2/27/2007

american version of freedom of expression

The ex chairman of Paramount Pictures was given an Oscar for her contribution to the film industry. In her acceptance speech she said that in America they honoured freedom of expression. People are encouraged to express their views and people need not have to agree. There can be disagreements. But that contributes to what America is today, innovative, creative, progressive and full of adventure and opportunities. America is the leading nation in practically all fields of human endeavours. We are talking about vibrancy. Can we be like America where people will come forward and express themselves freely without fear? But looking at how Singaporeans justify our special circumstances and be proud to say that this is what we should do with respect to freedom of expression, we can never be near to where America is today. We have to allow our people to feel free to express their views and ideas. Disagreements and contrary views are not necessarily anti govt or anti establishment. And we have all the laws to prevent excesses or defamation. I have seen an American putting on a mask of Bush and asking people to kick his arse on the street. Can we do that? Yes we can, as long as the mask is of Bush. Or to be safe, the mask of say some Kim Jong something. This is the freedom that American is unique and respected.

5 comments:

Matilah_Singapura said...

The idea of freedom of expression is only a "sub-set" of the broad ideas of FREEDOM and LIBERTY, and there are many such sub-sets, for e.g. economic freedom, freedom from fear (threats), freedom of association etc.

These begin at the individual level, not the societal level, and if you look at European history in general and American history in particular you will discover that freedom and liberty have never been free — they were and continue to be paid for in human blood.

At the base of freedom is the foundation, and this foundation are Individual and Private Property rights. In the west, these were the consequence of the reformation of the Christian Church — i.e. there is a historical religious precedent for these ideas, namely that God created Man in His image, gave Man freewill to make choices. This forms the basis for Individual Rights. The belief that God created the earth and gave the gift to Man to have total dominion over the earth forms the basis for Private Property Rights. These ideas were further developed during the Renaissance — IMO the "Golden Age" of classical liberty.

There is no such thing as "freedom" without responsibility and constant vigilance — these are the "basic costs" which have to paid up front by each and every individual, in a general framework that can be summed up as justice and the rule of law.

Singapore and almost all the countries in the region are essentially collectivist societies with deep roots in socialism.

I don't think S'poreans are quite ready for "free society" — too many people still complain about their fellow S'poreans who want freedom, so much so that the govt is at odds with trying to be all things to all people.

I believe this is why the govt has opened the doors and is pro-actively encourage foreigners, especially westerners from free societies to become "new Singaporeans".

The people don't just get the govt they deserve, they also get the society they deserve.

redbean said...

this is a major blood transfusion, changing all the old blood with new blood.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Also, it is important to note that liberty and freedom rests on a strong moral foundation in western culture — that God created Man who chose to be "free to choose" (The Garden of Eden) — despite being "flawed" in a sense that Man is not omniscient and therefore will inevitably make "bad choices" due to imperfect knowledge, emotions, and a consciousness (free will) which must be developed.

Unfortunately in the collectivist Asian societies the idea of freedom is treated with much skepticism. Having individual freedom, it is thought, causes individuals to behave selfishly.

This is not a problem in western thought because of freewill, and the acceptance than a free consciousness will always behave selfishly to "maximise utility" for the owner of that consciousness. Therefore it is up to the individual to govern himself and his actions — which are interactions with his environment and other sentient beings.

Unfortunately the west, generally speaking has lost the plot, and western society is declining because over generations the idea of personal responsibility as a requirement for freedom has waned.

The merging economies of Asia and the rest of the non-western world have an opportunity to (re) discover ideas of freedom and liberty in this new age.

redbean said...

empires or prosperity of countries will swing up and down.

Matilah_Singapura said...

True, the nature of the market swings with the whimsical needs and desires of consumer demand — and we all are both consumers (with selfish desires, wants and needs) and producers (creators of things to satisfy our own as well as others selfish desires, wants and needs).

In that way, we are inexorably tied to each other, and to the extent that we — on the individual level — behave rationally or irrationally, we make our world — i.e. we generate our own experience of "reality".

The market is incredibly democratic — infinitely more so than any "political process". The market is also expressed in a spontaneous order which means it will behave according to the unswerving Laws Of Nature, and disregard any "opinion" of individuals or groups.

The causal universe is benevolent to those who adhere to its laws, and respects its nature. The causal universe causes intense suffering to those who break its laws — and that's where the entertainment begins. :)