I Do Not Agree With What You Have To Say, But I Will Defend To Death Your Right To Say It Essay | CSS 2020 Solved Essays | CSS Solved Essays | Essays by Sir Syed Kazim Ali | CSS Essays | PMS Essays | Essays by Sir Syed Kazim Ali
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The cornerstone of a peaceful life, the right to dissent, is essential today, for its absence wreaks havoc on society. It finds significance in human life’s social, administrative, and scientific domains, but if unbridled, it could cause unsurmountable damage.
2- Understanding The Statement
3- What is the Importance of the Right to Dissent?
✓ On the Societal Level
- ✓ Agreeing to Disagree Promoting Inclusiveness
Evidence – The Protestant Revolution Sparked by Martin Luther King in Germany Against the Roman Catholic Church
✓ On the Literary Level
- ✓ Literary Criticism Adding Beauty to Literature
Evidence – Johnson and Keats Bringing New Dimensions of Shakespeare’s Writings to Light
✓ On the Scientific Level
- ✓ Testing Theories Leading to Scientific Triumphs
Evidence – Galileo’s Debunking the Theory Claiming Earth as the Center of the Universe
✓ On the Political Level
- ✓ Media Voicing the Opinion of the Masses Against the Ruling Elite
Evidence – The Masses with No Right to “Call Back” Governments Using Media to Raise Voices Against the Governments’ Shortcomings
✓ On the Religious Level
- ✓ Religions Supporting the Concept of Religious Tolerance
Evidence – Islam’s Concept of “To You Is Your Deen, and to Me, Mine” Reinforcing Religious Freedom
✓ On National Level
- ✓ Nations Standing Up for The Right to Dissent
Evidence – Article 19 of Pakistan’s Constitution Guaranteeing the Freedom of Speech
✓ On the International Level
- ✓ International Organizations and Laws Protecting the Right to Free Speech
Evidence – The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Reiterating the Rights to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
4- What Happens When the Right to Dissent is Not Practiced Properly?
- ✓ Case Study of the Fall of Dhaka Due to Disagreement Over Language and Other Issues – Intolerance of Dissent
- ✓ Case Study of Execution of Socrates Due to His Promotion of Free Speech – Lack of the Right to Dissent
5- The Threat of Unbridled Freedom of Dissent – A Critical Analysis
Human beings are born free; thus, they have a birthright to freedom, be it the freedom of opinion, speech, or expression. Also known as the right to dissent, one openly expresses one’s points of view on any notion and lets others do the same. It holds immense importance, for a society cannot progress and improve if it lacks the right to dissent. Thus, it has significance in human life’s social, administrative, and scientific domains. For instance, in the early 16th century, Martin Luther, using his freedom of expression, nailed his famous 95 objections against Catholicism to the Roman Church door – seeding what became the famous Protestant Revolution. Moreover, the world of science has seen numerous discoveries and development of laws owing to the freedom to disagree with theories in the scientific method. Not only is this right to disagree prevalent in several sectors of human life, but it also finds reinforcement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), giving it strength on the global level as well. On the contrary, where a lack of such freedom has made humanity suffer the loss of intellectuals like Socrates, this freedom can destroy the very concept of human rights and duties if left unchecked. Thus, there is a need to strike the perfect balance regarding the right to dissent. This essay explores various dimensions where the freedom of expression finds worth and also alludes to the implications that the absence or extreme use of this right could bring.
“If we do not believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we do not believe in it at all.”Noam Chomsky, Philosopher and Social Critic
Quoted first by the philosopher Voltaire, the statement finds its gist in the phrase: the right to dissent. Simply put, it means that one holds the freedom of expression, verbally or physically, to agree or disagree with any notion. Moreover, another critical factor is that one also allows others the freedom of expression, even if it goes against one’s beliefs. Beyond mere permission, one must also protect and defend others’ freedom of expression. The statement’s importance has been manifested in human history since the early ages, and the following paragraphs shed light on a few noteworthy examples.
The history of the right to free speech goes back to ancient Rome, where the emphasis was laid on inclusiveness by promoting the idea of respecting differences in opinions. Only if a society pledges to respect differences of opinion can it collectively make progress. For instance, Martin Luther King, a German priest against some tenets of the Catholic school of thought, rose in protest against the Roman Catholic Church. He pinned his famous 95 theses against Catholic beliefs and practices on the door of the Castle Church. This step of a single man instilled such huge fury that people started following him by the millions, and eventually, it became a societal movement leading to the Protestant Revolution. Thus, a person’s practice of openly showing his disagreement brought about such a change that modified one of the biggest religions in the world and made it more inclusive and respectful towards differences.
