Something to Think About – The R’s of Life – Survival in a Modern World – Our Right to Freedom of Speech and Religion by Sally Cronin

According to the Bill of Human Rights we are all entitled to Freedom of Speech and to follow a Religion of our choice. As I have highlighted in previous chapters, these rights come with  certain obligations that we need to fulfil to enjoy them to the fullest.

This last week in particular has seen the most dreadful breach of that right to freedom of speech and worship according to our religion, with the massacre in New Zealand. In our multicultural modern societies, this is a tragedy that is happening far too often despite billions of people around the world respecting that right and appalled by the actions of the minority. The community in Christchurch has been changed forever, and one can only hope that it will bring them together, united against such hatred and make them stronger than ever.

Freedom of Speech and Religion

We are all free to speak our minds in private, but that does not necessarily mean we will get away with it in public!  It depends on what your government has deemed as a subject you can voice your opinion about outside your own four walls!

For example in the UK:Any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone is forbidden. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both’.

In some countries freedom of speech is completely denied to a population and any infractions dealt with severely; in some cases with death. Religion too is not exempt from rigorous penalties rained down on individuals as well as groups of worshipers as we have seen recently.

I am sure that like me, you would never condone any speech or piece of writing that incited hatred to any group or individuals, whether it is racially offensive or is going to cause distress. However, it is becoming more of a minefield, as there are a great many subjects that have been added to the list of offensive topics all coming under the term ‘Politically Correct’.

In some schools for example, traditional activities such as nativity plays and Christmas carol services have been suspended so as not to offend those in the school who are not Christian. I don’t understand why we cannot be grown up about this and have a celebration with elements of all the religions represented by the pupils! Perhaps a celebration of spirituality and winter…… or would that be considered pagan?

I think we are all aware that most of the world’s conflicts since the dawn of time, have been primarily down to two main contributory factors. Politics and Religion. There is a good reason they are usually banned from the dinner table.  Nothing sparks off a heated debate than everyone expressing their freedom of speech on those two subjects between courses.

Many millions around the world do not have freedom of speech, and men and women are effectively gagged from talking about politics or practicing religion. It is unimaginable to me, how terrifying it must be to have to guard every word that you say and to keep your family safe in that environment.

However it is a sad fact that some of us who enjoy the right to speak our minds frequently misuse its power. Both on a personal level  and now, courtesy of the Internet, on a much wider scale.

Of course some members of our communities take their right to freedom of speech to extremes. The paparazzi for example, who feel that they have the right to intrude into people’s lives and dish the dirt even when they do not have the facts.. Sometimes they exercise their right by simply publishing a photograph with an ambiguous headline and let our imagination do the rest.  Even alleged mainstream media lean to left or right according to their financial and political affiliations rather than editorial responsibility, and there is a definitely a manipulation of facts and statistics when it comes to the political and financial institutions that govern our day to day life.

But is it not just the major media organisations who manipulate the truth to cause dissent or to stir up friction between communities. It is easy to for us as individuals to create barriers before we even begin communicating with others online.

We seem to be fixated with creating labels for ourselves and others. Certainly on official paperwork we have to define ourselves as White, Black, Asian Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon, Quaker, Catholic, Irish, English, Scottish, disabled, Gay, married, single, divorced, widowed, retired or all of the above!

But we seem to be doing this in our personal lives too. I look at the profiles of some people that approach me to connect and they appear to want to belong to as many groups as possible. Even if I was meeting them for the first time face to face, I wouldn’t have an interest in their colour, religion, sexuality, political affiliations or that they are a feminist or manist! These terms do not describe a person, only the labels they have adopted that they feel defines them. There are some things that I deem as private and don’t believe belong in a personal Facebook or blog profile.

Personally I would like to know more about what makes them a human being. What areas would we both be interested in sharing such as books, writing, the cinema, love of animals, sport, meeting new people and learning more about others. I don’t want to know about the groups or labels that might highlight our differences before we get into some form of relationship to establish how much we have in common.

What happened to the joy of belonging to the human race?

A lack of tolerance and respect for others probably raised its ugly head as humans and Neanderthals began to inhabit the same terrain around 45,000 years ago. There is some evidence that the two groups did co-exist for around 5,000 years and very probably did cohabit too. There are genetic links to a tiny proportion of modern day man that supports that theory. However, the investigation into the mystery as to why Neanderthals became extinct is still ongoing. One theory is that the modern humans migrated in as the earth warmed up and pushed the Neanderthals out over time.

Chances are that modern man wanted nice cozy caves, rich hunting grounds near to flowing rivers and established plants and fruits. It may have taken them 5000 years but in the end they got what they wanted. Including the freedom to live, worship and survive without the complication of a group with a different perspective and needs making life difficult. That was just two groups working against each other.. We now have thousands of factions all shouting about their needs and beliefs; it is no wonder that the world is in chaos.

Then of course there were the gods who have maintained their presence in our lives throughout the history of man in many guises. One group would worship the moon and others the sun and fall out over it. Some believed that their gods lived on mountains and were omnipotent.. Others felt that throwing some poor individual, preferably a virgin, into a fiery volcano would appease these legendary beings. Wars have been fought, some cultures wiped out and many of these early religions disappeared completely. However, after thousands of years, we are still following this tried and tested method to get people to join our gang or suffer the consequences.

