Free Speech

We live in an overcommunicated world. Good etiquette insists we reply to all text messages within 10 minutes, be mindful of the mountain of emails building up in our inbox, and unfailingly return all ‘missed calls’ on our phones. Don’t forget to regularly post something witty on Facebook, follow your best friends on twitter and utilise all the free airtime minutes on your contract! It is, after all, good to talk. But what is the net result of this web of exchange? Does it bring a greater sense of relationship and community? Is it a case of more connected, but further apart?

Silence, it’s said, is the art of conversation. We often struggle with a quiet moment. When it does arise, most will instinctively grab their phone in a drastic attempt to engage their mind. To see someone sitting and doing absolutely nothing is rare! Even more unusual is to be with another person and not say anything. It feels awkward and uneasy. Yet silence is imperative – it forces us to understand, assimilate, reflect and think deeply about what is actually going on. Often times, however, in order to frantically fill those redundant moments we often end up generating substandard content to share with the world: meaningless, speculative and shoddy communication.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely room for chitchat, niceties, and light-hearted exchange between humans. It would be unnatural to jump to the other extreme of strictly regulating our every word. The Bhagavad-gita, however, offers the over-arching model to guide speech. Words, Krishna recommends, should be truthful, pleasing and beneficial. How much of our written and verbal communication would make it through this filter? Along with freedom of speech, it may be worthwhile to remind people of their longstanding right to freedom of thought.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something” (Plato)

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