In the friends of Voltaire hall, there is a quote which I believe expresses one of the fundamental principles of our society “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” and it is this freedom of speech and the ability to question that is the only effective defence against extremism.
While everyone agrees in the freedom of speech very few people fully take part, many of us react to a single statement that is made out of context or is, in fact, nothing more than a comment that is meant to cause question.
The next barrier we have to true free speech is when people use phrases like we have listened or dropped to the viewpoint of the lowest common denominator and take a position of moral rather than logical superiority to defend a view. This view in many cases helps to increase the barrier between viewpoints and removes the ability to engage in the benefits of free speech.
Living with real free speech is not easy. In fact, it is upsetting, and it is meant to be, to truly experience it we must be willing to accept and discuss views that bring our being in to question.
We all fail from time to time, but I think we must accept the following to keep the freedoms and benefits it gives us:
- Not to react emotionally to comments, realise that the comments are not meant to harm us but for discussion.
- Keep logic as the basis for making decisions.
- Make sure you have read or thoroughly discussed a viewpoint before forming an opinion.
- Finally not to use a moral (for morals and social acceptability is a forever changing view) high ground as a way of ignoring an argument or belittling other’s opinions.