Friday, March 31, 2006
  Freedom of expression: what's that?
The bastardisation of free speech is well under way:

"I think you just answered your own question by contradicting yourself. Yes, indeed, theoretically it may be consistent and all, but if you put it in real practice, we may all find out that steering a car with feet may not sound so ideal. And so this analogy applies to Matilah's comments, that though you may theoretically have the right to offend another (which begs the question of why would you do that in the first place: is there no other way to put it across?), in practice, it is not justified because your rights to do so violate another's rights to be prevented from such an offence, verbal or visceral. Of course, we may want to escalate this into a tit for tat game of violating each other's rights, but at the end of the day, if it is mutual understanding or social justice that we are pursuing, then free speech in the former sense is not going to get you there. Why waste or pervert a good thing and might I say, a right?"

Actually, my comments are not contradictory because while my analogy implies offensive language is not neccessary, in no way would I impinge on the rights of another to offend (or drive with their feet). If you cannot grasp the Right to Ignore, then that is to your own disadvantage. I find it even more incredibly absurd that people cannot excercise this right on the Internet, let alone a face to face conversation. The logic of one's rights to say something potentially offensive having the effect of impinging your rights is a completely construed concept. Because the irony of having a ficticious "Right not to be Offended" conversely impinges another's right to speech. Ask yourself if (a)your civil liberties have been reduced, and (b) if your human rights have been reduced. Answering these and acknowledging that the "Right not to be Offended" is contradictory in itself, and will conclusively show that this concept is flawed.

Let's also remember that Rights in this context is dictated by the Law. If you believe in pursuing social justice and mutual understandings over legislation, then I don't see any reason why you should think that Matilah should face potential prosecution by the Law. This situation is very much similar to the incident where the Danish caricatures offended the muslim community. My own article 'What does a Danish flag look like?' discussed the dilemma of religious appeasement and understanding freedom of speech. Alex Au (Yawning Bread) duly noted the bastardisation of free speech when people become fond of affixing "responsibility" to it. It suggests a freedom you have which must be curtailed depending on how offended another becomes. And it's not hard to see that where legislation is involved, self-censorship becomes inevitable.

My opinion does not deviate far from Matilah's idea of free speech. But one does not have to use profanity or share his opinion of you in order to agree with him.

"I am not a believer that law has complete control to mould society especially where the libertarian system is concerned, but if we head down that path (I am not thinking of Singapore, but the USA), it is clear to see what kind of society we will eventually get."
A truly genuine freedom of speech is a non-negotiable entity. You either have it or you don't. No one has the right to alter or define their own borders which apply to everyone else. To leave control in another individual defies the very meaning of 'freedom'. Where Singapore is concerned, the State is nowhere near a libertarian system and its infamous number of laws have clearly shaped its society for what it is today. If anything is to be clear, it is that the continued cap on progressive minds, free speech, gay rights, and other oppressive elements will eventually drive generations of youth out to greener pastures. Added to a failing birth/replacement rate, the Ruling Party will eventually face their own shortcomings.
Dear Clyde,

You do have some fine points here. Why don't you share it at the "main" forum?

I would like to take the idea of "greener pastures" with you further. I don't think there is a greener pasture as far as planet earth is concerned, only naive pastures where one thinks it is greener than Singapore.

On this, the idea of whether a libertarian society is better or a nanny state like Singapore is inferior only exists on paper; it has not really been proven. If we take an utilitarian yardstick, with dollar sign per healthy citizenry is concerned, then the nanny state championed by Singapore is many more times stronger than a more libertarian system like the USA. Though the ruling party loves to retreat behind the intuition of "the US system is not suitable for our asian values", they have a point: we don't have to follow something which is clearly as flawed as our nanny state in many ways.

Singapore is only oppressive for people whose minds are not conformed to her standards and values. I don't think it is sad, just that if we believe that the world is suitably libertarian with diverse values and publics, then Singapore should have its own little niche and Orwellian stage play. Against your intuition I say, why should the whole world be libertarian? After all, people who likes Singapore, and they have the right to do so whatever their reason is, are not complaining. Their minds have been reformed, and those who feel oppressive should seek another more suitable place to live.
Well, I guess one man's meat is another's poison.

Except my view of a greener pasture includes space for people who don't neccessarily share my views or opinions. The problem with sentiments common amongst politicians and s'poreans such as yourselves is that pride of national identity is always measured in terms of economic success. It goes well with Orwell's analogy of an Animal Farm. In a sense, citizens are all well groomed sheep herded by a dominant shephard. A strong factor in Singapore's success has been in maintaining a People who are predictable, passive, and therefore controllable. Like a well-oiled machine. Except once you are machine, you are not truly human.

Having said that, I am not saying well known democracies in the world are perfect examples of a true democracy. Nor do I doubt at all that sg has reaped benefits as a direct result of its 'reforming' scheme. But it comes at the sacrifice of the minorities who believe in individual human rights and civil liberties. And that is a cost some will find unprecedented. You're right that the minds of S'poreans have been 'reformed', although I prefer 'brainwashed'. Have you ever seen The Matrix (see Matrix Singapore link for a good read)? Like the movie implies, most people are so helplessly plugged into the system, they are conditioned to think they are incapable of being anything else. Or in the case of those who actually do suspect the mind-control machine is at work, as Cypher would say, "Ignorance is bliss."

To believe that a liberal or diverse world justifies the tolerance of a totalitarian nation defeats the original intentions of the former. Because the latter has consequential effects on individuals born on its soil who have little choice in the society they want to live in. Hence, out of circumstance that individual forfeits his right of choice in whether he would like to live in a diverse and liberal society... or participate in an Orweillian stageplay.
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