Freedom without boundaries is chaos.

Freedom of Speech (preliminary version)
Freedom of Speech (preliminary version) (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Freedom is the hallmark of a civilised society and so is mutual respect! Free speech is not a permission to indulge in defamation or libel. Why am I writing a post on the freedom of speech? I had written a post earlier on free speech https://antoniarapheal.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/free-speech-or-just-an-excuse-to-be-insensitive/

And I came across very interesting comments. Many held the opinion that reprimanding commentators, writers etc. to be more sensitive and curtail their insults or jokes that satirize individuals by drawing inferences to the disabled was a hindrance to free speech! Although thoroughly upset with the behaviour they still defended it in the name of free speech.

This post is to illuminate my well-intentioned fellow bloggers (no, I did not want to argue on a discussion forum) on the basic tenets of free speech. In the wise words of a great thinker (if memory serves me right its Abraham Lincoln but Google doesn’t support my notion), “You are free to say whatever you like but not in any manner you like!”

Freedom is indeed precious and the birth right of every individual, as is the right to a person’s emotional and mental well-being, in simple terms no one has the right to poke fun at you because you are different in the name of free speech. While I am not calling on a crack down on name calling, what I am trying to highlight is, when did we as a society begin to shy away from our moral responsibility to defend the oppressed and abused? Which school of thought has brainwashed us into believing that people have every right to deride and joke at the less fortunate or different all in name of free speech and those derided have no rights to respect and equality?

When did the right to an opinion get distorted into the right to abuse and discriminate? It is not a right but an offence and it saddens me that in today’s age we have evolved to such a tolerant degree that we have incorporated an offence as a basic human right. What’s next? Declaring schoolyard bullying as the right to freedom of expression? For those still in doubt here is the multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that covers Freedom of speech:

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals.

Yes, the right to freedom of speech carries with it responsibilities, to be mindful of the right of an individual to mutual respect. Power without control is useless and freedom without boundaries is chaos.

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Meditation, or is it just me?

meditation

This musing is a reaction to an article about another blogger’s journey with vipasana mediation. 10 days of doing nothing but sitting 12 hours straight, in an attempt to still one’s mind. As a blogger and writer the whole purpose of stilling one’s mind is beyond me. I am like the NASA probe searching for a thought wave, constantly on the prowl for some illuminating thought that I can transcribe into words. My mind is a podium for unceasing debate, in the words of René Descartes,

I think therefore I am.

Even as I sleep my mind is in constant chatter, my dreams are more tangled than Shakespeare’s web of lies. I am always on the Internet absorbing news, ideas, latest research, discoveries and constantly analysing theories. I relish religious discourses where I can logically defend my faith. I am constantly scouring anti-Catholic sites, assimilating all their objections and I try to find valid answers to all their contentions. If there is a point that I cannot clarify then I thrash it out mentally and devour religious literature until I find the answer. Offcourse, all this goes on internally, I never voice my opinions publicly, for me religion is a very personal matter and not for public debate, which brings me to my point, I love to think.

Unfortunately there are days, mostly when I am on a zero sugar and low carb diet when my mind just goes blank. These periods that I dub as writer’s block which are more like thinker’s block are the most boring and depressing episodes of my life. No thoughts, no emotions, no adrenaline, no reaction, just empty space, floating through a void; most depressing. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be in that state! It’s like dying; at least it’s for me.

Oh the joy to be alive, to feel emotions that cause your heart to pound, the blood to rush into your veins, to experience your head throb with anger or excitement. Why would anyone want to give all that away, even for a nanosecond? As a religious person I know that there are times one should be still and listen to the Lord, but for me that is usually when fear or trouble crowd my existence, which is very rarely. Usually I am in an animated discourse with the Lord about this and that, or I am usually bugging him for an answer or just in awe of him. Stillness is not a prominent feature of my religious life and the Lord hasn’t led me to doubt my journey.

As I watch my 4-½ year old, run wildly around the house chasing an imaginary animal, whilst screaming at the top of his voice, I can only smile and say, “yeah, he takes after me!”

A can of Worms

Humans, the variety amazes me! It’s the varying levels of morality and honesty that amazes me. Having had close and often painful experiences with the worst kind has led to the penning of this article.

I was brought up with a very strict sense of right and wrong and like every human I have been less than faithful to that code. What raises my eyebrows and makes me gawk, is how some people have a very opinionated demure towards everyone but themselves. While they are vitriolic in their comments about the failings of others, they seem to think nothing of their own actions.

Even saints don’t measure up to their standards and yet they blatantly lie, manipulate, insult and hurt anyone in their orbit. Every action is justifiable to them when they are the perpetrators. Standard rules of etiquette, decency, and morality just don’t apply to them, and yet everyone else’s gesture, dialogue and sometimes-even timing is analyzed and ultimately condemned.

Hypocrisy to such a degree would not bother me, given that I believe in every human’s basic right of personality. What does get under my skin, so to speak, is when they act like suffering souls wronged by one and all and take advantage of another’s kindness.

Yes, I happen to be that gullible soul who chanced an encounter with such a morbid personality. A friend of seventeen years, whom I met during college, lived in the same hostel for three years and later kept in touch through emails and phone.

She entered my life and straight into my home as a torn, wounded and wronged woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life in a supportive and loving environment. I cajoled my husband into providing her employment in his business while I helped her heal and rediscover her strengths.

