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Abdirizack Abdirahman Bare

Research and Development, Consultancy

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is democracy giving everyone the rights to say or do anything whether it is harmful or not?

It has become widespread recently that people or groups of people use democracy as a channel through which they can intimidate, insult and harm others given it names such as freedom of expression, freedom of media.

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    Gail . 50+

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    Oct 1 2012: So true.

    This was supposed to have been avoided in the USA, when it established what areas congress could legislate and which areas it MUST not legislate. But in the USA, a coup d'etat by the Supreme Court in 1819 changed all that. Now our government can do anything that it wants unless the Supreme Court - that never had the power before 1819 - says it can't.

    This is how OUR government began selling our freedoms to the highest bidders, and to the largest voting blocks.

    So yes, here in the USA, the 99% are tyrranized by the wealthiest 1% and the non-christians are tyrannized by the christians.

    In the USA, you hear much about freedom, but you see very little of it in real life. Yes, I can say whatever I want, but if I get too many Americans upset, I can be secretly arrested and held in prison without even a hearing because of something called the "Patriot Act".

    The media, in the USA, is part of an entertainment industry. It is no longer a "news" industry. The parent companies are part of the wealthiest that buy government out from under the people, so it does two things. It reports on things that bring in the most dollars for commercials, and it refuses to report things that the parent companies don't want us to know about.

    So now, to be informed, many of us use Internet news, but more and more of that is being "removed", and removal of web sites is not called censorship.

    Hard to believe that I'm saying these things about the USA - given all the talk of freedom. But it is getting harder and harder to live here
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    Oct 2 2012: No sir. Quite the opposite. Democracy defends individual rights. In a representative republic ruled by a constitution the principles of democracy are applied as protection against the infringement of individual rights. The first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America does not promote or permit harmful intent. You may be using the word "harmful" in your question when you ought to be using the word "offensive", or "inflammatory". Such expressions are protected under the 1st Amendment.
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    Oct 1 2012: You ask Is democracy giving everyone the rights to say or do anything...?"

    There is a big difference between being allowed to SAY anything (within the limits Rick describes below) and being able to DO anything whether it is harmful or not.

    For example, freedom of speech in a democracy may protect someone who says he wishes everyone in a group he hates were dead, but he isn't allowed in a democracy to go kill the people he hates.
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    Oct 7 2012: You may have an unusual view of democracy if you think it relates to people doing and saying whatever they like.

    Maybe some parody of secular democracy that is put forward to promote an Islamic Caliphate in contrast.

    Democracy is about having an equal say in how a country is run. Many countries these day try to have this via representative democracy where we regularly vote for leaders, or stand ourselves. In my view it goes hand in hand with freedom our speech so we can voice our views.

    The most effective democracies are not perfect but are probably the best system of government we have found. They are not free for alls. They have limited rights and responsibilities. They have rule of law ideally applied as equally as possible, but rich people have better lawyers. They support minority rights not just rule of the majority. Freedom of expression. Freedom of religion. All within limits based on when freedom to act starts to harm others.

    So I support you believing in your religion, but not to the point it harms others or impacts other bestowed rights. I don't support slavery even though regulated in the QurĂ¡n. I don't support genital mutilation of boys and girls for religious reasons. Although I have no issue if an adult freely chooses to be circumcised themselves.

    I suggest intimidation is also being done by the religious. I got caught up in a protest about the stupid film in Sydney where people were carrying signs that said behead those who insult the prophet of Islam. They werre also abusive to Christianity

    It is in Islamic states where people can not stop being muslim, where there are real dangers of being killed or persecuted for being gay.

    Also, freedom of speech should be limited, but as little as possible. It should be illegal to threaten to physically harm, kill, or extort someone. Most democracies have liable laws.

    For me insult is too broad a field to consider outlawing. Also I don't see why you would rank insult or offence alongside death threats.
  • Oct 6 2012: "Is democracy giving everyone the rights to say or do anything wether it is harmful or not?"
    Yes dissent is the essence of democracy and what the United States was founded on. Even though our government has seemingly forgotten this, a vast amount of citizens, including me, hold this as a standard for a free and mature society. Dissent is at the basis of science, question everything and learn to take things with a grain of salt, if I were unable to handle criticism that isn't the fault of anybody but my own. Without dissent no progress is made, it is the right of every man/woman on the planet to say what they wish no matter how offensive. If you don't agree with what is said engage in debate with them.



