On freedom (of speech)

Do not fret! As always, this post will not assume a political, but rather a socio-philosophical character. Allow me to explain better. Another way to sum up the content of what will follow would be ‘on pretending.’ Although I would like to reside on Cloud no. 9 (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) I -like it or not- live here on earth, in this great 21st-century society. I’m afraid at this point, I must make absolutely clear that I am being sarcastic, a little cynical even. So, western-world, 21st-century, Europe. I’ve been thinking about this subject for quite some time, but I was reluctant to even bring it up, fearing that it might be too much of a cliche or even too self-explanatory and not worth going into. But what the heck, I’ll give it a try and we’ll see how it goes.

So there are two things that come to mind right now: first, the movie ‘The Invention of Lying,’ and the second, the series ‘Mad Men’, which I just started watching a few days ago, and by which I was more than pleasantly surprised…I was ecstatic! But let’s take things one at a time. So in this movie we have a world that has never created, conceived of, or as the title suggests, invented the art of lying, or, as we call it, our everyday lives. Just imagine! When I first watched it, although being aware of the premise, I was still very much surprised by the overwhelming effect the simple truth may have on our reality. Basically, it’s like everyone can actually hear everyone’s thoughts, because they do not stay inside our head, but are said…out loud…to our face. But does an inability to lie presuppose a lack of shame? Who says that not lying means verbally expressing every single thought? Can’t we simply withhold some…inappropriate information? Is withholding characterized by an intentional deception on our part? Essentially, are you lying when you are not telling the truth? Let’s ask Nietzsche. (I kid, I kid!)

But I’ve strayed too far. Please take one moment and consider the ridiculously high number of little white lies we tell every day, in the 18 hours we are awake (give or take). …need more time? Thought so. Our society is defined and actually based on the following premise: when in doubt, lie. But, why? Well, it saves time, pain, and most importantly, misunderstandings. Take this simple example: A colleague brings a cake they made at home, they offer you some and then ask you, ‘did you like it?’ Whether you liked it or not is irrelevant. You had better say yes, unless you want to hurt their feelings, or guarantee funny suspicious looks from that point on. We are inescapably locked within an invisible (or rather, a supposedly transparent) cell of our own making. Tragic, right?

I realize that some of my points here may sound familiar, having dealt with some of them in an earlier post; but I cannot escape that, as it is an issue with which I ‘struggle’ daily. It buffles me, truly. I somewhat understand, but have a difficulty in accepting someone’s decision to lie to themselves.

Okay, I’m doing it again I know! I realize of course that many, if not most, of the white lies we tell are actually necessary. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy and pretentious bull**** we, or at least I, deal with on a daily basis is starting to take its toll, and I’m sick of it!

At this point you might ask why I was thinking of Mad Men before. Well, this is a story that takes place in the 1960s, a time many thought was purer, more discreet, less…shameless? I think that is also a nostalgic piece of you-know-what created by some to eccentuate the moral superiority of another time and pretentiously exclaim that the world we live in is the worst it’s ever been… but isn’t that what always happens? I have even caught myself thinking that children were more innocent when I went to school, and maybe it’s true but the fact doesn’t change, and the fact is that society has and will always have the good the bad the corrupt the too good and the victims. The only thing that changes is that now, because of the free, constant and open information channel (be it the internet, television, the internet) we are all too aware of…well, everything! Therefore, the difference lies in the ‘problem’ that we cannot ignore or deny it anymore because it’s right in our face, wherever we turn.

The world hasn’t changed, and neither have the people that reside within it. What has changed is the ease with which we can now know how much it hasn’t!

Having said that, I’m not sure to what extent the truth would ‘set us free’ as the saying goes, but at the same time (going back to my title), I am also skeptical regarding the supposed freedom of speech we have gained over the centuries, presupposing that this speech has something to do with the truth. I actually think the opposite has happened, and the freedom we so nonchalantly refer to means being able to say whatever the heck we want; and because of this endless orgy of opinions will inevitably go viral at some point, at the end of the day, we are either taken too seriously, or not seriously enough. Am I making any sense? In my mind, I am. 

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