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Free Speech, Opinions and Ignorance. Where to Draw the Line?

No freedom is ever unlimited, to really work freedom has to have a boundary: respect for others

Detail from "The End of Liberty", work by Flavio Bragaloni.

With the right of free speech comes the duty of taking responsibility for what is said. The fact that we are free to express our own opinions doesn’t make these automatically right and true. In fact, what is an opinion? We all have the same rights and you can’t discriminate against an individual or a whole category of individuals on the basis of sex, religion, social class, disability or the color of their skin. The human being originated from primates (a gorilla’s evolution to be precise) between 7 and 5.8 million years ago and you know where? In Africa.

Such inconsistency in the world! After centuries and centuries of social achievements — and just the fact that freedoms have to be conquered reveals how small-minded and mean the human being is – there are still some who spew words like “rights” and “freedom” but with the strong conviction that they don’t apply to entire categories of people identified with discriminating labels: black, foreigner, Muslim, gay, trans, women, drug addict, poor.

They say ignorance is the root of all evil: if you don’t know  you don’t understand and if you don’t understand you tend to reject what you consider a threat to yourself. It is safe to say that, apart from few exceptions (like uneducated people who still have the humility to acknowledge their lack and the ambition to rise above it), ignorance generates stupidity and viciousness. The former prevents us from understanding even when the discrimination and the consequent injustices are being explained; the latter generates the real danger, the attack, the aggression, the violence and even death.

Even during these days of justified protests we still witness episodes of excessive brutality committed by the police towards peaceful protesters, as further evidence that it is still necessary to keep pouring into the streets. And obviously Trump is also strongly criticized for his political views, his statements, his actions and reactions. But beyond Trump and the police there is them, the free people, those who see a model, an example in leaders like Trump; those who stand next to us in the everyday life, those who step into the voting booth and vote according to their racist criteria. And even if it’s true that Trump completely lacks the diplomacy that a politician should observe and always comes up with embarrassing statements,  due both to intellectual and extremist contents, it is also true that he has never dared to say the kinds of things that his followers constantly vomit on the internet and social media.

The web is loaded with shameful videos of fanatic republicans that congratulate their leader and that, in the name of their MAGA motto, publish comments such as:

I don’t get why Negros complain… We gave you freedom, you dumb ungrateful pieces of shit… you made us regret abolishing slavery… For every burning flag let’s burn a negro… Go back to where you come from, this is America… It’s not true that black lives matter as much as white ones, I don’t give a shit about black lives… Of course whites are superior”.

They remind me so much of the Italians that today yell “we should re-open the ovens” (meaning the Nazi crematoriums).

“Liberty killed”: by Flavio Bragaloni

The American Constitution of 1878 and the Italian one of 1947 both protect freedom of speech, a fundamental right in all democratic systems because without it you can’t actually have democracy. Our Italian constitution, art.21 says:

“All have the right to freely express their thoughts through speech, writing and every other means of circulation”.

The first amendment of the American Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”.

But this freedom is constantly misinterpreted and abused because two crucial aspects to apply it in a true democratic way are often neglected. The first one is that no freedom is unlimited; to really work freedom has to have a boundary: respect for others.

And here’s the limit to free speech: you can’t discriminate, because from the U.K.’s Declaration of Independence of 1689, to the U.S.’s Declaration of Independence of 1776, to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 – that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 – and to the constitutions of all democratic countries, “we are all equal, we all have equal rights and you can’t discriminate against an individual or a whole category of individuals on the basis of sex, religion, social class, disability or the color of their skin”.

The second aspect that is always forgotten is that with the right of free speech comes the responsibility for what is said. The fact that we are free to express our own opinions doesn’t make them automatically right and true. In fact, what is an opinion?

According to the Collins dictionary an opinion is: “A belief not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on what seems true, valid probable to one’s own mind”.

Basically, if your opinion concerns a recognized fact, set forth by constitutions, laws, certifications or science, and you take the liberty of distorting it as you please, then yours is no longer an opinion but a lie, a bias or even a crime; its value is annulled and it becomes a moral duty to criticize, confute, deny and cancel it.

The laws that ratify the limit and the responsibility that goes with the right of free speech exist (in Italy we have art.2 of the Mancino law, art.5 of the Scelba law against fascist expressions; in USA there is the Hate Crime based on bias); it’s unfortunate that they are persistently broken by a systematic lack of control and punishment over them, and I keep wondering why that happens. Why is it allowed to say, with no consequences whatsoever, that Nazi ovens should be opened again and that Negros are monkeys that should go back to the jungle?

This last sentence, that I hear more often than I’d like to – and not only here in America where racism has been the foundation of the country but also by parties like Lega and Fratelli d’Italia in Italy, a country that thanks to its history of conquering and being conquered has always been exposed to a wider view – is what inspired this article because it is one of the most compelling proofs of ignorance that the mind can conceive. We should all be carrying around heavy books of history, science and biology so as to  somehow instill that knowledge into the brains of functional illiterates.

Le me remind all the white supremacists that dare to diminish the value of BLM’s movement and their message by saying that ridiculous sentence, “All Lives Matter” (further proof of analytic inability) of some irrefutable facts.

A scene from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Despite the fact that every religious belief attributes the birth of the human species to a God, one that may vary in shape, number and color over the course of humanity’s history, the human being originated from primates (a gorilla’s evolution to be precise) between 7 and 5.8 million years ago, and do you know where? In Africa. Four million years ago the appearance of the Australopithecus in the Savannah; 3.2 million years ago the hominid Lucy in Ethiopia; 2.9 million years ago the split into two separate lineages: hominids in Ethiopia and Tanzania and the African Australopithecus; 2.1 million years ago the Homo Habilis evolved, still in Africa; between 1.8 and 1,5 million years ago the Homo became Erectus and he appeared in Asia (but only because he moved from Africa); 500 million years ago the Neanderthals appeared and 200 million years ago evolution made us Homo Sapiens in Africa, Ethiopia.

This is a simplified representation; if you want to educate yourself more thoroughly you  will find many more steps and details, but the conclusion will still be the same: the human race, which is one and one only, after losing the excess hair through its evolution, bore a very, very dark epidermis; the free flow of movement around the earth and the necessary adaptation to its varied climates, has led through millennia, to the many shades of skin color that we see today—enough to make a color chart envious.

When white racists call black people “monkeys” we know that their intentions are to humiliate and discriminate and they often achieve that result, but the truth is that they are proving how ignorant and obtuse they are by not considering that they too are monkeys, furthermore discolored compared to the original.

Africa is the country of origin of human beings and it’s also been the most looted in the world by white people that occupied and devastated it and deprived it of its economic and human resources. Europeans colonized it, the Americans (that just as a reminder, were Europeans that massacred the natives to take their lands) directly collected their workforce and enslaved it through torture, violence, rape, oppression and all kinds of abuses towards men, women and children for centuries and centuries and centuries (more than 4 to be precise). If white Americans had been subjected to a quarter of what black people have gone through they would already be going around shooting with the guns protected by their second amendment. The words that an African-American girl said in a video are impressed on my mind: “You should thank God that we’re looking for equality and not revenge”.

So, next time you hear a white American saying to an African-American “go back to your home, you monkey” tell them, “and you primate, which tribe of Native Americans exterminated by Europeans do you come from?”

 

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