Soon after the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, there was a deluge of calls from “concerned” citizens of this great country of ours(USA), about people that looked “funny and didn’t belong”. While the Law Enforcement Officers were thankful for patriotic citizens, they also realized they had wildly rabid racists making phone calls against anyone that “didn’t look nor talk like us”! To put a stop to this was an undertaking of gargantuan proportions! After all, people did have the right to free speech! How does one counter this kind of logic?
When one disagrees with popular opinion, the first thing one does is to claim freedom of speech or expression. This is not to say that one has to toe the line of popular opinion. Far from it! Popular opinion is often the wrong opinion but before you do exercise this right to express dissent, let’s get familiar with what it implies. When the founding fathers of the USA and Dr Ambedkar of India wrote the constitutions of their countries, what they envisioned was a society that accepted some responsibility. What they wanted was a society that allowed people to exchange ideas, for the betterment of society or not is debatable, without fear. What they got was quite in contrast to what they envisioned! What was a noble idea, at the time, has fallen by the wayside!! People have since started using this constitution to further their agenda. Constitutional amendments have ruled the roost since then! Popular Kannada comedian Hirranaiah once said, ”India has 512 laws and citizens have figured out 512 ways to subvert these laws.”
As an aside:
Freedom of Speech is one such right the constitution provides us. It’s a basic right that is supposed to allow people to, without wanting to state the obvious, exchange information. People have now become unofficial constitutional lawyers! Anyone who wants a change in their rights, files for an amendment to the constitution! Here, in the USA, over 11,000 such amendments have been proposed, telling us how many people are dissatisfied with the constitution! Of this, 28 amendments were made. That’s over a period of 243 years, averaging about 1 amendment every time a new president takes office (8 years)! In India, we have over 100 amendments made to a constitution that was written not even 75 years ago! That’s slightly over 1 amendment per year, on average! We have a situation where so-called leaders want amendments to cater to their followers! How does a country survive, with this kind of a spree of amendments?
Back to my whining:
Freedom of speech is valuable to all citizens; however one needs to be very careful on how they exercise this right! Nothing is free! Not even your rights!! Yeah, the right to free speech comes with a few unsaid, but clear, riders like
- Thou shalt not falsely yell “Fire” in a crowded building
- Thou shalt not falsely accuse thine rival, and take protection behind freedom of speech!
- Thou shalt not defile public monuments since that is not free speech
- Thou shalt not hurt any religious sentiment since, yep, that again is not free speech
- Thou shalt not enforce thine religion on others since that infringes on freedom of religion; another right that you didn’t want but have gotten! A freebie !!
And the list goes on(feel free to add to this list). Unfortunately, we see the list of rights but don’t think about the unwritten riders! How mature a country is, depends on how it looks at these riders! While the American media would fight to protect their fundamental rights and the riders, the Indian media would readily fight to term anyone mentioning these riders, as fundamental right!
Is India really a politically mature country? A part of me screams NO way! They can never be politically mature! Another part of me screams, “listen to the first part!”. The last part. says “Patience! It’s all about patience!” How about you? What do you think?