    Also nowhere in a democracy is it ok to do anything you want, I think it would be patronizing to list examples of this.

    "The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization."-Sigmund Freud
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    Oct 6 2012: It's only harmfull when it's the truth. If the truth is harmful then you either deny the truth or change policy. I would suggest for governments who are harmed by truth, perhaps they are not acting in ine best interest of the governed. It's only harmful to the leader's power and control.
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    Oct 6 2012: Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I don't follow your prophet or your Islam religion, you consider me to be a 'non-believer' and headed towards an unfortunate 'afterlife' whereas you are a 'believer' and are in an 'unfortunate' life with a blissful afterlife to look forward to?

    If I'm essentially correct on that and you will not waiver on your worldview then it is silly -- at best -- for us to try and have a constructive discussion on this topic. If our 'freedoms of speech' offend you then the natural conclusion -- from my perspective -- is that you have some work to do regarding your faith...your faith may allow you to see us nonbelievers as an opportunity to practice 'tolerance' and by practicing this, you do good. If you continue to feel resentment and offended at us nonbelievers, just remember we are doing what nonbelievers do, that is all. bottom line: work on tolerance and acceptance and find peace in your knowing that we are destined to what we are destined to.

    I will admit that as I evolve I am realizing that we westerners are, perhaps, quite narrow-minded and limited in our scope of judging what suffering or harm is. We project out that name-calling cannot harm or hurt others, but this is not necessarily the case. We are limited in pretending that insults and mockeries of religious beliefs do no harm. And folks who feel insulted or offended by these mockeries are limited in the way they allow these things to offend them when they could view these perceived insults as ignorance or things that nonbelievers do, and be more inline(?) with their faith and allow (tolerance) HIM to take care of things.
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      Oct 6 2012: I agree there is an issue worth consideration in regards to using free speech to humiliate or offend.

      With so called rights bestowed and enforced by humans there are limits.

      Most countries have slander and liable laws.

      Some have anti hate speech prohibitions.

      In some it is illegal to deny the holocaust.

      If we are going to limit free speech there needs to be good reasons, And maybe these will reflect local conditions.

      However, blasphemy and banning offence shuts down too much speech. They are too broad, in my view. We should have the right to offend religious sensibilities.

      In most cases I suggest bad speech should be answered with more speech.

      The tendency for some to resort to violence in regards to religious offence is perhaps natural, as well as part of a complex historical context. However people should not push their superstition based taboos on others. We can argue about it, but violence of the fear of it just a sign of an insecure barbaric medieval religion and society in my view.

      Although it is just a few hundred years since witch burning in the US. Just a few hundred since bible endorsed slavery ended. Just decades since minorities got equal rights and some of the worst atrocities ever in Europe.

      I think the West has got some things right, like secular government, equal rights. No thanks to Islamic theocracy, sharia or Islamic law - you can have this in other countries if the people want, but not for me. There are good arguments that secular government and modern human rights improve the human condition and theocracy increases suffering.
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    Oct 2 2012: Fritzie has it right... Freedom of speech, not freedom of action. Human beings are born into a world of chaotic emotions, and they must be allowed to express themselves without fear of violent intimidation.

    You have freedom from violent action... You do not have freedom from "noises that hurt my feelings"... that's not freedom, that's censorship, imposed through the violence of government.
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      Oct 2 2012: I agree Fritzie got it right too. But violence can be perpetrated through words alone also. If you slander or libel someone by speaking falsehoods about them, you can ruin their reputations and maybe even incite violent actions against them by others.

      There is a huge difference between "noises that hurt my feelings" and "noises that ruin my credibility or reputation and may place me in danger".

      Mankind's history is filled with charismatic leaders who through the use of words alone incited entire populations to "take action" against others to eliminate the others freedoms.
      • Oct 2 2012: Libel/slander is an offense that you can sue people for on a personal level. Muslims can't sue people for slandering Muhammed because a) Muhammed is dead (and so is his family) and b) they would have to prove the accusations are not true, or at least that they are very unlikely.
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          Oct 2 2012: Mohamed(P.b.u.h) is in the breast of every Muslim, they love him more than they love their souls, they can die for him. May be that devoted Love for the Messenger of God is what you don't realize.
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          Oct 2 2012: Good points, John. My examples of slander and libel were confusing in the context I used them. Thanks for clarifying that.

