Don’t seal the lips that want to express
A cow sometimes kicks the milkmaid. The kick conveys that the cow is hit or hurt so she protests. Her way of protesting is kicking as she can’t communicate and speak with the milkmaid.
Now come to humans. What do we do when we are hit or hurt? We speak. We give vent to our feelings because we have a communication mechanism in place. So speech is a corollary of the human capacity for expressing feelings. Sometimes it so happens that we, the humans, have no one to share with. We think aloud and talk to ourselves. However, when we talk to others, the socialization of free expression pops in.
Since the age of Ramapithecus (when man stood erect from quadruped to biped), humans began to express themselves reacting to the environment. They had no sense of wrong and right of expression. But with the passage of time they trained to speak to themselves differently than when they would speak to the individuals around.
The communication of ideas was simple between individuals and the society for the development of civilization. Expression of feelings helps an individual to develop himself and his contribution to the society he lives in, though it is doubtful given the imperfect nature of human beings.
In the world we live in, communication has been revolutionized. With World Wide Web and the emergence of social media, every individual is in a position to communicate with whomsoever he wishes to. However, formal media still remains the authentic source of information.
An independent and free press is a watchdog of political behavior of the people at the apex and it also functions as an effective source of dissemination of public opinion so that the government gets a true feedback of its policies and their implementation. But the racial, social or political bias enters stealthily and pollutes the whole environment of freedom of expression. It results into undeclared censorship that takes sincerity and truth out from the information lest it should nibble at the sweet cake of authority that the powers, that be, are relishing. Here the media authority, editorial policy or editorial prerogative is put to danger (though the media is not autonomous anywhere in the world).
The governments this undeclared censorship as reasonable restrictions to safe guard the chastity and sovereignty of the country. If you talk about the security of the country, you are pinching its cheek; if you are talking about its deteriorating relations with other countries, your eye winks at it; if you are talking about its internal or external sovereignty, you are molesting it. No one would suggest to abuse or malign a community or a country but it is not reasonable to seal the mouth that expresses subjective ideas and opinions.
Constitutions of the countries were written decades back. Too much water has flown down the Nile. Countries have produced people with brighter vision during last 50 years. This is the lot that could suggest something more updated. The great reformers of the world like Budha, Christ, the Prophet of Islam, Ramana Shankaracharia thought originally and were at variance with the prevailing systems. But finally they were recognized as they had something positive to officer. If they had been rejected as the source of destructive criticism of existent belief systems, we would have been groping in the dark world of ignorance.
Liberal and progressive opinion does not necessarily mean an attack on prevailing customs and traditions. An artist makes a painting. He is copying the nature. There is nothing obscene about it. Sometimes we report an episode of violence and we are objected to. However, happenings are but to be expressed.
Education is the transmission of knowledge and experience and it transcends the barriers of religion, region, caste, colour, creed and gender. But if you start socializing it, you are killing the very basics of the concept of education. When you cough you want to throw out some unwanted matter from your lungs so that it is cured of its microbes. But if you curtail the coughing, you are inviting suffocation.
The rights and wrongs of free expression are not absolute. What may be right or wrong today may not be the same tomorrow.
– The author is a lecturer in Education Department.