Freedom of Speech

Good morning / afternoon / evening to all whenever and wherever you are,

I’m very grateful to have been writing multiple commissions in the last weeks that are allowing me to be comfortable financially instead of struggling. However, with those now out the way I’m back with another blog post.

Today I thought I would like to promote and shed light on a quote which I’m sure many of you have already heard of

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
– Evelynn Beatrice Hall, 1903 (pictured below)

I’ve always liked this quote but never knew anything about its origin. Today I did a little research for this blog post. The original author was a woman named Evelyn Beatrice Hall. Specifically it was a quote from her book The Life of Voltaire, first published 1903. It was a biography of the French enlightenment author, historian and philosopher Voltaire. Some people have mistakenly attributed the quote to Voltaire himself because of this. While the quote is indeed describing his views, the exact phrase itself was first assembled and written by Hall.

I’m going to assume most people reading this agree with Freedom of Speech, the basic principal which this quote describes. (If you don’t, I respect your opinion but would love the opportunity to change your mind.) But I think even those who say they agree with it often don’t fully understand and embrace its implications.

In a time of intense struggle and painful division such as now, people are quick to attack each other and fight viciously for the views they passionately believe in. While freedom of speech dictates that you can attack who you want (verbally, not physically), I think there is a better way than trying to “win” by shouting down your political or moral opponents.

The human race is unique for its ability to think, understand and empathise. We’ve come this far on knowledge and I know we can go much further if we try. While its understandable that some people hold views repulsive and despicable to others, it is important that we still don’t devolve into mindless conflict when a little patience and understanding might go a lot further.

What am I even saying? Basically, arguing and debate should not be about “winning”. It should be about finding and eventually agreeing upon the truth. Rather than shaming, humiliating and trying to silence “dangerous points of view”, we should try to understand them so we can show them why they are wrong. Or be open and mature enough to consider the possibility that we might be wrong too.

Why am I saying this? Because I heard somebody I considered a friend saying they wouldn’t respect someone who held a certain point of view. While I understood why, I was also saddened and disappointed that her fear and hate had led her to that point. She was essentially becoming like the people she claimed to despise (racists and bigots) by ignoring their humanity right back.

So in conclusion, while I would never try to stop you from fighting for what you think is right (I would support you in that!) I beg you to consider that sometimes a softer approach could make this hard, tough world just a little bit easier to bear.

One Response

  • I think you’ve made a very good point! Freedom of speech is so fragile and sacred. These days it feels like it is under assault but freedom of speech is freedom of expression and freedom of thought. It is a quality that some do not seem to value as much when times are difficult but something we must always strive for.

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