The Importance of Freedom

The right to freedom of speech is a core value in the Western World. I am sure that for most Danes it is essential for their wellbeing to be free to express opinions and feelings without legal restrictions. The basic freedom rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly have been part of Danish society since the 19th century. Freedom of speech is such an integrated part of Danish society that a lot of people take it for granted and use it without much consideration.

Freedom of Speech

In my opinion we need these freedom rights because the world is not perfect. For us to live together we need to think and talk to one another. We need all possible voices in the debates so that we can make an educated choice about our own stance in life. Therefore we need people who dare to bring problems up for discussion. We need Malala speaking up for female education, Kailash Satyarthi acting against child labour, women driving through Riyadh in protest, people speaking up against all kinds of extremists and crazy ideologies and so on and so on.

Use and abuse

It is my impression that nowadays many Danes are afraid of losing their freedom rights. It is obvious that in other parts of this globalized world people are restricted in uttering their opinions and beliefs. In fact, just in our neighbouring country, Sweden, the freedom rights have recently been threatened. This summer, a man was sentenced to prison in Sweden because of some “art” that he had made. His works were deemed racist. His “art” was stupid in my opinion; it was as unnecessarily provocative as the man himself. However, sentencing a person to prison for expressing himself in pictures seems unfair. Some Danes felt so strongly about this, that they decided to exhibit the works of this artist in Denmark. It turned out to be difficult to find a location for the display because of threats and harassment. In the end the parliament building in Copenhagen was the most secure building in which to make an exhibition, and therefore the pictures were exhibited at the very power center of Danish political life. I found that completely senseless, because these works, in my opinion, deserved to be ignored. It was of course the artist’s right to make the pictures and try to get them on display, but when his works were exhibited center stage, I felt that they were being forced on me. Now the works are displayed elsewhere, and I have stopped caring. The Swedish artist is for me an example of how easily the freedom rights can be abused. It is easy to abuse freedom of speech and say something out of ignorance, only to provoke and offend other people.

Speak wisely and speak up

The famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said that: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Thereby he meant that people often speak before they think. Thinking and speaking should of course go hand in hand. A project like LIU can probably help people think once more before uttering too generalized opinions about other people. Via LIU, we participants have meet people who in many respects are different from ourselves because of different religions and cultures. In my own case it means that I now know some of the people that we are talking about when discussing for instance the conflicts in the Middle East.

In the end I have to praise the basic freedom rights. I criticize people who abuse them, but I would any day prefer to hear or see a stupid opinion uttered in the public sphere than knowing that somewhere someone was forced to keep silent about the truth.

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