It is not possible to have human rights without freedom of spee-ch. Your ability to be free to speak your mind, is the most important and essential element of your life. Countries where the freedom to express yourself doesn’t exist, are the countries that are most susceptible to human rights violations.
The constitutions of some countries guarantee freedom of speech, but the citizens have such regressive mindsets that they are too terrified or unable to express themselves. And violations keep taking place as the people in that society don’t encourage each other to speak freely. Our country is a classic example. Freedom of speech begins at home. If children or anyone in the house are not allowed to speak their minds, they end up with all kinds of issues. Children’s opinions should be listened to, if not accepted. This helps society evolve… because going forward, they will bring up their own children in a similar manner and that’s how there will be evolvement through the generations.
Our society has to be evolved enough to enjoy freedom of expression. And it also has to be evolved enough to put in self-curbs. Curbs being put on us from outside is a very dangerous phenomenon. But we definitely need to self-curb in a civil society. We have to be responsible and think of other people’s sentiments before we open our mouths. At the same time, the people I am talking to have to be mature enough to accept my opinion instead of beating me up! We need to be responsible for every action we take. For instance, if you come across a really fat and ugly person, you won’t just tell the person so, would you? Now, the government hasn’t told you not to pass that remark. But you yourself know what’s okay or not okay to be shared. What’s the need to be brutally honest unnecessarily? Is opening your mouth going to make any difference to a person’s life, to society? So, we must all think before we speak.
All freedom can be misused. So, we must be educated enough to make our own rules for ourselves. For instance, I draw my own line with my own common sense for my work — what is humour, what is plain insulting, what is unnecessarily mean, what is attacking a soft target who cannot retaliate. Thus, we have to use our own maturity and common sense.
But governments need to be openly criticised because they are in a position of power thanks to us. We have voted them in. And now that they are deciding our lives for us, they should be willing to take our criticism too.
Sadly, everybody is getting more and more sensitive today. Even about jokes that are just funheehee! Twenty years ago, whether I cracked jokes on Sardarjis, Parsis or Gujaratis… none of them got affected. Today, everyone is overly sensitive; everyone wants to be a crusader, man! Intolerance levels are rising and the biggest cause is ‘political correctness’.
Political correctness is the biggest curb on freedom of speech; it’s become the bane of our lives. We call blind people ‘visually challenged’; short people, ‘vertically challenged’; fat people, ‘horizontally challenged’… Why? If someone is blind, short or fat… why can’t we just say that? It’s not an insult at all. Else, remove these words from the dictionary completely if they are an insult! There used to be something called ‘Spastics Society’ in India. Now if you use the word ‘spastics’, they’ll hit you, man! This is all such nonsense. We only are putting restrictions on each other and the way we speak and express ourselves. Very unfortunate. And now they are all going to come after me for saying this! The more irresponsibly we behave, the more the curbs we bring on ourselves. We need to learn to speak our minds in a mature fashion, without instigating trouble. We must learn to speak our minds so that society benefits.
TV personality and humourist Kunal Vijayakar often takes on the powers-that-be with wit and wisdom
(Co-ordinated by Varsha Seth)