “The measure of a Liberal is someone who protects other people’s rights, no matter what your personal position is.” But people would consistently demand his personal views on topics like “gay sex and abortion” even when it would be irrelevant to the context.
So, technically it wasn’t outlawed to speak out for himself, but the judgment and the controversy it created, which clashed with Liberals’ notions even though he had clearly mentioned that his views will not hinder him from making the right decisions, got him to a position to resign.
Freedom of speech is emerging to be very problematic, day by day. And this is not referring to the countries with absolute regimes and communist states (e.g:- China and North Korea). It is referring to states that are viewed to have a democracy which is pretty legitimate.
When Tina Fey put out a solution on the events of Charlottesville, in a very light-humorous manner on SNL, her basic argument was that one should not react to violent events by not participating; she said, when protests are going on the streets one should “find a local business you support, maybe a Jewish-run bakery or an African-American-run bakery, order a cake with an American flag on it, and just eat it.”
She had very insightful thoughts on this event, creating awareness that “the bunch of white boys in polo shirts” should be aware that they are the ones who stole the country from the natives, and that the Native Americans were shot down while peacefully protesting at Standing Rock.
However, her words were brutally sabotaged and criticized; several people rebuked that she was a “white” therefore “privileged”, hence, did not have a say in this. A lot of Twitter comments showed that a shocking number of the population are very naive and too ignorant to understand Fey’s argument beyond her color.
The failure of freedom of speech is, therefore, not in any way due to the suppression by higher authority. It is the constant judging and condemning of one another solely by one’s race, gender, etc., ironically, by the use of freedom of speech.
One could potentially blame the internet for the several happenings where freedom of speech turned out to be very problematic, as the internet creates a ground for people to vocalize their opinions to a mass audience with a single click; and it has become easier than ever to speak without processing their thoughts. There’s an anonymity to some degree; when one isn’t confronting a person face-to-face, it is made it way easier to ignore the fact that the receiver is as real as oneself.
However, the problem is not solely the internet. The problem is us. Humanity. We, out of ignorance and out of ridicule, prejudge one another too quick without seeing the big picture, the whole context. The convenience of voicing out opinions should not be an excuse for judging one another by solely looking at the surface, whatever factors that might be – gender, race, religion, or sexuality.