By Neev Tapiero
I have an extremist view when it comes to the idea of free speech. Although I’m Jewish, hate laws don’t jibe with me. I believe anyone should be able to say anything without fear of repercussion. Should there be restrictions on free speech? I’d like to say no, but I’m not a big fan of riots or being trampled within a crowded theatre. At the root of it all, your laws stop where my nose begins. If my nose isn’t harming anyone, back off now!
Along with freedom of speech comes freedom of religion, expression, the press, of information, and protection from discrimination. That’s a lot of baggage. Consequently, the truth is out there just waiting to be found.
We’re lucky to live in a country that guarantees free speech. Free Speech. What does it mean? More importantly, what does it mean to each of us?
When I see a tabloid, it annoys me that people are profiting from the misery of others, but I stand back because they have a right to abuse free speech. They have a right to devalue it for all of us. Truthful information is never dangerous — what people do with information is. Look at disinformation in pre-structuralist Germany.
After a while, you read National Enquirers and hear about other Ernst Zundels, and inevitably you think “free speech… big deal.” “Nothing in life is free” is wrong. Everything has a value, significant or not. The values we give fundamental rights are up to the individuals using or abusing them. The only comfort is that freedom will be available to someone of substance. It is better to let 100 Ernst Zundels speak their mind than to quiet one Martin Luther King. When Mr. Zundel opens his mouth, he is almost always preaching to the converted: the value of his right to free speech is diminished to an unrecoverable level. Hopefully his name will disappear from history, or in the least that he be considered a puny tumour on society during his time on this planet. His mark will be microscopic compared to those of Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi, who used his magic to burn away impurities, leaving a single illuminated fact: the truth. In life and liberty, free speech is a truth that is self-evidence.
Almost four years ago, I came across a communal band of people who meet once a year in a forest to celebrate planetary healing, being together, being bohemian, and who during their stay consider money and meat taboo. These communalists believe in a simple, vegetarian and herbal way of life. They discourage what they call ‘killer drugs’, ‘drug abuse’, or abuse in any destructive manner. It not only becomes magical at times, it borders on — dare I say it — religion.
There, I saw people enjoying each other’s company as they trod gently over the Earth, and partook of the holy herb. It is a fact to them that marijuana is a sacrament; a rite that conveys God’s grace to the world It was so simple to see that grace: a weed, of all things, brought about and even reinforced a sense of connection with others, promoted happiness and friendliness, smoothed out aggressive behaviour, and opened the mind to possibilities.
Leaving that place gave me culture shock. What was once commonplace and healthy is now taboo. Are there other paradigms of God’s grace? Absolutely. We each have our own sacraments to use and discover. As Jerry Garcia sang a few moons ago:
“There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night. And if you go, no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone… You who choose to lead must follow. But if you fall you fall alone. If you should stand, then who’s to guide you? If I knew the way I would take you home.”
No one person’s sacrament or religion is right for everybody; the Catholic Church taught the world that. But if someone’s religion isn’t harming anyone…back off now!
Neev Tapiero is a third-year theatre tech student. He welcomes any questions or comments : send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.