“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
― United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I am not here to please you. I will not wash and sanitize myself for you. I need to be as honest and true to myself as I can manage, and I hope the same for you. We all have the right to know ourselves and, given we have exercised that right to the best of our ability, deserve to perceive others as clearly as possible so that we can make informed decisions, forge sincere relationships, identify our authentic friends and true enemies, for it is by means of this process that we come to know our worlds and the grander context we are embedded within and must therefore navigate within the confines of.
“Artists, by their free expressions, encourage others to be free. This is the quality that makes works of art enduring.”
― Marty Rubin.
“Sometimes the shackles of oneself are worse than those of others.”
― Ahmed Mostafa.
Freedom of expression is not only increasingly undervalued in our world, it has come under direct threat by those possessed by the vile spirit of censorship which would have us subsist in a world where everyone pleases everyone else, which would necessarily be a world in which no one is honest with anyone else — perhaps not even themselves.
It would be a world in which we would be imprisoned behind safety-sealed masks and caught in a web of fictitious, superficial bonds; a land of lies in which potential individuals would be denied self-actualization, forced to either sacrifice their inner selves or keep their glowing center asphyxiated in an opaque, claustrophobic shell, a bubble universe vacuum-sealed for freshness and serving as a means of quarantine, as an act as innocent as letting the soul dance naked in a personal and
safe, objective space would, in the eyes of authority, qualify as indecent exposure.
It would be a world that values only mediocrity and produces the most desolate and doomed of all lands: a lifeless plane where the only worthy goal among the herd would constitute striving for the “lowest common denominator.”
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
― S.G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell.
“You can’t pick and choose which types of freedom you want to defend. You must defend all of it or be against all of it.”
― Scott Howard Phillips.
“Those who make conversations impossible, make escalation inevitable.”
― Stefan Molyneux.
We should cherish diversity. Honor variety. On the biological level, genetic diversity is the greatest survival strategy, both within local populations and with respect to life on earth as a whole, for if conditions change there is a greater chance that some life forms will be capable of adapting to the environment. The same is true on a social level.
“Diversity is a survival factor for the community itself. A community of a hundred million species can survive anything short of total global catastrophe. Within that hundred million will be thousands that could survive a global temperature drop of twenty degrees — which would be a lot more devastating than it sounds. Within that hundred million will be thousands that could survive a global temperature rise of twenty degrees. But a community of a hundred species or a thousand species has almost no survival value at all.”
― Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit.
Everyone has a right to express themselves, in substance and manner, in any way they choose so long as they do not inflict upon the rights of all others to do the same. Everyone has the right to both offend and be offended. If you do not believe in the freedom of expression for those you most passionately loathe, you do not believe in the freedom of expression. Period. You need not like what they say, and you have every right to express that down to the finest detail so long as you do not, in the process, intrude upon the liberties of others.
“An it harm none, do what ye will.”
― Wiccan Rede.
My preferred medium of personal expression is through the arts, specifically writing and the visual arts. A great thing about writing is that it is less intrusive than talking, gesturing, or even drawing a picture. Reading requires a bit more deliberation, at the very least. You can’t really cram writing down someone’s throat, only offer it for consumption with hopes that they take it, chew on it and digest it before coming to a conclusion and responding — rather than regurgitating it and spitting it out at your feet in a blind, reactionary way. People can choose whether they want to give your words the time of day.
During high school, I remember hearing this story about a mother of two boys that had burned the house down. These prepubescent pryos were evidently inspired by watching an episode of some badly-drawn cartoon depicting two bad news, entirely unsupervised boys, which is ironic. After all, the mother subsequently stepped onto the battlefield and was now fighting to have it taken off the air, calling out for stricter regulations in general. I remember thinking to myself how her process was akin to a Rube Goldberg machine — those goofy, over-complicated mechanisms designed to ultimately commit a simple task. What a tyrannical way to waste energy. Rather than push for these regulations, all she had to do was grab the remote or, lacking that, walk over to the television, where she could change the channel or, hell, even turn the damned thing off — and all without imposing her own notions of indecency on the rest of us.
“They fired him. FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”
— Beavis, Beavis and Butthead.
So if you don’t prefer to “hear” what I have to say when I write, there’s a very simple and personalized form of censorship you can utilize, and it doesn’t require any government regulatory agency:
Just don’t fucking read it.
While you’re at it, I suggest you do the same damned thing with respect to your television, radio, and internet doohickies as well. Namely: if it bothers you, change the channel, click on another link, or just turn the damned thing off.
Don’t like the music? Don’t buy the CD. Don’t download the MP3. When it comes on the radio, change the fucking channel.
Find the movie vulgar, profane, pornographic and blasphemous? Don’t go to a theater near you to watch it. Don’t purchase the movie when it comes out on DVD. Don’t order it through Netflix or watch it on stream, don’t rent it from Redbox and don’t bother borrowing it from a friend.
“1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the things they read (or watch, or listen to, or taste, or whatever). They’re also entitled to express them online.
2. Sometimes those opinions will be ones you don’t like.
3. Sometimes those opinions won’t be very nice.
4. The people expressing those may be (but are not always) assholes.
5. However, if your solution to this “problem” is to vex, annoy, threaten or harass them, you are almost certainly a bigger asshole.
6. You may also be twelve.
7. You are not responsible for anyone else’s actions or karma, but you are responsible for your own.
8. So leave them alone and go about your own life.”
― John Scalzi, Bad Reviews: I Can Handle Them, and So Should You (Blog post, July 17, 2012).
We need diversity to survive as individuals, as a population, as a species, as a planet — and beyond. Each individual, population, species — each and every cosmic island of planetary life pockmarking this vast, expanding sea of spacetime — should embrace the freedom of expression for reasons that encompass, reconcile and transcend the duality of the selfish and altruistic, as honoring diversity ensures our survival and gives us the raw materials necessary for our growth across the board.
Valuing the freedom of expression does not require you “hear” your opponents, contemplate the contents of the Jungian Shadow projections they constitute and engage with them, or in the very least their ideas, but I believe that such engagement is in our best interest as individuals and as a greater whole. To live in a bubble, an echo chamber, leads to nothing less than an utter stagnation of the soul. Communication increases our probabilities of survival and promotes growth. The least we can do is fail to constipate the lines of communication available to all of us across this vast web of souls.
We are not all one consciousness. We are not all the same inside. And that is beautiful.
Diversity is beautiful.
Cherish the fact. Our survival and evolution depend upon it.