          But even if I sued someone and won the slander or libel case, I could still have irrepairable damage done to me in the public's eye. And I could still face retaliation...actions...against me from someone who thought I was still "bad" because of the slander or libel.

          All I was trying to say was words can sometimes be used to cause damage to someone just as easily as actions can. Everyone should be protected in their freedom FROM that happening too.
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          Oct 7 2012: AAB, Muslims should be free to die for their beliefs, but not to harm others because of them.

          It would be sad if all people belonging to a particular religion jumped off a cliff for their particular god based belief. But if they were adults and were not forced too that is their choice. But it is not okay to force your religious taboos on others.

          Freedom of religion applies to all religions not just Islam. And it has limits. It stops where you start to harm others.

          What you state is the problem with religions. Too many people with conflicting supernatural beliefs that are all probably manmade and false and believing they have absolute truth and are willing to die and kill for this.

          Don't you realise you have to live in a world with people who do not share your religious superstitions and traditions.

          Wouldn't it be better for all our children if people did not kill or harm others in the name of their religion. Wouldn't it be a better world if people were free to believe whatever world view that makes sense for them, within the limits of not harming others.

          Wouldn't it be better if Muslims found a little love and tolerance for non Muslims not just their prophet.

          There are some legitimate claims against the West e.g. supporting dictators and Saudi princes, drone attacks and giving half of Palestine away on a whim (which is one of the great atrocities of the 20th Century in my view) etc. But this message which would resonate with the better side or Westerners, who all get to vote, gets lost in Religious fanaticism and the threats and the medieval values and tribalism.

          Religious fundamentalism is just separating you from the over 6 billion non muslims. We are human too, and deserve to be free to choose and follow our own religious beliefs and not be subject to yours and vice versa.

          The law should be independent of all religious dogmas and focus on protecting us all from harm and promoting equality, fairness, freedom and happiness.
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    Oct 1 2012: Although I agree with some of the things TED Lover mentioned in his post (news media is now an entertainment industry driven by ratings, and it has turned into the same thing as "reality TV" today, which normally has nothing to do with reality), I don't have his "Doom and Gloom" position.

    The biggest problem is with the "average citizen" not understanding Freedom of Speech HAS limits and restrictions to it. It is not an UNLIMITED freedom to begin with, never was, and never should be. There are laws established against things like slander and libel. And you cannot just say anything you want at any time. Yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre and cause a panic "just for fun", and you risk people getting hurt in a stampede to escape a non-existant threat. You SHOULD expect an all-expense paid vacation at your local jail for something like that.

    ALL freedoms have limits and restrictions. They exist to prevent your exercising of your freedom from infringing on or preventing someone else from exercising their freedom. Or from you causing undue threats to others.

    Some people can't comprehend that concept. Those are the "...people or groups of people use democracy as a channel through which they can intimidate, insult and harm others given it names such as freedom of expression, freedom of media" as you stated in your topic. Those are the people we need the laws for, to hold them accountable for their misunderstanding of what they should be allowed and not allowed to do with their freedom.
  • Oct 30 2012: Common sence would say no, but since common sence isn't common anymore I'm left wondering weather you mean harmful of hurtful, physicaly or emotionaly and to dig deeper to ones self or others.

    Everyone has their own set of morals the assumption that everyone is born knowing the differance between right and wrong is just absurd to say the least. The question you asked can not be answered in any simple matter really, but rather the real question should be "Are our growing amount of laws leading people to abandon humanity in serach of loopholes to profit from the pain and sufferin (either physicaly or emotionally) of thoes we deem to be of no consequence?"
  • Oct 29 2012: Good things are good things. Freedom is a good thing. But every good thing has a measure in which it retains its goodness, and a measure that would bring pain and misery. For example, Protein is good, but if it is the only thing that is eaten all day, then it ceases to be good.
    I think civic education should be given priority in democratic nations. There is so much emphasis on citizen rights and little is usually said of citizen responsibilities. Proper education on responsibilities could change that.
  • Oct 2 2012: Exactly, One of the reasons people respond so violently to provocative speech is that those people tend not to have had freedom of speech themselves long enough to feel like they can use it effectively to respond to speech they do not like. Since they have been silenced for decades sometimes by their own governments but usually on the global stage, they REACT rather than RESPOND.