Thankfully most people agree to differ, respect each other’s beliefs and live and let live. Yet there is an element of every society, who have defined themselves by their interpretation of a religion, and take the moral high ground, expecting everyone else to convert. There have been extremists in every religion on earth and it will always be so.

There are some individuals who assume that freedom of speech entitles them to say whatever they like, whenever they like and to whomever they like. Because of course, their political, personal or religious views are the one true path. And despite all the laws enacted against hate crimes or inflammatory language, we do not seem to be becoming any more tolerant.

You don’t even have to get up close and personal. The Internet provides a wonderful platform for free speech despite the new legislation. Which is why cyber-bullying is such a popular sport and that the main casualties are young people. Words can be brutal and young people in particular of both sexes have not concept of how devastating their comments can be to someone of their own age.

  • Over the recent years there has been an 87 % increase in the number of Childline’s counselling sessions about online bullying.
  • 40% of 7 to11 year old respondents know someone who has been cyber-bullied .
  • 7 in 10 young people aged between 13 and 22 have been a victim of cyber-bullying .
  • An estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyber-bullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyber-bullying on a daily basis

The statistics for bullying of gay students is even more concerning.

  • Over two in five gay pupils who experience homophobic bullying attempt or think about taking their own life as a direct consequence  Three in five young people say that bullying has a direct impact on their school work and straight-A students have told us it makes them want to leave education entirely
  • More than half (55 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools
  • Ninety six per cent of gay pupils hear homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’ used in school. Almost all (99 per cent) hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school http://www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/4/7/facts-on-bullying

Of course bullying is not the only misuse of the freedom of speech. Many suicides of young people are because they do not wear the right label. They do not belong to the accepted in crowd, and because they are different, they are ostracized and isolated.

Added to this is the continuous bombardment by the media, across all communication devices, of the devastating results of human intolerance. The young of today face a climate of fear and uncertainty for the future that has never been experienced before in human history on this scale.  Is this really the world we want our young to inherit from us?

Youth Suicide Statistics In the USA

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2016 CDC WISQARS)
    Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2016 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,041 attempts by young people grades 9-12. If these percentages are additionally applied to grades 7 & 8, the numbers would be higher.
  • Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs

It is tough to imagine that we as an individual can make a difference to the world and its chaos. But we can certainly make sure that we, and those close to us, understand that freedom of speech is a ‘right’ to be treasured. A right that when exercised with thoughtfulness, can positively change things that are broken, instil trust and understanding with others. We can set an example and be role models for our children and those we meet that have a different view of life and religion that we do.

We are too far down the road for this to change overnight. Some of the conflicts that are currently fueled by hatred and intolerance may not be resolved without more violence but we have to start somewhere and that is right here and right now.  We need to choose the words that we speak and write more carefully and treasure the right we have to use them in the first place.

At the end of the day there is only one true fact and that is we belong to just one group and the label reads:

Next time – Rejection – A Fact of Life

©sallycronin The R’s of Life 2019

Thank you for dropping in and your comments are always gratefully received.  Sally

 

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50 thoughts on “Something to Think About – The R’s of Life – Survival in a Modern World – Our Right to Freedom of Speech and Religion by Sally Cronin

  1. So many people think that their god/political party/sexual orientation is the only right one and that everyone else’s opinion is wrong. I don’t trust any politician and I say thank God for atheism, but if others want to worship their own god or political party, then that’s their prerogative. I just wish they’d do it quietly!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you,Sally. Your article echoes my sentiments exactly. Sadly, there will always be ignorance and bigotry because so many people don’t look beyond knee-jerk reactions, or put themselves in others shoes.No-one knows what goes on behind another’s tears or smiles….I am a Humanist but believe in live and let live. It is the only way forward. Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was bullied during my growing up years. We didn’t need the internet to cause it. All the internet has done for it is to make it an instant and worldwide problem where people who have never even met someone can turn into an enemy.
    I grew up believing that to intemedate someone was how to get what one wanted and it wasn’t until finally being put into the correct situations with people who understood how I got that way that I learned different.
    Lots of damage was done to me and by me as a result of my early thought processes and so now I can only hope to try to undo some of that by helping others around me learn differently.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Well I can’t imagine that you are too grumpy. And I have to remind myself that I used to be young too. I told someone last night when talking about being afraid to try new things for fear of messing them up, to remember that everyone was new ones. I guess that goes for all things. I tried to share my experiences through my writing, and hope that people will learn from what I share.

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        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a Christian. I’m also straight. I think the first and second amendment are paramount to avoid living in a dictatorship. that said, if I expect my views to be considered seriously and with respect, I have to respect others. I have friends are Islamic and Hindu. I also have friends who are Atheists. I have friends who are gay. We get along out of mutual respect. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything, what it means is we address those differences in a spirit of friendship and caring for one another and value that which makes us who we are.

