(Smriti Prakash, IB Year 2 + Edited by Samyukta Sounderraman)
I’m about to reveal a somewhat embarrassing truth about myself. Promise not to judge.
I barely survived sixth grade English Literature. The highest grade I got that year was a B5 (which, to my parents, meant I had spent the year failing). In my defense, we had ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ that year. Search it up and read a bit, you’ll understand. Nonetheless, petty as it may sound, those report cards were a hard hit to my ego. Sixth grade is supposed to be about freedom, and joy, and growth. Mine was about disappointment. I thought I was doomed to hate the subject forever. But the next year, everything changed.
The credit, undoubtedly, went to the central theme of the book prescribed: freedom of speech, in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I might not have understood every word at the time, but I had found something to care about.
Freedom of expression forms the foundation of every constitution. Unwavering belief in this right has incited war and forced peace. This is the freedom that has bellowed flickers of creativity into flames and birthed revolutionary ideas. We, its citizens, are strong advocates of questioning authority in order to build on the dreams of our predecessors, who wished not only to be able to voice their own opinions, but be able to listen to the voices of others.
Our innovation has allowed us to achieve that dream- today, we are all active participants in a global conversation running across various platforms. But now that we’re hearing all the conflicting voices that scream of racism, xenophobia and bigotry, are we regretting that wish?
As we get more ‘woke’, we begin to adopt a certain sensitivity to language that offends. We push back against the phobias which are bound to crop up in a rapidly diverse culture. After all, if minorities are constantly under attack, there is no chance of achieving our dream: equality.
We dedicate ourselves to erasing the divisions of the past, to crafting a new prejudice-free world. But we must note the consequences of these actions. A P.C wave is hitting our speech, scrubbing it of all that offends. We report insults towards groups, trying to encourage inclusivity. We rage against those that don’t part the way for us and are outright hostile when confronted by those with whom we share explicit ideological differences. The line is already drawn- you are either with us or against us, in which case you are labelled a partisan pig.
A P.C wave is hitting our speech, scrubbing it of all that offends.
You might have read on many a millennial t-shirt, “Injustice somewhere threatens justice everywhere”. In that case, is our society’s admittedly noble focus on eradicating intolerance worth the cost of shaming opposers into submission? How many conversations do we give up on because we’re made to feel like we’re on the moral low ground? How often do we see people shift sides on a polarizing issue, not because they’re convinced, but rather because they’re drained from defending themselves?
Yet how can we ignore the impact of concentrated negativity on those that are targeted? How can we create platforms that encourage open conversation, while maintaining our moral obligation to protect its participants from harm?
Tough questions, I know
If you think the past few minutes have been bleak, spare a thought for the journalist who’s been grappling with this since the outset of the newspaper! Hope my disorientation makes you feel better about yours.
I bring this up only to direct your attention to how this critical issue relates to you. With the launch of a new medium of conversation, it is more essential than ever to be thinking about the issues of free speech and censorship. Casual Observer, despite sounding like Big Brother, aims at harbouring meaningful discussion on real issues. And real issues, just like real life, are complex. To have even a chance at accuracy in the portrayal of topics that matter to its readers, it will need a wholehearted and robust response from you, its contributors. Only when it receives views from across the spectrum can this publication attempt at being the platform that balances ideals with reality.
Know that when you send in your message to us, we will do our best not to distort it or to reject it based on the idea presented. We stand with the NPSI family, a dinner table across which to share an evening conversation. Tell us about your day, share funny stories. Convince us of something new. But just like the rules our parents try to enforce, we have (tiny) ones too. Don’t raise your voice, let others speak. Don’t insult, provide constructive criticism. We are all too aware of how shouting matches end, and we do not want anyone storming out on us. Most importantly, don’t speak when you’re chewing. The last one is not part of the metaphor, but it is an important safety tip.
We stand with the NPSI family, a dinner table across which to share an evening conversation.
Help us one day be someone’s Fahrenheit 451. Make with us a platform that empowers the informed, brings our reality to the stage and just maybe, gives a member of our family a moment to cherish.