“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” – Thumper the Rabbit
When I was growing up this was one of the key quotes that my parents taught me. Always be kind, polite and considerate to people and they will do the same to you. It always confused and upset me, therefore, that the bullies in my school seemed to be able to say whatever they wanted and never got in any real trouble. My mum would tell me it was because they were being mean and that I was the much better person for not rising to it.
20+ years later the same rules still apply yet the same types of people break them on a daily basis.
Freedom of speech is an amazing thing. It means that people can stand up for what they believe in, for a cause they feel strongly about and for themselves in general. However, freedom of speech comes with consequences for those that abuse it and turn it into a weapon to be used against others. This has always been happening but now, thanks to social media tearing away geographical barriers, it appears to be much more widespread and aggressive that it ever has been before.
Now instead of children being afraid to go to school because of the mean kid that sits behind them in class, people are afraid of nameless, faceless people on the internet hurling abuse from other continents under the guise of free speech.
People died so that everyone regardless of gender, colour, race or religion could speak freely for themselves. They did not die just so some cyber bully can call someone the most awful racially/sexually motivated names and expect the other person to take it because they are using their “right to free speech”. We should be more civilized than that!
If everyone would simply engage a mental filter before they speak out the would would be a happier place. Find more constructive ways of rallying against oppression or to sound out your beliefs. Instead of hurling insults engage in a debate with your verbal counterpart and maybe, just maybe, you will both learn something.
Everyone has their own demons they need to deal with, some are routed in cultural history, some are more recent and personal, but everyone has them. Everyone has something they get upset about, feel strongly about or wish they could change. Likewise everyone has small accomplishments and victories that they want to jump up and down about to celebrate. There has to be ways of getting what you want to say across without being intentionally aggressive, smug or just plain rude.