    Liked by 5 people

      • I have many friends of many different believe systems, and some who believe in nothing at all. I dislike it when people shove their religion or belief system down my throat. I don’t mind reading about it, having conversations about it, what have you. But not long ago, I am made a comment more or less in joking about having wished I had listened to my horoscope for the day, which I do follow the astrological charts as part of my believe system, and they, took it upon themselves to send me three pages worth of scripture and then another three pages of admonishment for not believing the correct way then, they proceeded to tell me that if I would get my religious self together, and start following their practices, my life problems would go away. Well, I have to say I am proud of myself because I didn’t even dignify any of it with an answer except to say thank you for the advice. It just didn’t seem like worth the bother to argue with them. To me, it just seemed rude what they did. Although I’m certain they had good intent. It’s right up there with those telling me that I am blind, because I don’t have enough faith to be healed. I just have to smile at that.

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        Liked by 2 people

      • I have not always had such restraint. But, as I age I have learned that sometimes to not say anything or being very mindful about what I say is the better option. What I think in my mind is not nearly always as restraint LOL.

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        Liked by 2 people

  5. What a wonderful post, Sally. I started reading it on edge, worried I would be bullied or judged (as so often happens with this sort of post) but none of that happened. I nodded, agreed with you, and now RT. Thank you for such a level, even-handed approach to a problem that is tearing us apart.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Such important information to share, Sally. Thank you. I’ve always been a maverick and gone my own way. I’ve overcome insurmountable odds and because of that, I treat people the way I want to be treated. Just because we think differently doesn’t mean one way has to be right over another. I do hate when people push their views on others. That turns me off completely. Hugs for your sharing your thoughts. We need more honest communication. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I can’t really add to what has already been said here, Sally. Gregory remarked to me the other day that I don’t care what other people think of me, I live for myself. I do believe that is quite true and it has always been like that for me. It is hard for people to hurt you if you don’t really care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For many years I wasted time worrying what others thought.

      My dad, my mother, my sisters, my daughter, everyone.

      Then one day I woke up and all those people I’d tried for years to please were no longer in my life through their own choice, and when I began to realize why it was because no matter what I did I couldn’t please them.

      So, I gave it up. I began to try and figure out who I was, what I liked about her and what I didn’t and I began to make the appropriate changes for the first time ever in my life.

      It was terrifying and liberating all in the same breath. Now, I just have to hope I can live another 50 years so I can make up for all the time I wasted being something for everyone to approve of while not approving of myself.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you, Sally, or sharing your thought-providing comments about the freedom of religion and speech, and the balance of exercising these rights. I have good friends who are from the opposite political viewpoint than me, but we can share conversations outside the political realm that makes us laugh. In truth, we have much more in common with one another than not. We just need to find that bridge. Have a lovely day.

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  9. I have to wonder where all the hate comes from today. Has it always been there and no one noticed? Is instant communication making the hate seem more intense? I know that there is no way to have an honest discussion on issues today without someone taking offense because others do not hold their views. Are humans doomed to live solitary lives rather than face the personal insults that come if we disagree? The last election was horrific in terms of civility. I was castigated by Hillary and Trump followers for asking simple questions about each candidate’s fitness to hold office. The conversation generally boiled down to personal name calling when the person thought I was in the other camp. I now witness the same behavior from our Congress and it is appalling. The freshmen representatives act like a pack of spoiled children who have not been taught good manners. One can only wonder where we are headed. Thank you, Sally, for the intelligent presentation of the freedoms we have and the responsibilities we need to exhibit. I wish more would follow your lead.

    i

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sharing… Thanks for a post that addresses these crucial issues, Sally. Respecting others is crucial in today’s diverse world. Maintaining our personal perspectives/traditions etc. while respecting others is the best solution. Love is what it’s all about! ❤ xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You certainly have said this succinctly Sal. I particularly liked that you wrote that hate speech isn’t tolerated in the UK and people can be fined or jailed – appropriate punishment. Perhaps the US should start implementing those laws. And that Prime Minister of New Zealand is amazing! That is why we need more women in power!!! ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow! Sally this is powerful. To you and me and many others it seems like common sense to speak freely and respect others. The stress on young adults (and thus the suicide) is very sad. This week we were out to dinner with a high school senior. He spoke about how demanding it is to get into college, and how many ‘extras’ you have to do in order to be competitive. Top grades are no longer enough.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Jennie and yes it is a whole new ball-game these days.. Not that I disagree with voluntary jobs and other extra work, but it must be very stressful to do the course work and comply with the expectations to prove worthy. It cannot help to see how many of their peers have bypassed all the effort and been shoe horned in with money! xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s even worse: students who have a perfect academic record and whose parents can pay full tuition are passed over for a student who has all the bells and whistles (leader in the community, music, sports, something extraordinary like starting a group that gives blankets to homeless people…that sort of thing) and has a good but not perfect academic record – and whose parents may not be able to pay the full tuition. STRESS! Therefore students feel like they have to be ‘perfect’. Money doesn’t get you into college the way it used to. On the flip side, that’s a good thing, as it weeds out the kids who really don’t care. Sorry to ramble on, Sally!

        Liked by 1 person

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