Jan 13 2015

Freedom of expression is never free

The tragic events in Paris, France this past week have sparked an important discussion around the world about the freedom of expression and speech. Freedom of expression is one of the pillars, so to speak, of democracy. Given this topic, I felt the need to add my two cents worth.

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(The pen is mightier than the sword)

As a civilized nation, we pride ourselves on having the freedom, or right, to speak and write about whatever we desire without the fear of severe punishment, like being flogged, or worse, death. In some countries, people live in constant fear for speaking up against establishments, or for criticizing governments, leaders, or religions, or simply expressing opinions. Yes, we are most fortunate as citizens of developed, democratic nations. But, freedom of expression, or of speech — or of anything, for that matter — is never free.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. – Janis Joplin

As a writer and speaker, these events have caused me to pause and reflect on the pros and cons of freedom of expression.

By the principle laws of nature, there are pros and cons, benefits and drawbacks to everything.  For every action, there is an opposite action. Therefore, anytime someone takes a stand, there will be an opposite stand. Every opinion you have, someone will have the opposite opinion. When you express yourself because it makes you feel better, someone will, inevitably, get hurt.

In Canada, my grandfathers fought for liberty. Many lost their lives in the last two world wars to do so – and their families lost loved ones. There was a price for that freedom. Today, we benefit from that price.

As we saw in the events that unfolded in France, the word is mighty powerful — Je Suis Charlie. Cartoon images are powerful forms of expression. And while no-one — one-one — should lose their life for expressing opinion, we also need to be aware that there is a price for that freedom. The cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hebdo, engaged in the game of using journalism in the “war of ideology.” Posthumously, they got the world talking about freedom of speech and expression, but they also paid a big price – all of their respective families lost their loved ones, and France lost its beloved cartoonists.

Nothing in life is free. There is a price to pay for everything. Freedom has its price.

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