`I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.’ Voltaire famously said. When Voltaire rooted for Freedom of Speech as an essential instrument of democracy he never realized the likely possibility of its sudden transformation into a naughty tool to insult and hurt sentiments of a group of people.
Lately we Indians seem to be an object of insult and hurt from almost every corner of the world,. So we have Jay Leno from USA insulting golden temple, in the guise of making a joke about a republican candidate. We Indians are very perceptive people; we immediately understood that the joke was on us not on the US candidate. USA is making a big mistake in defending this misadventure in the name of freedom of speech. I was so offended that, though I do not watch Jay Leno show, I went to the website and watched the insulting clip. I had to watch it three times to realize that, the photo was actually that of golden temple, (it was flashed for less than 2 second). But once I realized that it was so, (as it was clearly explained in the blog below), I was thoroughly offended. Thanks to the vigilant UK and Indian media and the Indian government that this insult was brought to my notice which would have gone otherwise unnoticed. I made special effort to watch the clip to get insulted. I have decided to watch Jay leno show every day to keep a watch on him, if he gets into any more insulting business.
We were just recovering from the affair of Russia banning Bhagwad Geeta, our sacred text. How can they stifle freedom of speech and freedom of expression of our ancient Godhead? It may hurt sentiments of group of people in Russia, but what about freedom of expression? Shouldn’t the greatest democracy in the world expect and stand by the freedom of speech when it is stifled in post-communist oligarchy in Russia?
When it comes to religion, Indians unite in a rare show of solidarity. If USA thinks that governments cannot work with religious extremist groups to agree on a common agenda, Rushdie case was a case in point. I have not read` Satanic Verses’. I have been taught English in India by the English curriculum that was designed by Macaulay in early nineteenth century. So I know pure English and authentic English literature of the likes of Shakespeare. These new writers like Rushdie have really altered English in its content, subject and style, which I think is very unbritish. So I don’t read Rushdie partly because I don’t understand and partly because I don’t care if I don’t understand. But when somebody says he insults, I HAVE to make that effort to read and understand at least the insulting part. Having to make that effort is annoying enough to feel hurt by Rushdie, the fact that he writes and then that we have to read it to find attempts of insults. So when both government and the terrorists groups did a united `three monkeys’ on Rushdie that they do not want to see, hear or speak Rushdie in India, I was a bit relieved.
I am all for freedom for speech. My problem is when I am sleeping peacefully, I hate to be woken up and told that somebody spoke to me insultingly while I was sleeping. Then I have to take efforts to seek and understand the insult. I had to dig in the books and read out-of-context those remarks which otherwise I would have gone for many lifetimes not knowing. I had to watch shows which I would have been happily unaware that they ever existed. And then I have root for rights of foreign people reading Bhagwad Geeta, which I have no intention of reading myself. This all is so tiring and infuriating at the same time. Can I please ignore? I don’t think that will hurt anybody. And if it does, I am happy that I have come up with the most-energy efficient response to insults. So I would like to propose a coup on Voltaire. I want to say that ` I don’t like that you ignore me, but I shall defend to death your right to ignore’.