The Freedom Of Speech And The Power Of Silence

Most of us are extremely fortunate in this life, we have the capability and freedom to voice our opinions and say what we think- we have the freedom of speech. This is so important on so many levels, the young should be cultivated and nurtured with this instilled into them so that they are not afraid to speak up on topics of importance or injustices in the future. However, just because we have freedom of speech, is it always appropriate to use it?

We all should have responsibility for what comes out of our mouths and what we chose to type and send out into the wider world. A lot of people do not engage their brains before running their mouth- some do and just do not care of the consequences. This immensely powerful freedom, that we often take for granted, is sometimes abused to the detriment of some other basic values.

Now, this topic covers a wide spectrum of everyday life and beyond. On a global level, there’s the recent events with the U.S presidency and the women’s marches. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the correct thing to do. When decisions are made in the political world, or on a national or global platform- that is everybody’s business. If you are able, it is important to contribute and get involved, question and voice your opinion. Peaceful demonstrations and marches are a wonderful way to have your voice and the voice of many others, heard. This is nothing new and has been good practice for years and years. If you believe in something or it is impacting you -or impacting those who cannot have their voices heard- you need to dig deep and trust your own moral compass to do the right thing. Stand up and be counted for things you are passionate about, or against things you know are unjust. Whether you agree or disagree with the reason why a person marches is irrelevant. You should respect their decision and protect their freedom to do so.

screenshot_2017-02-24-21-04-01-1

I’m thinking more on a personal level with today’s question. What was wrong with, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’? People often forget what sort of impact their words can have on someone else’s feelings or life. All of our opinions and beliefs are valid, everybody’s. No matter how different. Just because they are different, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or of lesser value than your own. Whether you like it or not, they are equal and should be respected as such. You do not have to agree or go along with anything that doesn’t feel right in any way shape or form, but you should respect that it is their own decision and own opinion to make.

Sometimes people can be unknowingly patronising towards someone else’s point of view, almost passive aggressive. Dismissing or belittling it. Not everything has to be a debate. Someone may hold a religious belief that you don’t necessarily agree with- if they are doing no harm and not enforcing it upon anyone else, they have thought about it and chosen that belief system- is it our place to slam it down and tell them they are wrong? Especially when our opinion isn’t asked for? In wider discussions when different points of view are welcomed, explored and debated, by all means, fire with both cylinders! But when someone has chosen something for themselves, should we be putting our two penneth in? We may think we are educating or enlightening when in actual fact, we are just being insulting.

When we become so wrapped up in our own ego and believe we are right on everything, becoming forceful with our thoughts and loose with our words, it is nothing short of bullying. Why do we need to push to that extreme? To be proved right? Is it so important for us to feel smug that we are willing to have it at the expense of someone else being crushed, embarrassed or upset?

It is all too easy to get caught up in the notion that it is our ‘right’ to say what we think and so our opinion should be given on absolutely anything and everything on every occasion possible… What we think and believe is personal and private to the individual. We have our own experiences and encounters, we have our own tastes and values- we gather our own information. From our sources, we formulate an opinion and from there we can chose whether to open our mouths or not. We may not like the way someone dresses, or a new hair cut they have- is it our place to tell them such? If our opinion is asked, we can either give compliments or constructive criticism…. But sometimes we could all do with recognising that our opinion has not been asked for, and so it’s not necessary to give.

smallfish

There is the argument of, ‘Don’t post things on social media if you can’t handle what people write. If you put it up there, it’s fair game..’ Really!? You really think that is a valid excuse to be a nasty person? There is an element of that in today’s world. Fact is, the world has changed. More people are on social media than not, it’s part of ‘normal’ life for a lot of us. Posting pictures of our lives and sharing everyday things is the norm, not just for the elite few. It doesn’t mean they are there to be criticized or ridiculed. Some people post something they know is controversial just to see who will bite. To create a situation- they want an argument. Why feed in to that? It’s poisonous and you’re just playing in to their game. If nobody bites, the game will soon become old. Equally, if you don’t like a picture someone has uploaded, just keep on scrolling…. 

Now, you may think I’m a bit of a hypocrite- as I say what I think and give my opinion on a weekly basis. Yes, I do, but I don’t force anyone to read it. People can take a look, if they don’t like what I’m rattling on about, they leave. No bad feeling. I don’t have a comments section on my website either -that’s not because I don’t care what people think, far from it- my reason is purely for self preservation against negativity.  I do have my email address posted in the ‘Contact Me’ section of my website, where I am happy to receive emails with feedback from readers. 

I just think people too often give knee-jerk reactions and are too quick to say what they think instead of giving a considered contribution. They read something they dislike or disagree with, or find themselves laughing at a cruel picture and before they know it, a nasty or vicious comment is typed up and posted. No real thought has gone into it, no guilt is felt as they feel they’ve done nothing wrong, yet it’s there for all to see and causing upset or embarrassment to the person at the receiving end. There isn’t that face to face contact and the repercussions are often not seen. There isn’t that slap in the face of ‘look at what you’ve done’. That wake up call of what our actions- and words- can do. When I said that freedom of speech was immensely powerful, I genuinely meant it.

A friend of mine shared a quote on Facebook recently that I just loved;

“Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes someone special to have empathy. An opinion is just your own point of view, empathy entails putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes.”

It’s something that we could all do with practising, especially before opening our mouths or typing our thoughts out in haste. Having a little empathy. Seeing how someone reached a decision or formed an opinion and then respecting it. Not necessarily agreeing with it, but not arguing or being dismissive of it either.

Treasure our freedom of speech, value it, but also take great, great care with it. Be responsible with it and put yourself on the receiving end of your own sharp tongue before you give your opinion. Freedom of speech is also the freedom to say nothing. It’s the freedom of having that choice.

With much love,

Miss Kimmy Cupcake xx