Freedom of Speech and Individualism

All of this latest spout of violence begs me to ask some personal questions. I have no clear answers to this. Is there a line to be drawn when it comes to freedom of speech? Are there social constructs that differ by cultures when we talk about freedom of speech? Is the concept of freedom of speech relative to where we live?

The series of recent events have caused me to think deeply on this issue. Freedom of speech is not something I have pondered much, as it is a very American concept that those of us who have not grown up there do not fully grasp.

The way i grew up thinking was, if it hurts the society as a whole it should be banned. The individual is not above how it effects others. I grew up in a society that was generally conforming to the government they were in.

Does that create stifling conformity?

What’s the line between total and absolute quest to investigate the truth and creating harmful things that have consequences?

There are certain ” freedoms” which create discord, strife, and disunity. Are they to blame for the subsequent reaction it provokes? No, but I don’t think we should be creating content which provokes strife, rather try to create bridges that harbor love and understanding. The fact is, be it wrong or right the protests will only continue until those videos are taken down. If a video infringes on the freedom to exercise religion yet causes freedom of speech is this not a clear dichotomy? Somewhere along the line, a freedom is being trampled on. Because we are so focused on each individual we cease to think of what we should do as a collective society.

In the age of instantaneous fame , we tend to say things and share them without thinking of the long term consequences. We cease to take ownership of our own actions but rather pass on the responsibility to someone else. To not recognize that we are intricately linked with each other is to deny the basic human truth of our existence : One action will create a reaction, one thought will create a string of thoughts …

Without fully investigating truth, we propagate an idea which will further create misunderstanding and strife. The video that sparked such hate and controversy is still online today … Ten million people have seen it and cause a series of reactions that have nothing to do with truth. It is perpetuat4ed by social media and television, and is used as scapegoats for other problems. It has sparked the clear divisive nature of the western world vs. the middle east. Which in essence represent how differently everyone sees the world around them.

1) Extremist muslims around the world are now protesting America, without fully grasping that one individual is not representative of the whole government. Is this because they are influenced by extremism? Do they believe that everything the media puts out or allows in America must be approved by the governement… ( like say Iran); If this is the case then we are dealing with different people not fully understanding how one culture thinks differently with another.
CNN states :

Despite U.S. government officials’ firm condemnation, some in the Muslim world — especially those raised in regimes in which the government must authorize any film — cannot accept that a movie like “Innocence of Muslims” can be made without being sanctioned by Washington, said Council of Foreign Relations scholar Ed Husain.

“They’re projecting … their experience, their understanding (that) somehow the U.S. government is responsible for the actions of a right-wing fellow,” said Husain, a senior fellow at the New York think thank.

In no way is violence justified but it is at times good to step back and understand where this string of thought is coming from : Ignorance.

Where do these Anti- American sentiments come from? Mainly , perhaps, in the depictions of the media and using them as scapegoats… but on the other hand this is the very thing that is propagated in the same way in the western world.

2) The violent depiction of Muslims in American media. Most Muslims are depicted in a stereotypical way. Many comments from people have been to speak about how violent or dangerous Muslims are. They create and spark an idea that Muslims are violent. Does this perpetuate that some act out on this stereotype? Is a couple hundred fanatics representative of a religion of a billion people? Why is it that it is hugely offensive that people insinuate that Obama is a Muslim?

Furthermore it begs a reflection, just like some muslims might represent a whole nation, what the western world does is represented by a couple of individuals. Our constant homogenization of the world is turning on it’s head.

We see the abuse of technology in all of this. No one truly believes that anyone is responsible. Clearly the power of twitter was a driving force to mobilize people to action.

All of this makes me sad. Is this what God wanted? Does God want violence in His name? No prophets are to blame for violence, barbarism and extremism. God is love not hate. Love empowers and hate destroys . Love builds and grows, hate is merely absence and darkness.

Until we really start to love others and build bridges to understand others we can never truly understand where someone else is coming from. If we really loved each other we would never seek to harm them.


As They Were in Prison People Were Their Voices

On April 1, 2012, countries all over the world protested 10,000 days of imprisonment of the seven innocent Bahai men and women around the world. It reminds me of the poem I wrote a couple years back for them :

You stand tall
Like an everglade
It does not matter
What they throw
Daisies grow in sidewalks

The more they lie
The brighter your mighty orbs are
The more they fear
The stronger your love
which blooms like stormy seeds
Rising in unknown lands
Falling from the heavens
Like confused stars

You do not hear their malice
Only the calls of the faithful
Who knock on doors,
Tell their friends
Who arise in celestial armies

You feel the pulse of it
And it cannot dim you
With their filth
We see you, your pure souls piercing through the darkness
They try to touch you
But you are no longer of this earth
you are a far cry in the heavens