“Freedom” of Speech

Adrina Tse

Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the freedom of speech is recognized as a human right. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) explains the freedom of speech as “the right to hold opinions without interference.” Ironically, this fundamental right we are all eligible to enjoy has its boundaries – you are “free” to express yours views only if your choice of words could please everybody. As interesting as it sounds, the limited “freedom” of speech promotes harmony in the world.

 Have you ever requested a cup of black coffee? Or have you described anyone as lazy? In the theory of political correctness, you are utterly inconsiderate and nasty to have committed these acts. You have selfishly neglected the feelings of other innocent people – you should not have offended the “black” race, and instead of using “lazy”, you should have said “motivationally dispossessed”. Political correctness has to be the only way to build peace in the world.

 Yet, is political correctness about establishing a peaceful community in reality?

 Back in 1923, the ideology of Western Civilization was widely spread in Germany . It was believed that individuals could develop valid thoughts. This ideology was a marked challenge to the ideas of communism, in which thoughts were supposed to be from the perspective of society rather than individuals. To spread communism, the implementers tried to control the values and speech of individuals. Individuals were accused of being disrespectful if they expressed their own beliefs. They were told to avoid showing personal views. The implementers used the term “political correctness”, which sounded quite positive, in distorting the idea of Western Civilization in the minds of people.

 Political correctness originates from promoting communism. Nowadays, North Korea and Cuba are among the few communist countries left. A list of formerly communist European countries, including Germany and Poland , began to practice capitalism years ago. Now that most nations are capitalists, it implies that we are contented with capitalism. If we were to be politically correct, it would symbolize our wish to introduce old communist ways. Is it not a contradictory thought to our positive outlook towards capitalism? Apart from that, “political” correctness has a “political” meaning. When some people attempt to be “politically” correct, do they thoroughly understand the “politics”?

 It is clear that political correctness is an obstacle in communication. Inconvenience is one significant consequences of political correctness. When you are referring to a homeless person who is old and poor, you have to rephrase the entire sentence: “the residentially flexible individual is chronologically advantaged and economically marginalized.” Even without the existence of political correctness, communication is limited by language that lacks the words to convey particular feelings. Political correctness causes further limitations on communication through language.

 If you look into the example mentioned above, you soon discover that the meanings shown in the politically correct version is twisted in some ways. Although “residentially flexible” could be an alternative to “homeless”, the former term emphasizes on the “flexibility” of residence, while the focus of the latter one is the situation of not having any “home”. Instead of saying imprecise words so as to be politically “correct”, why not simply use the “correct” ones which are more authentic and easier to understand?

 Despite all these apparent problems regarding political correctness, some people who are trusted to exercise authority but weak and incapable – often government officials –make use of it to avoid troubles. In the recent television advertisements, the government has declared the date for the re-election of Legislative Council members. Interestingly enough, for the May 16 by elections, the government did not encourage citizens to vote in the re-election, which it usually does. Neither supporting nor disapproving the referendum was considered the best solution. In fact, political correctness can be observed in most of the responses from the government, including “we’ll look into the matter”, “we’ll set up an investigation team” and “we show our deepest concern about the problem”. These are easy responses that mean, in effect, ‘we will do nothing and wait for the problem to go away’.

 Only when you are unable or unwilling to choose a standpoint are you so politically correct as to try to please all of the stakeholders. Political correctness exposes one’s weakness and indecisiveness. The reason why the government officials repeat the responses is to minimize the opportunities of offending any group in society. Nevertheless, this unveils the disability of the government to tackle problems effectively. Some politicians are constantly playing political correctness. They make statements that mollify most citizens. While being politically correct, they are showing that they cannot develop ideas independently. This is more indication of weakness.

 Frankly, political correctness has nothing to do with “harmony”. It was initially a tool to manipulate the thoughts of innocent people. Though it is no longer blatantly used for manipulation, it still negatively affects language as well as exposes people’s weakness. If the limited “freedom” of speech due to political correctness has no benefits at all, why should we not completely enjoy our right to freedom of speech?

 

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