Spence Green

التكرار يعلم الحمار

I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Free Speech

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Is free speech free? For a moment consider this question independent of politics and economics and law. As a human being, are you free to express yourself absent some social cost? Of course not. And this certainty has inspired some reflection recently:

I can’t mention success because I will look arrogant.
I can’t admit failure because I will look weak.
I can’t really ask stupid questions because people will think I’m stupid.
I can’t show too much enthusiasm without appearing glib.
I can’t despair because that’s a treatable medical condition.
I can’t dress carelessly because I’ll look unprofessional.
I can’t wear fine fabric because I’ll be called a dandy.
I can’t be indecisive because men, even in these liberal times, are expected to act.
I can’t be too sure because I’m probably wrong anyway.
I can’t write these words without knowing that some employer, some admissions committee, some friend, some colleague, some family member, or some stranger will pause and think:

Wow, what a (   ).

And that is what we do. We are classifiers, all of us.

The usual objection to this reasoning is that self-worth should not be influenced by external opinions. But suppose that I am confident in myself. Will that get me a job? Into graduate school? A promotion? A new house? A happy marriage? Moral children? And if I am confident, and I don’t have any of these assets, how many people will believe that my confidence is real, that I am not delusional?

The more I ponder this question, the more I realize that total indifference to the opinions of others is a form of madness, or at least it’s seen that way.

Written by Spence

October 17th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Composition,Writing

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