Note: The following essay was written at a time when I was a Classical Liberal. The views reflected might not be the ones that I hold currently.
The liberty to speak one’s mind does not make them immune from the criticism of others; if one is willing to open their mouth and be heard, they should realise that they are responsible for what they say and how they say it. For liberty does not just mean the freedom to speak or act in a manner one chooses, but it also means the responsibility of the individual to stand by what they say and do. A person should never be afraid to express the liberties they have, they just need to have the mindfulness to know the consequences that those liberties bring on others. The liberty of expression comes in unison with the responsibility of expression; when we express ourselves to others, we are doing so with them in mind. It is thus for this reason that an equilibrium between the liberty to express and the responsibility of that expression, be made. All people are granted liberties, but with these liberties come the burden of responsibility.
It is with such liberties that we are made aware of our responsibilities. When citizens of liberal democracies have the liberty to speak openly and honestly, they are to be weary of the words they use; being aware of the affects that words have on others, can be the difference between free speech and hate speech. With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them. This leads to healthy prosperity in society. Yet, when we abuse this liberty by hurling insults against others; when we seek to only fuel the flames of wrath that so to easily burn away the fabric of society, we leave nothing but the charred remains of what could have been.
In the words of Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”; George Orwell would later retort this by saying, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” This is to be our attitude to expression.
It is with such a liberty, that it is imperative we conduct ourselves in a manner appropriate with one another. If the liberty of conduct is brought with it-like that of speech-a responsibility, that responsibility will be up to the individual to ensure that their liberties do not encroach on the wills of others. As a general rule, we should not seek to impose our liberties on others if it is against their will; this is a crime of moral proportions, as it will go to the denigration of the well-being of our fellow Human. A large part of society consists of ensuring equality, and equality means taking others liberties into account besides one’s own. If a person intends to maintain their state, it is in their best interests to ensure the prosperity of all individuals within it; for one stick alone is easily breakable, but a bundle of sticks tied together, creates strength (Aesop’s famous, “The Bundle of sticks”, expresses this thought perfectly.).
Every Ying has a Yang, as expression of liberty and the acknowledgement of responsibility; we express but two sides of the same coin. In French, the expression of such thought is beautifully summed up in the following line:
“La liberté et la responsabilité,sont les deux faces, d’une même médaille.”…. “’Liberty and responsibility are but two sides of the same coin.”.
If one wishes to have liberty, they must remember the responsibilities that come with it. We are susceptible to biases all the time, and it is remembering that we have these biases that are important. Many of us wish to think of ourselves as competent in our abilities of speech, action and so forth. Yet, do we forget to realise that we have emotions? Do we forget to remember, that when we see our people be shouted at by viperous-a-tongue, and we see the morsel of eyes glitter with the waters of sorrow; do we not see that people have been hurt by the carelessness of one’s liberty of speech? Was it not the responsibility of he who utters a word, to keep in defence of their words and mindfulness of others’ thoughts? Is not the role of responsibility to ensure that one’s liberties do not impose on others? Many questions will be raised, and as long as society is open to discussion, questions like these will be continued to be raised.
Congregations gather in churches and exercise their liberty to worship; those who do not, are exercising their liberty to be free from worship. Attached to these liberties there are words of caution:
Do not impose your beliefs on those who wish to be independent of them; for if you do impose your beliefs on them, you will be stepping on their toes and impeding on their liberties. As one who does not believe in any gods, I can say that in my nation [Australia], the role of religion is not entirely prominent; though churches may unfairly remain exempt from tax, and parliament remain bias towards the Christian religion when they open parliament in prayers, I still feel no direct imposition. If however, the state had to be ruled by an establishment of religion; this is to say, if it had to be ruled like say a, ‘theocracy’ or an, ‘eccliosocracy’ then I would have my liberty imposed upon. Yet, as I live (as do so many others) in a secular nation, where the church and the state are separate entities, I can be entitled to enjoy the liberty to be free from religious imposition; for the freedom to worship also inclines the freedom from worship.
As more and more nation states begin to embrace democracy, and throw off the shackles of tyrannical rule imposed by those who would seek to abuse the equilibrium that must exist between liberty and responsibility; it is in this time, more than ever, that individuals need to be reminded about the principle of fairness, and be reminded how easily it is to lose this equilibrium between liberty and responsibility. Where so easily it has been said before, that one should ‘render their liberties for a bit more security’; these words uttered so many a times before by corrupted individuals; from every fascist ruler to every corrupt king. As global citizens, it is our active duty to point out corruption when we see it, and actively criticise those who would seek to take away liberty and replace it with tyranny. As we close to the point of thought, and we allow our cognitive faculties to interpret what has been expressed; we should leave with one final warning:
Language expresses ideas, and it is these ideas that mould society; if we do not keep wary of this, and instead allow language to be censored or regulated under the guise of pitiless excuses, we only seek to plant the seeds to the destruction of civil rights.
Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson (16/10/2014)
Art-work created by: Rainer Jacob (17/10/2014)
-Acknowledgements for Art-work as well as Artist and Writers’ comments on the piece:
Rainer Jacob is the artist responsible for the sketch attached to this written piece; it is the third art-work out of his ‘Metamorphosis’ sketch album. The specs and art-work details, along with purchase place for his works are located below:
Metamorphosis · Tinte · Ink· 210 mm x 297 mm ·
Original 300,- Euro · Print Edition 30/30: 50,- Euro
–Rainer Jacob’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece:
The thing that inspired me to draw the art-work was the line,
“With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them.” I took the crystal block instead of shackles; a block where we sculpture ourselves and our character, and I developed it…. Words are like wind; just molecules in motion, but it changes our thinking and our perspective. Intentionally, I was reversing the old patriarchal dualism: the whole “man= spiritual, woman=earth” thing…..We are much more…there is a third way, and above us is only sky; that turns us into humans with empathy. Neo-idealism is for me, to give up old symbolism and create our own vision; from idea to action. With responsibility for nature, because we are a part of it, and not the crown of it; we have to earn a soul, it is not given to us by higher beings, we alone have to behave respectfully towards all creation.
–Anthony Avice Du Buisson’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece:
The word, ‘liberty’, today has acquired an anarchistic undertone; no longer does it seem to carry the cultural significance it once had. Too much has it been used as an excuse for individuals to do whatever they like; instead of a responsible ‘liberty’, it has become a ‘YOLO (even that has lost its meaning); do whatever one wills etc.’. With this piece, I thought I might express the old meaning of the word; along with Rainer’s art-work, I felt that his expression of the sculptured man, carried the message across…we all are mere mortals given only a short bit of life to live out; better to live it together, than live it alone…