    Speech which is used to incite is curtailed, but it is something that must be achieved not found. But, the very same rule must apply to both parties if people outside of Islamic communities are to be convinced to relinquish any aspect of their free speech they will have to believe that those inside Islamic communities will also curtail speech intended to incite within those communities. Since those peoples have not had free speech for long it is unlikely they will do so. It needs to be treated as a mutual disarmament if you will. Since people in free nations have long had the right to free speech and they guard it against intrusion greatly they are unlikely to give any of it up if there is not an equal move on the other side of the "this issue should be discussed" stage.
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    Oct 2 2012: Yeah, that's quite the expected, NO, it is NOT freedom of expression, it is NOT democracy to Insult anyone and that's what all of you here agree. Period.
    • Oct 3 2012: No, we do not all agree that it is not freedom of speech to insult anyone..... Clarity is necessary here. Insulting people is often the most necessary part of democracy that is why we defend it so fiercely. I cannot call out a corrupt leader if I am not allowed to insult him. I cannot call out a hurtful custom if I cannot insult those who follow it. The US would never have left slavery behind had not there been some people willing to start by insulting it as a practice until enough people agreed with them that it needed to go.

      You say we are all creatures of god. I don't agree. I don't believe in your god or any one else's. If I do not have freedom of speech I cannot convey my freedom of thought. My failure to believe in your god neither insults your god or your religion ergo there should be no reaction. I incite no one to any behavior so the speech is allowed and acceptable. You wish for this to be clearer and it cannot be. Rights are "found" not delineated.
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      Oct 7 2012: Freedom of expression should include the right to offend and insult.
      I don't think that should be the sole purpose of freedom of speech.
      Also it is very subjective about what is unreasonable offensive and insulting.
      I think we should be very careful putting limits on freedom of speech.
      Fine to outlaw death threats.
      But it is a slippery slope if individual offence or humiliation are the benchmark.

      I am offended when I'm told I'm going to hell. I'm offended by many religious customs.
  • Oct 1 2012: There are two types of freedom and one of the problems we have is that without two labels we struggle to discuss them in the manner that we must.

    There is freedom TO (the freedom to do whatever yo want) and freedom FROM (to be free of the consequences of other people doing whatever they want). These two freedoms must exist in harmony and counter balance. To have one you must give up some of the other. Finding the balance has always been the struggle. The US has been trying to bring freedom to other countries without itself having clarfied that freedom can only exist in a legal framework that protects our freedom from while granting us our freedom to.

    Many people here in the US are so bound on sanctifying freedom to that they have left themselves (and us all) extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse!

    The US has a republic for a reason! It is a democratic part balanced by a judiciary that helps find the balance to protect the some against the many. Sadly, they are trying to export democracy - which is not what we have.

    (This Does not excuse recent riots and killings by many over insults.... that is not how rational adults respond to insult. They need to learn to appreciate the balance too.)
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      Oct 2 2012: Thanks for your answer, i do agree, but both the freedom to and freedom from need to be in harmony, if one fails the other obviously won't work alone. for instance if i don't get the freedom FROM X from you then i will (being a human with egos and feelings) tend to exercise my freedom To to respond to you, and the degree differs from one person to another. So for one to have freedom from violence for instance he/she has to give up his/her freedom to (express) him/herself for instance. Won't that be a fair trade, for communities to live in harmony and peace.
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        Oct 7 2012: If I say something you disagree with then you should have the right to state your case as well. Agree?

        Are you really saying if I offend you verbally you think it is okay to hurt or kill me?

        Do you think the threat of violence is a useful tool to protect religious beliefs or theocracy from criticism?

        This idea of harmony in Asia and Africa is different from Western views. My view is we should respect people who respect our rights, including the right to express contrary views. No issue with healthy peaceful dissent and disagreement. It seems others would rather totalitarian control as a way of having a so called harmonious society. Is it really harmony if it is forced, not choosing to live peacefully with your neighbour even when we disagree?

        If you believe words that insult is a valid excuse for violence, then perhaps there really is a battle of civilizations here. Between intolerant medieval beliefs and and human rights.
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    Oct 1 2012: i think there is a relationship between democracy and interpersonal relationship.
    as in china .i dont think that we are lack of democracy as the u.s described .we people dont because we dont want to hurt other people .you know if you think that what you said is right ,while idont think so we may fight ,we just dont want to see these bad things so we choose silence . i think it is a art of dealing with people .you know chinese are Introvert
  • Oct 1 2012: "is democracy giving everyone the rights to say or do anything whether it is harmful or not?"

