From: Jerry Blaz
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 9:46 PM
Subject: Tom Stoppard argues that free speech is not an inalienable human right
Tom Stoppard’s thoughts about the relativeness of the right to free speech to living in a liberal society stops short of considering all the other freedoms that network with that idea. Just today, in the L.A. Times there is a story of how, in Indonesia, ostensibly a nation that separates mosque and state (Indonesia is at least 90% Muslim), many people serve jail terms for deviance from Islam as decided by a group of local Muslim clergy or the Indonesian Ulema. One is sitting in his prison cell because he wanted to pray in Indonesian because he feels that 70 percent of the Indonesians do not know the meaning of the Arabic prayers.
What does this tell us? That if there is freedom of speech, there is also tolerance for other opinions. It tells us that no matter how we view or do not view the metaphysics of our existence, it’s OK, and the state will see that we are not persecuted for that. It means that Voltaire is saying to a holocaust survivor, that as wrong as a David Irving might be, he should not be sitting in an Austrian jail for denying the holocaust. He might be a stinking bit of moral drek, but he should be able to say what he wants, even though the idea of using up shoe leather picketing his imprisonment by Austria is a disheartening thought.
I believe in the power of ideas, but if you cannot express your ideas, if the “marketplace” is closed to your ideas by law, and you go to jail for it, that is wrong. Today, while being gay or lesbian may be denounced by churches, etc., gender-benders have the right to express their ideas in words, attire, lifestyle or deed. In the area of sexual deviance, there are still many areas of lifestyle that are prohibited because they involve acts that victimize others, and it is serious cause for reflection, these include such practices as pedophilia and necrophelia. However, in the area of pedophilia, the mere possesion of pedophilic material is prima facia evidence of the victimization of a child, though it has been my belief that collection of “child pornography” can, in many cases mitigate the need to actually engage in pedophilia.
Rather, society today registers these individuals, track them, permitting the persecution of them after they have “paid their debts to society” and try to find ways to prevent them from rejoining society. In the end, “freedom of speech” is abridged for these people, and society has still not found an answer other than outlawing the very possession of such material. So even in a country like the U.S., there are abridgements of freedom of speech.
Certainly, when you know that conversations could possibly be wiretapped if you are calling your cousin in Winnipeg from the U.S., this very knowledge may abridge your personality and speech. So, rather than thank my lucky stars to be born in a country that views “freedom of speech” as an inalienable right, it is more important to protest any abridgement of it.