Overheard from Singapore Matter
You live in dreamland if you believe that freedom of speech and rights are boundless.
Freedom of speech and expression of rights are possible only within boundaries. You can argue where those boundaries should be but you cannot argue for boundlessness. Take away the boundaries and what you have is anarchy.
Some boundaries are unspoken. They represent the standards upheld by the communities or organisations where people live or work. Some are clearly defined by laws providing people with a means to seek redress and legal recourse for their grievances or disputes.
Indeed it is law and order that gives rise to meaning. One is able to plan for the future because laws make the world predictable and render the actions that you take meaningful and purposeful.
Even the universe is governed by laws of nature. Can you imagine a universe not governed by laws of nature? Can anything meaningful arise from such a universe? The answer is obvious.
You are able to understand what I write, even if you disagree with what I write, because I follow the rules of grammar of the English language which makes what I write meaningful.
If you take your car out today, you are able to reach your destination safely if you and everyone else follow traffic rules.
Studies have shown that the child who grows up with no boundaries or poorly enforced boundaries is an insecure child who lacks ownership of his own life, has little self-control and lacks respect for others.
How do you identify the child who lacks boundaries?
He’s the one who walks freely into your room regardless of whether your room is open or closed and does whatever he wants. He changes the TV channel as he pleases regardless of what anyone else is watching, and he blames everyone else for his mistakes. It’s either the teacher’s fault, brother’s fault, neighbour’s fault or friend’s fault when something goes wrong. It’s never his fault. In short, he is unable to take responsibility for his actions.
Boundaries define acceptable behaviour. They tell you how you can express your speech and your right without infringing upon the right of another. Boundaries are what enable the different communities within a society to co-exist in harmony and safety and to have a healthy respect for each other’s differences.
Boundaries represent responsibilities, the responsibility of the individual and the collective responsibility of the different communities. A breach of any boundary leads to consequences that one has to bear. Boundaries are meaningless if they do not carry responsibilities. Boundaries are meaningless if they are not enforced.
One may argue that the person who denies the existence of boundaries in free speech and rights is an immature person, just like the child who grows up without boundaries and has little self control.
For him, freedom of speech means he should be allowed to say anything he wants under the sun – never mind if it hurts or insults people or if it’s true – without having to assume responsibility for it. Such a person lacks self-control (must say whatever he wants to say), respect for others (don’t care if it insults or hurts others) and is immature (don’t want to bear responsibility for his speech).
In the US, freedom of speech is a protected right under the First Amendment. Even then, free speech is not absolute. There are limits to what is protected. The existence of limitations means there are boundaries.
Certain types of speech, particularly speech that can harm others, are not protected. Such speech includes obscenity, fighting words (words that may lead to violent confrontation), true threats, child pornography, defamation (the act of injuring another’s reputation by any slanderous communication, written or oral; the wrong of maliciously injuring the good name of another; slander; detraction; calumny; aspersion) or invasion of privacy. Speech related to national security or state secrets may also not be protected.
Boundless free speech? It’s a myth. It doesn’t exist.
Don’t believe? Look at the people who champion it. You will find that the freedom they espouse applies only to themselves.