An "express" with no brakes is bound to crash

Entry for The Colloquium Blogjam (won second place)

Freedom of expression is an interesting form of freedom. Let's take "freedom to do anything one wants" for example. When everyone is free to do whatever they want, within a fraction of a second, we would have conflicts arising. By its very nature, freedom of action engenders conflict. Same goes for many other kinds of freedom; but freedom of expression is a strange animal in that sense. So inviting and attractive simply because everyone can simultaneously exercise it and still no conflicts need to arise!

Just imagine a world where everyone is free to express... don't like the way a system works? Say it. Don't agree with policies? Say it. Like something in particular? All the more reason to say so! A world where there are no masks... a world where what is said is what is felt and what is felt is what is said!

On the surface, everything looks smooth and hunky-dory. Let's go all in for freedom of expression! After all, article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech as a fundamental right. But a deeper look sheds some light on potential conflicts. These are not conflicts between two instances of exercising this freedom. These are conflicts between the "expressed" and emotions, the "expressed" and sentiments.

To those who don't find anything wrong with M F Hussain's paintings, those who say coolly "he is just exercising his freedom of expression" I feel like asking "Would you be still so cool if it were not Lakshmi but your beloved mother on top of Ganesha's head? Would you still be supporting Hussain if it were your mom sprawling across the map of India?" And definitely, if the answers come back affirmative, my respect would just not know any bounds!

For freedom of expression to be exercised freely, certain conditions should be met. There needs to be a certain level of rationality in the way we look at things, the way we analyze things. Most of the feelings and emotions, by their very nature are irrational. Objectively looking at things takes the strength of overcoming one's own emotions. Come, now, people aren't going to change overnight. To develop such a mentality, to change the mindset of society as such, is a daunting, arduous task. The process is an evolutionary one and not a revolutionary one. It is not going to be the case that in a flash of enlightenment people are going to learn to deal objectively with candid criticism of their loved-beyond-limits leader, with free and artistic renditions of the goddesses they revere. To change the very way we think, the way we look at things, the levels of emotional attachments and the blinding mist it creates, isn't easy if at all possible. The way we are shaped is a function of our upbringing, early education and peers and parents. Conscious and gradual efforts are required if we want freedom of expression to be accepted.

Now, given the situation that we currently are in, it is, in my opinion, foolish to freely express anything and everything and still expect no consequences. One is simply being impractical if they think that defamatory statements towards a popular leader will pass without a backlash from the devout fans. It is akin to jumping in pond of piranhas and expecting them to do nothing. It is you, who is capable of thinking, not those piranhas! Those piranhas, hungry, are just blinded by its primal force. Isn't it short sighted on your part, to expect the followers of the leader, whom you just called a despot and a dictator on facebook, to behave? The fact that they revere the "despotic" leader, itself should ring some bells!

Although logically and rationally, there's simply no harm whatsoever in practising freedom of expression, we don't live in an ideal, logical, rational world. When judgements and opinions are clouded by emotions, feelings are driving force of action, one better be cautious before "expressing", because that's being pragmatic, not coward. After all, there's no such thing as "free" lunch.

Entry for The Colloquium Blogjam (won second place)

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