I understand that I can be quite controversial. I’m sure that there have been numerous instances where people who don’t know me assume I’m cold-hearted and feelingless. Now, for all I know this could be a huge generalisation, but from my (limited 16 years of) experience, the first thing that people tend to do when hearing an opposing opinion to theirs is assume the worst about the holder of that opinion. The first thing to pop into someone’s mind is not the morality of that belief, but that the person holding it is inherently a bad person. I’ve explained this quite badly so here’s an example to illustrate what I mean: last week we were speaking about deontology (ethical theories that place special emphasis on the relationship between duty and the morality of human actions) in one of our lessons, and the teacher raised an interesting point about the law. To this, I responded with my opinion – that the law should treat everyone the same no matter their background. I was met with a strangled gasp from the back of the room. ‘How could you possibly think that?’, an appalled student said. This immediate judgment, unsurprisingly, made me extremely upset. Why should someone make me feel guilty about my opinion? Aren’t I as justified as her to have one?
This is the main problem I have with modern day society. The failure to recognise an opinion. In an online fight I got into last month, I was called an ‘uneducated, racist sexist’. I don’t understand the notion to condemn someone’s personality due to what they believe in. Opinions are powerful – they make the world a more diverse and exciting place. I love discussing topics with people who have different beliefs than I do, and often those people are some of my best friends. I take a great sense of joy knowing I have thought about their perspective as I know that they have thought about mine. Different beliefs are a key ingredient for the colourful and vibrant world that we live in – I don’t know why there is a stigma to silence those who are deemed ‘offensive’.
I support the right to freedom of speech – even when that speech is deeply offensive. On the surface, this sounds pretty outrageous, but let me explain. Every single person on this Earth has the right to be heard. I don’t care what they are saying, I care that they are given the opportunity to say it. Yes, I one hundred percent agree that we should not encourage hate speech, and would argue that instead of silencing critics, we should instead debate with them and try to break their argument through power of ours. Personally, if someone has a different opinion than mine, I will gladly argue with them to try and change their mind. To silence someone is to almost definitely imply their argument is too strong for yours. If you so deeply believe that your opinion is right, I urge you to debate and speak out. Otherwise, you are merely oppressing and, to an extent, accepting those opposing views.
Political correctness is something that we hear on the news all the time. I watch videos imploring me to stop saying certain words or stop wearing certain mundane accessories – all in the name of political correctness. When I research the top universities in the world, I find them advertising their ‘safe spaces’ and ‘politically correct’ curriculums. Why? Why are the institutions and new sites which are meant to broaden our horizons and open our minds limiting them? The strive for political correctness limits freedom of speech. When deciding whether or not to promote my last article on Facebook, I was told that if my article could ‘offend someone’, I shouldn’t post it. Honestly, I was shocked. People offend me all the time – but I respect opinions, especially when packed up with judgements and facts. But is it only me that feels this way? Why aren’t my views socially acceptable because they are not deemed ‘politically correct’? Don’t I have the right to say and express them as much as everyone else?
Honestly, I’m nervous for university. I know that my opinions (which I’d like to believe are backed up with evidence and facts) may be different to others, and although I’m not afraid to debate them with anyone, I am afraid to be judged and condemned as a bad person for them. But here’s what I’m not afraid about. I’m not afraid to express my beliefs, even if they are different, even if they are politically incorrect. By me doing so, I am taking advantage of one of my most important human rights. Freedom of speech is something that our ancestors fought for. People are still fighting for the chance to speak out and express themselves freely. And I’ll be damned if I allow myself to be silenced in order to keep within the social norm.
What I am ultimately trying to say is this: don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you disagree with something, speak out against it. It’s your right.
P.S. If you disagree with this, drop me a comment – I’d love to have a debate with you!