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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

Cartoon conundrums

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

“He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.”
Confucius (551-478BC)

It’s interesting how the rapidly escalating furore over the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s publication of cartoons illustrating and in some cases satirising the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) dovetails very neatly with the British government’s present focus on respect (see last month’s post Respectfully yours). So much so that the fact that the one can provide the answer to the other becomes rather too obvious to ignore.

The cartoon row has been portrayed throughout as an issue over freedom of speech, but there’s a crucial differentiation to be made between protecting the right of every individual to speak their truth without fear of being censored or intimidated, and speaking that truth with respect. Freedom of speech – however it’s enshrined in cultural codes of behaviour – wasn’t really conceived with the idea of freedom to insult in mind, and can’t be considered in isolation from the responsibilities that all rights carry. If the right is exercised in a disrespectful manner, then all that will happen is that same lack of respect will get reflected right back. Just as if I were to walk up to someone in the street and call them a f*!^#*g w@#*^!r and get a fist in the face for my pains. Bleating about my rights to freedom of speech in such circumstances would be plainly nothing more than an attempt to substitute a red herring for a red face.

It might seem an incomprehensible furore over a few cartoons, but when reactions seem disproportionate, it’s often pertinent to ask what the various dynamics of the situation are touching on at a much deeper level. What’s been demonstrated in the commissioning and publishing of these cartoons is a profound lack of respect for the sensibilities of millions of people of the Islamic faith, exhibiting the same profound lack of respect towards Islamic nations as the West has been displaying for centuries. So long as each side keeps mostly to itself, the situation is perhaps tolerable. But when the West goes marching into two Islamic nations on the basis of a bunch of trumped up lies and is presently flexing its muscles in preparation to do the same thing all over again, such a reaction becomes entirely understandable.

Peace on Earth can only be achieved by genuine tolerance of differing viewpoints, customs and ways of life, and an attitude of respect for all by all, informed by the fundamental knowledge that we’re all ultimately one. Any absence of conflict achieved by enforcing the ways of the world’s biggest and most powerful bully on everyone else has got no more to do with peace than an absence of symptoms has to do with health. The only possible response that can be elicited by bullying behaviour is ultimately always a reflection of itself. With power to match.



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Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard