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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Responsability of Speech

The Freedom to Speak

We live in a country where we have the freedom to simply open our mouths and say whatever we want. It may not have always been so, but this is a basic freedom that we enjoy in today's Spain. However! Take note, that the freedom to say whatever we want does come with a potential price.

In most modern countries laws exists that cover the consequences of what we may say. Laws on Libel and Slander;  incitement to break civil laws or cause a breach of the peace; laws against the obstruction of justice; and laws against conspiracy to commit unlawful acts.

When we publish our words we should bear in mind that if our words have gravity they will affect someone, or a whole group of people, either in a good or negative way. Once we have let our words out of our mouths, or to flow from our pen, they cannot be recalled. We can only apologise for them if on second thought they were inadvisable. Sometimes, we even have to pay a penalty for having issued them in the first place.

Recently, an unfortunate politician was shot to death in cold blood. A number of young people reacted by posting their glee that it had happened, and by suggesting other politicians who should be shot next. Apart from being hyper-insensitive to the victim and her family, it was a truly disgusting thing to do in the eyes of our society in general. If there were others who felt the same way they were wise enough to keep their mouths shut.

These young people are learning that there is a world of difference between the freedom to say something, and actually saying what is on your mind. This is a difficult lesson to learn. Many people have yet to learn their own lessons. There are not always penalties to be paid on the spot for bad judgement. For instance, we have seen speech in the public domain that was once controlled  by censorship now being punctuated by words that, in the past we were taken to court  and fined if we used them in polite society. These are words that add nothing but digust to polite conversation, so why do we do it?  It has become so that when we turn on entertainment that is free of such offensive words we breath a sigh of relief.

Maybe what we are seeing is the pendulum that was stuck firmly on the side of conservatism now on the side of libralism, and that when we are thoroughly sick from what we are now getting, the pendulum will swing towards the middle. Meanwhille, it is possible to go too far in the exercise of our freedom to speak. We do need to think before we act. There is a popular car bumper sticker that reads: "Engage brain, open mouth!"

That says it all. Whether we be young people or politicians, take note!

Copyright (c) 2014  Eugene Carmichael