One of my friends on FaceBook recently posted a little blurb about being entitled to his opinion. My response was that sharing it was a privilege that had to be earned. Like so many of my blog entries, it got me thinking about the broader issue, in this case Freedom of Speech.
Freedom of Speech is a two-way entitlement (at least currently in some countries like the USA) -- you are also entitled to ignore any comment or content that offends you. It doesn't grant you the right to seek someone else to stop offending you -- a point that seems to be so lost on so many people. Your offense at anything in particular is a personal issue -- yours. And your offense is your current opinion or sentiment, for how many times have we come to change our minds based on further experience, information, or simple reflection??
In the Bhuddist tradition, actions and outcomes are neither positive or negative -- that our discriminating mind makes it so, but in reality has no bearing on existence. In other words, the world is largely a neutral place and our somewhat "absurd" reflections on the qualities of events are a matter of personal opinion. And you're absolutely entitled to your opinion. Sharing it with someone else is a privilege that has to be earned.
I think words are very powerful, but they are just icons or sounds expressing ideas. I would even go out on a limb and suggest that the concept of "hate speech" is misplaced. Most adults have the abilities to determine for themselves if they consider the source worthy of their respect. The speech may reflect an internally held belief, and the speech may in fact coincidentally precede an action -- but it is the action alone that has the basis for determining the effect and you'd be hard pressed to be able to prove that the speech in fact caused the action.
If you don't respect someone, why would you ever let something they say that you might find offensive bother you? Don't give them the pleasure of knowing that they can push your buttons. Practice mental Aikido and bend in the wind to let the poison darts pass.
Start with questioning why you think you respect them? Is it a self-esteem issue? Do you want to be liked by this individual? Do you want mutual respect? Admiration? To be recognized as competent? As a peer?
In this aspect "respect" is very similar to the formula for determining trust and confidence; do you believe that the individual is competent? Do you trust their motives? If they are offending you, and they continue to do so, it seems pretty evident that they don't respect you.
This is one of the reasons why I don't think that anonymous feedback in employee performance evaluations has any real and lasting impact. Without being able to determine whether or not the provider is someone I respect, how can I properly consider the feedback? Positive or negative?
So, Today's Big Idea is this: Freedom of Speech is a two-way entitlement. You free to speak, to offend, and be offended. As does your audience. It's a mutual thing.
You may be entitled to your own opinion, but sharing it is a privilege that must be earned. And privileges can be revoked at anytime.
In my own case, you can probably now understand why I really don't give a rats ass what people like Rush Limbaugh or Mark-5 robot opinions are on just about anything. Since I neither trust their competence nor their intentions why would their opinion matter? They aren't thought-leaders