Freedom of speech & Responsibility of speech
As the eldest of 15 cousins, it’s nice to have my younger cousins come to me to discuss on real life issues as they begin to navigate through life and adulthood. I always look forward to our discussions. I call them ‘discussions’ because even though I may be older, and it may seem as though they come up to me for advice, I make it a two-way conversation where they are free to voice their own opinions on the matter. I don’t shut them down. I listen and sometimes even learn from them.
I make that a priority because I truly believe that we have to be groomed at a very young age into an independent individual who has his/her own opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them. Society shouldn’t box you in.
Anyway, the other day I was having one of these discussions with a female cousin regarding today’s political climate and the keyboard warriors who leave their two-cents worth on other people’s posts in the most hateful way. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share. It was so bad that I had to delete the comments and block these so-called ‘warriors of truth’.
It led us to question freedom of speech. The world today is so different from the world I grew up in as a teenager. Back then we didn’t have social media and I remember having to pen letters to my family and friends overseas. Yes we did have email but not everyone had that. Moreover, I’m pretty old school. Now, everyone is connected via social media and someone you don’t know living a million miles away can leave a comment on your post (if your account is public anyways) and blast his/her own opinions in a less than friendly way.
"we all have to learn to navigate through this new and evolving world with more grace than gruff"
As much as I believe that everyone is entitled to voice their own opinions, i.e. freedom of speech, I also believe that this comes with an equal amount of responsibility of speech. Unfortunately for many this is an unknown concept. For many, freedom of speech means I can say whatever I want to at the expense of someone’s feelings. Why? Because I have the right to voice my opinions whether you like it or not. And that to them is the true value of freedom of speech. I personally feel this freedom is being taken advantage off. With freedom comes responsibility. You can’t have one without the other IMO.
Many question our level of freedom of speech in Singapore. Yes, our freedom of speech is somewhat curtailed but I think it’s pretty justified. We grow up learning and respecting the power of having that freedom. You are open to voice your opinions, but before you do, be wary of how your comments might be taken by the receiving party. This may seem rather politically correct but we live in a very interconnected world today. A world with different races, religions, cultures, nationalities, all intertwined. We have to learn to be sensitive to one another. If we aren’t then we’re looking at world filled with little Trumps running around spewing hate and dividing one another.
No one is saying you can’t have an opinion. No one is saying that you have to shove your opinions to one side. If that’s what I’m saying then I wouldn’t be running a magazine that encourages women to tell their personal stories. What I am saying is with great power comes great responsibility and we all have to learn to navigate through this new and evolving world with more grace than gruff.
Juliana Iskandar is the Editor-in-Chief of GAYA Magazine.