What is True Freedom of Speech?

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

By Marshall Defender Nyanhete

"Large swathes of humanity seem to have misplaced the realisation that it is possible to disagree with someone’s opinions - their politics, their religion, and their way of life without devolving into violent action or hateful speech."

“Respect my opinion” is just about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Not only is it stupid but that level of unscrupulousness is downright catastrophic. The blunt truth is that not everyone's opinion is worthy of respect. It goes without saying that while everyone has an inalienable right to express their opinion, not all opinions have the right to be respected. Respect your own opinion, respect the strength it takes to admit when that opinion is right as well as when it’s wrong, respect also the ability to grow from both those realisations, above all, treasure your democratic right to be your own sovereign and please please don’t let other people think for you. Not even me…

In year 7 I was the biggest nerd about and thankfully I still am. These days though I prefer to go by the term “blerd” as I feel it provides just the right blend of my blackness and my geekiness. That said however I, the self-styled king of nerds, somehow managed to become the founding father of a dedicated organisation named “The Nerd Busters”. No need to bore you with the finer details of our manifesto as I believe, here, the name really does say it all. It must be said, by way of a disclaimer and also to appease my somewhat guilty conscience, we never actually got around to “busting” any real-life nerds; we couldn’t find any - because WE were all the nerds there were! Joking aside… I learned from that very early age that self-destruction is all that results from following the whims of a crowd. Dare instead to be an individual.

In a world of flat earthers imagine being the one lunatic running around spouting off nonsense about the world being round. I would sit you down, ask you what you’d been smoking, and then promptly proceed to quiz you on the avenues via which one might get in contact with your vendor - strictly for research purposes, of course. How exotic that singular entity must have seemed to members of the free-thinking herd. Yet, how much of our current knowledge of the universe’s workings do we owe to the ramblings of that particular madman? What if, perchance, he’d allowed himself to be silenced? Where would we all be now? Still stumbling around on a flat earth I reckon…

Freedom of speech is not freedom solely to speech that we like: it is freedom of all speech. It is freedom of thought and by extension, it is freedom of expression. To hell with what I think, here, I am truly irrelevant. You do you and continue doing you, until, such time as, you doing you no longer suits you (if, indeed, such a time should ever arise). The only things society should concern itself with policing are actions and laws that cause harm to others. In other words within the public domain, a conglomerate in which we all purchased a 1/7 billionth share at birth, there is a definite need to regulate how opinions are manifested. Note that I do not advocate regulating the opinions themselves! No matter how stupid they may be (that's an opinion, obvs), they are the sole property of the individual and as such do not belong to society.

"Freedom of speech is not freedom solely to speech that we like: it is freedom of all speech. It is freedom of thought and by extension, it is freedom of expression"

To further elaborate on the terms and conditions of the investment stipulated in the above paragraph; if you are an employer who cannot accept the fact that you have to hire equally, you must accept that you do not have the right to be an employer. If you can't separate your opinions from fair practice, society - through its legislations - has the right to make you accept that fact. Hate is not an opinion by the way. That is said to disarm any prospective Neo-Nazis lurking amongst us and nodding along (it is a widely accepted fact that Nazis generally tend to lurk around and slyly agree to those espousing hateful ideologies).

Large swathes of humanity seem to have misplaced the realisation that it is possible to disagree with someone’s opinions: their politics, their religion, and (dare I say it?) their way of life without devolving into violent action or hateful speech. We must divorce ourselves from the idea that everyone has to get along, you can’t be friends with everybody. In a world with seven billion people and the constant appearance and erasure of borders: it's just not possible. Even Jesus (Man? Myth? God? Whatever he was) had opponents. The one thing that all our varying factions can agree on, however, is that he never did harm to anybody but neither did he rush to assimilate opinions that were not his own.

The hunter-gatherer has outgrown the settlement. The medieval man must move beyond the hamlet and realise it is possible to be together whilst not being the same. Globalisation has and continues to force upon man and woman (yes woman! For man has finally acknowledged her as an entity unto herself) the realisation that his previous way of life, in which he and the handful members of his tribe could always be on the same page, has now become antiquated. The schisms we are witnessing in our modern-day (often manifesting themselves in one form of violence or another) are symptoms of a way of life facing up to - and in some cases doing its level best to ignore - the realisation that it is time to redefine the nature of human relations.

Evolution Man Phone
"The hunter-gatherer has outgrown the settlement"

The oneness of mind prevalent in a hunter-gatherer settlement arguably served us well in the past, it helped us forage and avoid the jaws of would-be predators, but it is now outdated. That is what always happens. It is a truth as old as humanity that things work until they no longer work. What other need or justification is there for evolution? Yet I see no cause to despair, as one way of life becomes obsolete another must rise to take its place. Humanity, a-likened to mythology, is a phoenix; now and again it is destined to encounter stimuli that seize all of its previous understandings of itself and reduce them to ash. But from those cinders, we have always been able to emerge: stronger, better, together. The alternative is an altogether different form of combustion - one from which, unfortunately, there is no fairytale-like return…

What I am saying, in my preferred roundabout way, is we must accept that we are living in a shared world as opposed to a shared brain. I only hope we realise this for ourselves before some autocrat tries to force the opposite upon us. Our history has many examples of peoples and times that sought to imprint their will on others, some more recent than we’d care to admit. Fortunately, for our forebears, it requires significantly much more effort to swing a broadsword than it does to press a button thereby wreaking havoc with hydrogen bonds. And if there is one thing we can count on it is man's proclivity towards laziness. 

The psychologist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proposed that the cardinal concern of the human being, in terms of its interpersonal dealings, is “the will to power”. This is often interpreted as the degree to which an individual is capable of manifesting their will, their desire, over others. It has most recently been articulated in terms of the dominance hierarchy. What is often left out from interpretations of Nietzsche’s statement is that he was also referring to one's ability to manifest power over the self. In other words the ability to exercise self-control. 

We human beings have accomplished so many wonderful things over the aeons. However, despite our opposable thumbs, we are animals still. We must make use of the hyper-developed brains and powers of rationalisation, uniquely afforded to us by the shrinking of our intestines (yay for biology), and resist the primal temptation to dominate. We have evolved beyond our cousins in the wider animal kingdom and we must act like it! I leave you, if I may, with two opinions. The first of which is, not everyone has to agree with you for you to be right. Proverbially, if everyone jumped off a cliff would you jump too? Secondly, in our well-intentioned haste to dismantle oppression, we must be careful not to unwittingly become oppressors.

Conflagration, seems to me, the only outcome of a desire to micromanage people’s lives.

Marshall Defender Nyanhete is a self-taught student of psychology, hugely interested in diasporic politics and contending with the question of how we can all best function within an increasingly polarised society. 


Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.

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