Societies are shaped by their literature, and literature, in turn, is polished by literary critique. Specifically, renowned writers, poets, novelists, and playwrights have openly criticized the works of earlier writers or even their contemporaries. This literary criticism adds beauty to literature and opens new horizons to thinking. For instance, Samuel Johnson and John Keats, two celebrated writers, criticized Shakespeare’s works and brought to light new dimensions of his plays. According to them, although lacking moral lessons, Shakespeare’s writings revolve around unique characters that are neither heroes nor saints; instead, the playwright has depicted life as it is. Thus, rather than finding a moral in his plays, they should be read to understand nature and reality. Hence, being opinionated in literature helps improve works of literature.
A peek into the world of science reveals that the whole scientific edifice stands on mere disagreements of scientists. The scientific method, the very basis of any discovery, theory, or law, is composed of several steps where each step allows researchers to refute the previously held notion with the help of experiments. It has proven crucial in the development of new scientific theories and inventions. To illustrate, early human beings used to consider the earth the Centre of the universe, around which the sun revolved. However, Galileo Galilei – a famous astronomer and inventor – debunked this theory and proved that the sun is the Centre, and the earth revolves around it. Hence, the right to dissent has allowed for scientific achievements.
“Science must begin with myths and with the criticism of myths.”Karl Popper, Philosopher
Next to natural sciences, the ambit of political science also finds its roots in the freedom of expression, especially regarding democracy. The right to free speech is one of the tenets of democracy, and in a modern polity, the media acts as the mouthpiece for people’s opinions. It gives a channel to people for voicing their points of view about the ruling elite, both for and against them, as there is no procedure for “calling back” a government once it is sworn in. Therefore, criticism of faulty government policies keeps the ruling parties in check and makes them work on their shortcomings. Thus, the right to free speech is the cornerstone of democracy.
The spiritual realm, the area of religion, is also not devoid of this right. Instead, it fully supports the concept of asking questions and openly allowing the practice of other religions. It is known as religious tolerance; Islam is also a proponent of this idea. The Holy Quran vividly states, “To you is your Deen, and to me, mine”. It means that the use of force is prohibited in the religion of peace. Thus, it is proved that freedom of expression is also given due importance on the religious level.
The importance of freedom of expression is also evident because nations provide it legal backing. Countries worldwide stand up to give their people the right to dissent so that they can reap all the benefits mentioned earlier. For example, article 19 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech to the country’s inhabitants but with certain limitations for protecting national integrity and sovereignty. Thus, freedom of expression holds great importance on the national level.
Extrapolating the support freedom of expression gets on the national level; international organizations also protect the right through international law. It is evident from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that it reiterates the right to freedom of opinion and expression. According to it, everybody holds the right to receive and disseminate information through any means. It shows how much regard the international community gives to the birthright of human beings to speak out loud for what they stand for.
Now that the significance of the right to dissent has been clarified, one must also view what the absence of this right could impose. A case in point is that of the separation of the Eastern wing of Pakistan back in 1971. At that time, there was a huge disparity between the two wings of the country on political, economic, educational, and, above all, linguistic basis. However, none of the problems would have resulted in such severe outcomes as intolerance did. When people of the two arms of the country failed to accept differences and give each other space for disagreement, Pakistan witnessed the horrible incident of the Fall of Dhaka. Thus, the lack of the right to dissent results in horrible circumstances.
Where mere intolerance has brought such devastation, humanity’s total lack of the right to dissent has also witnessed havoc. In ancient Greece, Socrates, one of the most prominent philosophers, used to teach youngsters through his dialectic method. He always appreciated it when his students came up with disagreeing stances because this is how they used to progress in intellect. Nevertheless, the era was not one where this nature of discussions was appreciated. The people of Greece grew worried that Socrates was spoiling their kids, and eventually, the wisest man on earth, as Plato called him, was executed. Hence, the lack of the right to expression made the world lose a great philosopher and teacher.
The arguments above clearly state how important the right to free speech is. However, what might happen if this freedom were allowed unbridled and uncontrolled remains? First, if the freedom to say or act as one wishes is not bound to limits, and people are allowed to speak and act as they will, countries’ integrity would be put at risk, national security would be questioned, and high treason would become standard. Second, if none of the people’s actions is questioned, anyone could kill anyone else anytime, ending the concept of fundamental human rights. This further elaborates how crucial it is to limit freedom of speech, and this is why every document of law mentioning this right makes a special remark regarding its limitations. Hence, only a careful balance makes the right to free speech a blessing for humanity.
“Freedom of speech should be wide open as long as it does not incite violence.”Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States of America
In a nutshell, Voltaire’s statement, “I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it”, holds immense importance in various sectors of human life. In the political realm, it allows for the prevalence of democracy; in the social realm, it keeps a check on inclusiveness; in the field of literature, it enriches prose and poems; and in the ambit of religion, it helps promote tolerance – all while being supported legally on national and international forums. Contrarily, a lack or deficiency in practising this right has turned men against men and wreaked havoc on society, as evident by the historical separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, if this very right is given a free hand, it has the potential to make humanity suffer acutely by erasing the idea of human rights to life, liberty, and property. Hence, freedom of expression is a birthright and blessing for humanity if practised carefully.
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