SWEET FREE SPEECH: The Righteous Fight

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
—Voltaire

As the holidays settle in, and digestion gets difficult, Canadians can celebrate what appears to be a bolster to free speech—basically, I think, a legal decision that pulls back on dangerous libel laws that give the mighty way too much protection from criticism. This liberalisation is a great thing.

On the flipside is China. Let us take a moment to hope for the best for this man, a professor, Liu Xiaobo, jailed for “co-authoring a document appealing for greater political liberalisation.

The petition, which said “we should end the practice of viewing words as crimes”, specifically called for the abolition of subversion in China’s criminal code—the very crime for which Liu was sentenced on Friday.

How flipping awful and ignorant is this, with China becoming the most recent super-power, and closing in on 2010? It makes me feel sick to my stomach, and one can only salute Liu Xiaobo’s courage with the utmost solidarity.

It’s more frightening when one considers how much money America owes China, and that such a vast amount of world manufacturing is done in China, using sweatshop labour etc.

Free Speech is not something handed down from above, it is something that has to be earned from below (although there eventually becomes an arrangement between the two). We must remember that. People under great duress have fought for the right to speak freely, and to freely organize—let alone organize.

Being able to slam each other on comments on some blog may feel like free speech, and it is in a sense, but it actually works to tear us apart in the long run—and does not prepare us for if, or when, conditions get truly difficult. It would be much more intelligent, beautiful, empowering and freeing if I tried to listen more, to understand the other—with discernment—realizing most of the people with whom I have differences are actually in the same sinking boat, under the same duress, buried by the same crap politics, deflated by unbacked currency, dragged down by the same insane national debt and as baffled by climate change politics as I am.

I wrote an essay recently about free speech here, where I think a few important details are (freely) discussed.

Think of Liu Xiaobo, fighting for what should be an inherent right; think of your neighbour, even your enemy, and use free speech to increase solidarity, not noise, confusion and division. With great love and hope on this Christmas Day.

Lots of love,

Pete

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4 Responses to “SWEET FREE SPEECH: The Righteous Fight”

  1. Erynn says:

    Even here in the US, where it’s written into the constitution, we still have to fight for it. It’s too easy for governments to suppress that of which they disapprove.

  2. Karen says:

    First a comment on the Zinn post. I usually follow the links you insert, and as a Mother and Grandmother I must ask, Just what are you reading in there young man?

    OK, just kidding, but what does it say about us as a civilization when the pornography “industry” actually has annual trade shows? I think it says we tolerate free speech on many levels and that’s a good thing, but I think the step from talking about something to acting on it can be a big, bad, ugly one. And not just where porn is concerned.

    “In a patriarchal society driven by the predatory values of capitalism, we should be very afraid.”

    I think that says it all.

    I absolutely agree that free speech must be defended at all costs, always bearing in mind the honor and responsibility that comes with it, including staying informed and making informed decisions, as opposed to snap judgments.

    An aunt, while visiting our relatives in Ukraine in the 70s, had a cousin there take her to a wide open space to ask her, in a whisper, if it was true that in the United States you could say anything you want about the government and nothing would happen. My aunt explained the relatively mild limitations, but, yes, that was essentially true, and not just in the United States. She was listing some other countries where there is freedom of speech and realized our cousin was crying. He told her he couldn’t even comprehend what it would be like to actually speak his thoughts out loud, that even thinking about doing it made him nervous.

    And here I sit unable to imagine not being able to speak freely. So many degrees of freedom. How spoiled we are.

    Let’s face it, most of us aren’t really going to exercise more. Can we resolve instead this New Year to defend, even from ourselves, others right to their opinions and to voice those opinions? And, yes, listen more. I find when folks disagree, often there is common ground and a potential for compromise that just can’t be seen while they are so busy defending their own opinion. And from what? The other’s opinion or the feeling that the other person “won”?

    Happy New Year and Love to you and those you love,
    Karen

  3. Hey Karen!

    Congrats, of course. I didn’t follow that link, but I hope, I prey, it linked to a very interesting professor, Robert Jensen, at the University of Texas in Austin! If not, I’ve been bamboozled, I tell ya!

    Lots of love,

    Pete

  4. [...] Although de Soto and Moyo are on the same team in the debate, de Soto’s views seem quite removed from Dambisa Moyo’s argument. Dambisa is highly pro-China and their involvement in Africa—which can hardly be pushing the road towards ensuring indigenous property rights, my god. Individual rights are not big on the Chinese agenda, by all accounts. [...]

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