Within the first fifteen minutes of her arrival sparks of her personality began to “fly” straight into my eyes, frightening me. There were episodes of, “I do not appreciate anyone telling me what I can or cannot do. I know what I am capable of and I will not be told otherwise.” This was in retaliation to a negative response regarding her query of finding employment in her field.

I swallowed this outburst as a defensive mechanism of a woman suppressed for far too long by an overtly negative, faultfinding, and belittling mother. I placated her by rewording the negative response with lots of praises for her abilities and highlighting the zero demand for her profession.

What was mostly startling was that she had wormed into my home by portraying her self as jobless, broke, miserable, helpless, and almost suicidal. The person I met at the airport was arrogant, selfish and was constantly complaining of how she had to give away her precious belongings as she had excess baggage! Never mind that we paid for her ticket.

The next few days saw her snapping at me with caustic remarks whenever I tried to make her cease her wallowing in self-pity and constant complaining of people and incidents.  She was forever trying to impose on me how bad her life had been and how lucky I was. Even God was not spared from her list of wrongdoers. She had a firm belief that she was good, God and the rest of humanity was bad.

She slept late and woke when half the day had passed, a thyroid condition I was told. Makes her tired, sluggish and disrupts her sleep cycle. Forever on her laptop checking her mails and Facebook.  She spent her time earnestly watching and monitoring everyone’s activity and criticized him or her for every word and apostrophe.

Needless to say my husband had her packing after she decided to enlighten him of his faults with the rudest of dialogue. Especially after she cleared the air that she did not accept favors and we were not to think we did any by providing her free food, boarding and a job!

What really got me pondering was whether she did indeed have a mental condition as she so convincingly claimed or was she a case of an exceptionally well-read intelligent woman mimicking the symptoms? I would love to hear what her therapists had to say in the matter.

This incident really opened a can of worms for me. It got me questioning a whole set of notions that I had come to live by. I was brought up old school, spare the rod and spoil the child. My father had overdone the smacking to the point of abuse and this made me a fervent advocate of sparing the rod.

I believed, at least until I met her, that people with issues and difficulties were to be loved, appreciated and gently encouraged to aspire to overcome their obstacles. Now, I am beginning to question this lets be accepting and sensitive attitude.

It is obvious; she was a conniving, manipulative and downright selfish woman who was clearly taking advantage of this belief of mine. Who is to say there aren’t others doing the same and not to mention the scary fact that those with genuine issues using this as an excuse to live off the generosity of others?

I am not generalizing that every one claiming to be disadvantaged are crying wolf or taking advantage. Neither am I stating that we should revert to the old school method of discrimination. What I am trying to figure out is what is the best course of action, if any? How does one weed out the fakers?

I was born with severe dyslexia, I remember writing backwards, jumping sentences whilst reading, always getting my math’s sums wrong as the numbers danced! My mum believed a good smack would make me write, read and learn straight. Every day was a nightmare with my screams echoing down the corridors of our building with neighbors dropping in to tell my mum to ease off.

She didn’t and today I have a degree, double major in Chemistry-Biochemistry and my ambition is to become a writer, an impossible achievement and ambition for a dyslexic.  I still can’t catch a ball, or ride a cycle, or drive but then again my mum didn’t think these were important.

I have a wonderful relationship with my mum and dad; we just don’t talk about the past. My mum even took a year off to stay with me and help me raise my three kids. Of course I had to keep reminding her that I didn’t want them smacked, even though it’s good for them.

This incident with my friend has thrown all that into the bin. Her parents never laid a finger on her and always “droned” on as to the reasons for being good. If we could swap homes, I wonder how we would have turned out. Would I be able to get over my dyslexia? Would I have a degree? Or would I have turned into her, using my disability as an excuse to be lazy, and turn into a leech?

Would she have, given her intelligence, become a highly educated and successful professional, a woman of integrity and character? Would the roles have swapped, with me scrounging off her? Given my propensity towards the easy route, I mean I did never master the art of catching a ball or riding a bike and now driving. More troublingly am I the best parent for my kids? Is my pacifist, loving and nurturing attitude going to turn my kids, already brats, into lazy, unhappy and selfish adults?

Life is all about choices, whilst some are born with the desire to succeed no matter what disability, disadvantage or obstacle, the rest of us like sheep tend to lead passive lives. Some are motivated out of this lethargy, some like me are smacked out of it and some are angered (when discriminated) out of it.  Except for the ones who are motivated, we all have issues of hurt which when counterbalanced with success eases the sting.

I always wished that my parents had been gentler in their upbringing and secretly nursed a bruised heart but after this episode I don’t want to change a thing. If that is what it took to keep me from becoming her then I thank God and especially my parents for my past.

I enjoy walking with my head held high, being a woman of integrity, having a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. I am proud, not arrogant or boastful, of the fact that I have lived life as an equal and never used my dyslexia as an excuse in school, college or work. I must admit it is gratifying never having to mention it, because I am so much more than that. It doesn’t define me, hard working, helpful, God fearing, loving and sincere is what defines me.

What threw a wrench in the machinery of me is what kind of parent should I be?  I am grateful to my parents and I love them but do I want to become them? Even a toned down version makes me shirk in fear. Which highlights another question, is it about the kids or me? Do I choose my parenting style purely out of love and concern for my kids or is it for my own ego? After all a hard and strict parent rarely gets the love and admiration of a loving, anything goes type.  Raised by emotionally distant parents, makes me crave for love and I enjoy the cuddles and kisses I get from my kids. Am I using my kids to fulfill my needs instead of doing it the other way around?

Like I said, I have been pondering……………