I Disapprove Of What You Say, But I Will Defend To Death Your Right to Say it
It is a harsh and pitiable reality that no matter how much we advocate freedom of speech in grand debates and social media networks, nobody actually allows another person to speak freely. We do not allow another person to judge, or hold opinions that may be contrary to our own. The minute we find someone’s opinion conflicting with our own, we jump on the very first opportunity to prove them wrong. Even if we try to make them understand our point of view politely, we give up in the end thinking that the other person is a fool and will never understand. But never do we hold respect and tolerance in our minds for the other person’s opinion. Never do we actually think, that they are entitled to think in that manner.
What is it that gives us the right to believe that our opinion is based on a lot more information and facts than another person can possibly know, and that the facts that we are aware of, are truly genuine as compared to other people, who merely assume facts, or their facts are based on rumors. What makes us decide that our version is the best? Common sense is one thing, but who is there to prove that your makes sense? Because if the common sense was so common, wouldn’t everyone have it, and resultantly, wouldn’t a common number of people be thinking in a similar manner? Why then, would the difference of opinion arise in the first place?
We spend our lives determining whose opinion or information is more authentic. It may be an intrinsic need of a human to always be right, to not want to face failure, and to never be proven wrong. But in our need to save our self-respect, we compromise others’. We do not understand where the other person is coming from, we do not want to make that comprehension, lest that should disturb our own values, or God forbid, we may have to change our own beliefs.
In our struggle to look down upon other people’s opinions, or upon their right to say something that they believe in, we often forget what our actions might lead to. We do not understand that small arguments one day, can become the basis of a bigger fight the next day. Relationships get strained due to such discrepancies, friends are driven to verbal and physical assaults and mere strangers can become enemies. And we do nothing to avoid such situations. In fact, we welcome them in our lives, perhaps to prove just how tough we really are.
It is high time we step off our horses of self-centered vanity and focus on what is the need of humanity: acceptance. Acceptance of people, their beliefs and their existence. A lot of our issues can be resolved if we only start practicing acceptance and tolerance in our day-to-day interactions. So what if the other person thinks of a situation differently? So what if another person has a different way of determining a solution? They were brought up to think in a particular manner, and they may have their own genuine reasons to be right as well. What we have to learn to do is acknowledge their point of view, and to know that what they are saying, they have as much of a right to say it as we do. Everyone has a right to voice their opinion. Everyone has a right to be listened to. Why can we not let them speak their ideas?
One small act goes a long way. If you defend a person’s personal opinion, no matter how much you disapprove of it, you will be defended likewise. We need, however, to be able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong in its entirety. We have to know that what we are defending is not what the other person says, but their right to say it. Let us defend each other’s right to say what they want to say. Let us allow each and every voice to be heard, and maybe then this nation will come out of the clutches of differences that govern the thinking of its people, as well as their whole lives.