Last year, when Amos Yee first became infamous, due to his comments against LKY and Christianity, public opinion was pretty much split. Many thought that his actions cannot be condoned and that he deserved to be punished by law. On contrast, there were many advocates of freedom of speech who thought he was entitled to express his opinions and that he was a smart, articulate young man who brought up many valid arguments.
A year on, today, he posted this on Facebook. This picture was then followed by a picture of him attempting to do prayers in the mosque, and claiming that he wasn’t quite fitting in.
Is this OK? Is this freedom of speech? Forget Amos Yee. I am appalled by the people who condone this behavior, and think that it is OK, simply because everyone should be allowed to say whatever it is they want, regardless of the defamatory nature of the content. What kind of a society are we creating for our children, where we seek to blindly emulate the western ideals of freedom of speech, without any limitations.
Over the decades, we have been inspired by individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Benazir Bhutto, Aung San Suu Kyi, and many others, who have fought for various forms of freedom, be it in terms of freedom of speech, freedom from slavery, freedom from oppressive political systems and freedom from racial discrimination.
When will people realize that the struggle for freedom of speech did not happen just so that it can be used by imbeciles to justify their utter lack of ability to process their thoughts, and to rationalize racist, homophobic, xenophobic, downright offensive views.
It is not a means to an end. Freedom of speech exists to protects individuals from corrupt and oppressive governments, ensures their basic civil liberties as a citizen of a country, and safeguards their basic human right to safety and security. It allows for constructive debate, and serves to support democracy. Even America has deemed it necessary to curtail freedom in areas where they perceive a risk to national security. Why do we insist on absolute freedom of speech with no regard to the intention behind said speech?
By allowing someone to make racist remarks, or insensitive remarks about one’s religion, we are allowing that very same freedom of speech to allow society to regress back into a state of anarchy and disorder. Just as you claim you have the right to say whatever you want about my race or religion, I have the right to get offended and to react. In the midst of everyone ensuring that they have access to this freedom of speech, who is going to protect my right to living in a society that is free from strife brought about by this hate speech?
Everyone who claims that Amos Yee is right, and that he deserves the freedom to do or say whatever he wants, think about this.
Is this how you intend to educate your children in the future? When you teach them to express their opinions, are you going to tell them it is OK to, in the process, insult entire racial and religious groups? Are you going to tell your children that it is OK to be irresponsible in speech, because it is all about them and their views, and not about the thoughts and feelings of their fellow country men?
If your answer to any of this is yes, then good luck to you. Because your children will grow up in a world where you cannot expect anyone to give a damn about their thoughts, feelings, emotions, safety and security. They will grow up in a world where having the ability to shoot off their mouths will be more important than having a heart and values. They will grow up in a world where racist, oppressive fools will rule countries, because everyone would have been taught to do or say whatever they want, regardless.