Why again do we want this ‘freedom of speech’? Or: reading Spinoza

Watching the news, reading social media contributions, I more and more come to the conclusion that it might be time to end our persistent liking of this concept, the ideal of freedom of speech. In a world where opinions create problems, perhaps it is time to stop having opinions altogether. Especially when having an opinion is seen as ‘doing something’, as ‘contributing something’ to society. Thus, the main problem I have with the ‘freedom of opinion’ is that is seems to warrant a liberty through which people feel entitled to say whatever they want, even if it hurts, even if it confirms prejudice and ignorance.

When we take into account that we are mostly limited in our thinking by the world in which we find ourselves, then we must conclude that our opinions can only be a confirmation of who we already are, of what we already know.


Continue reading “Why again do we want this ‘freedom of speech’? Or: reading Spinoza”

Turkey and the Illusion of Democracy

Upheaval in Turkey. Government responding to peaceful protest. Tear gas. People died and are still dying. At this moment it is unclear what is actually happening, but at least it is clear that something is going on.

What am I to do, far away, in my comfortable home? I can share my thoughts. Not regarding what is right and what is wrong. Not regarding what should be done, who is to blame. Any remarks adding to the polarization of the situation seems meaningless in a situation in which the power structure of a country is turning against its citizens.

“Democracy”, an Illusion

Interesting is how this clash is almost immediately put in the context of ‘democracy’. According to news reports, PM Erdogan said that when people disagree with something, they can let it know by voting during the elections. From a theoretical point of view, I must agree with him on this point. ‘Democracy’ as we know it nowadays, is explained to the masses as a manner in which everybody gets a say as to what will be decided for the public arena. In practise this is limited to elections, and influencing politicians for instance through political parties.

But calling the present political system in Western countries, including Turkey, the United States and the Netherlands, a ‘democracy’ is extremely misleading. In reality, people have hardly any say in public affairs. Even when one party is exchanged for the next one after an election, policy is made by people in ‘power’, and power corrupts, and creates its own reality.

What People Actually Want

The problem with current ‘revolutions’ is that there is no alternative. This has been seen over and over again, from Egypt to Libya, Syria, Iran and probably now again in Turkey. Dissatisfaction makes people revolt against an oppressive system. That system breaks down, and once the rubble is taken away, people realise the space created thus is already filled with a system that is surprisingly similar to the one just overthrown. Surprisingly only for those who are involved with a breaking down without understanding that without a system to take over that creates an equal opportunity for everyone to be heard in matters related to their own being, there is no hope.

But there is hope. Technology and social media is nowadays supporting the people more and more. In doing so, it creates its own power structure. Everybody can shout whatever he wants. But what is picked up upon on Twitter, is not the tweet of the lunatic, but precise analyses and arguments – that are spreading across the world in a way that is truly revolutionary. I am hopeful that this will turn into a system to support something that is actually a constructive answer to cases of oppression: a deliberative system in which legitimacy is created by a procedure that creates a shared understanding of reality and translates this into policy. Bottom-up instead of top-down. In which governments realise their original role of parent of the nation: to educate and promote the interests of all by letting the people see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.