Last evening, I got a strangely- weird text from my girlfriend asking “Who let the speech out? Who? Who?” Not sure what effect did the changing weather had on her head. It confused me for a moment as what does it even mean, so I replied back “Babe! What does it mean?” She said she was just wondering about all the free speech vs. hate speech debate that’s on fire in the country when a flying thought struck her mind, and that was ‘Who let the speech out?’ Although she found it funny as it relates to the popular 90s number ‘Who let the dogs out?’, I didn’t. But I couldn’t say so because the month is February and valentine’s day is coming and I didn’t want to triple my budget by being stupid and telling her that it’s not funny. So I did what every sane person will do, I said “that’s funny” and then we both went to sleep.
I was about to slumber down into the dreamland when suddenly a feeling of uneasiness covered my head as the question “Who let the speech out?” refused to leave my head. I got up from my bed and went outside, the clock was stating that it was 2 in the morning. I went out and felt a cool breeze on my face and thought “I am gonna miss this breeze as soon as the summers start”. I live on the 6th floor and my balcony faces the road so I can see traffic easily. I stood in my balcony and looked around, I could see the minimal traffic on the road, and the neighborhood was quiet. No one was selling anything, no one was buying anything, no children playing, no groups of the retired uncle and aunties walking and laughing. No rush of traffic. For a moment everything felt very still and the moment seemed to go on for multiple moments. That stillness can be unsettling when we as an entity of this society has become accustomed to a sense of chaos in our everyday lives.
In that moment of stillness, I could hear something. It was not something coming from outside, but from within me. In the brief moment of stillness, I could hear myself, I could hear my thoughts. You must be thinking what is so special about it? Every day we speak to others to do things, to get things done, to communicate, to say what we feel and so on, so what is new in this?
Every day we speak, we talk, we communicate, we utter hundreds of words. What we fail to do is listen. We fail to listen to ourselves. We fail to understand how the other person is going to hear us. We fail to understand if another person is really listening to us or merely hearing us.
In today’s time when we talk about things like freedom of speech, freedom of expression, we are so entitled to freedom and so oblivious to the price of that freedom that we fail to understand the real value of freedom. One person’s freedom should not be another person’s prison. We can’t pay for our freedom by stealing someone else’s freedom. Freedom is the ultimate goal of life, physically, mentally and spiritually. Freedom is the universal right of every living creature.
So when we raise our slogans of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of being able to say what is on our mind in a society which grants us this ultimate right, don’t we as the contributing entity of that society have a duty of understanding what we are going to talk about? Do we first listen to ourselves and use our ability to stand in another person’s shoes to understand how that person is going to hear us.
In today’s time, we are so interconnected and living in a global village. We have the ability to express ourselves on the unthinkable magnitude. Each and every person has the ability to put his or her thought in the world. We have the superpower which our ancestors could never think of. And as our uncle, Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
In the day and age where one person is asking for the partition of the country again on a communal basis and another person asking to shoot the traitors of the country, they both became heroes to someone who is living in this country. Someone who is able to identify himself or herself with them on multiple levels; can be caste, religion, creed, language, color. Someone who one day wishes to be able to use his or her freedom of speech just like his or her hero did today. Without understanding the power and consequences of one’s words, that someone will one day be standing in the same place as their heroes did today, in some capacity, where one will be asking to break the nation other asking to shoot the traitors, without realizing that both the actions are unlawful. But they will be able to use the freedom of speech, won’t they? Isn’t that what our ancestors fought for hundreds of years? We should be proud of that, shouldn’t we? That is for you to decide.
For me I feel, today we as a society have to make a pivot to, “What should be said” from “Who is speaking”. We need to learn to understand what is in the speech instead of blindly fighting for or against the person “who let the speech out”.