    No, every democracy still has a few restrictions on freedom of speech (when it is really harmful, not just offensive to people who are offended by everything that doesn't fit their narrow, medieval, dogmatic and hateful view of the world) and actions are restricted on the basis of "you can do whatever you want as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others" (well, in some countries you get less freedom you're gay and more freedom if you're or a parent who wants to send their kid to a madrassa).

    Remember that the only reason you can be on this website is because someone once blasphemed by saying electricity comes from moving electrons, not god, and wasn't executed for it. Also, you would still be under British rule if Britain had not allowed its own citizens to "offend" conservative forces in the country by suggesting Britain should pull out of its colonies. I bet you didn't think about that, many people don't, they're too willing to forget how much they owe to freedom of speech themselves, they only want to restrict it for people who don't agree with them.
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      Oct 2 2012: Thank you for your answer. One thing really got to me if as you said "you can do whatever you want as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others" and you know that infringing on others right is wrong, then why practice it. This is a point i think many Americans don't realize.
      For one reason or the other this is ALL and entirely the creation of God. The One and Only God. Me, you, even this website through us is the creation of God for God is Our Creator, whatever we create is His creation through us. It is God who differed us from the Animals, who Gave us the Super machine (our brain) to think and reason in any sphere of life. So thanks to God.
      For the Colony it wasn't democracy that gave us our independence we fought for, we lost precious heroes in the war that liberated us from the Evil colony.
      • Oct 2 2012: "For one reason or the other this is ALL and entirely the creation of God."

        See, it would be nice if you could provide some evidence for that before basing laws on it, wouldn't you say? And hey, you've already offended atheists (including me) and all the followers of non-monotheistic religions with that sentence, do you think we should have you send to jail for offending us?

        @below

        How can you decide whether you have offended me or not, isn't that up to me? Sure, I'm not really offended, but I could swear before a judge that I am and he wouldn't know the difference and I'm sure some Hindu out there really is offended by what you say, so I repeat, do you think we should be able to send you to jail for offending us through your attempts at converting us? If not, then why do you insist people should be jailed for offending Muslims?

        "I have all the right to propagate my Religion"

        Oh, so now suddenly freedom of speech does exist for you? If you have the right to say atheism is false then I have the right to say Islam is false, it's really that simple, unless you want to go to court to prove Islam is true (we both know you'd lose because there is zero evidence for any religion being true, since fairy tales in a book don't count as evidence, making atheism the logical default stance and the most likely truth).
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          Oct 2 2012: I haven't insulted you, and I am sorry if you felt so. It is what i believe in which if you can prove me wrong, i will be ready to take any charges against me. And Islam Is entirely based on the believe Of the Oneness of God. Repeatedly explained in the Holy Qur'an. For if you don't see Him (God) He sees you.
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          Oct 3 2012: I don't think so Mr. John, reason: I haven't insulted anyone, and i am not trying to convert anyone here,I am just propagator, that's what christian missions all around the world, in Africa, Asian, etc. are doing. I have all the right to propagate my Religion, trying to save the lost sheep of the world, and in Islam no one is forced into the religion, it is my his/her own will they can join to leave. So NO i don't think i should be jailed for any word that i have said so far on this dialogue. thanks
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        Oct 7 2012: AAB you are making unsubstantiated claims.
        You have faith in your supernatural beliefs.
        You can not demonstrate your beliefs are correct.
        And even if you think you are right, others have the right to believe otherwise.

        Remember your god concept is invisible, intangible, virtually non existent.
        Your beliefs are based on a book. An important book, but still Ink and Paper. The words were not carved supernaturally in the moon for all to see. There are good reasons to doubt the supernatural claims of all religions.

        I suggest all ideas of gods are probably completely false. At best we can not verify their existence.
        We don't know if there are none, one or billions of gods and goddesses.
        You have your beliefs probably from your family, local culture etc.
        Your beliefs are based on when and where you grew up.

        Why should your subjective religious beliefs apply to people who have other equally subjective religious beliefs or those of us who don't believe in gods as they all seem man made ideas. Everyone thinks their different views are right.

        Isn't it best if we don't force our supernatural beliefs and taboos on others and look for common ground.

        Religious people need a better argument than my scripture or prophet says so.

        You are free to say what you believe is true. But you need something more than subjective religious beliefs to apply your beliefs and taboos on us.

        Who are you to claim you have the absolute truth?