RESPECT IS TWO-WAY

Sometimes we talk about what sort of courtesy we should show one another in blogland, and I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to agree.

Part of the fun of having a blog, for many people, is that it gives an opportunity to say whatever we like, about whomever we like, whenever we like. We let off steam, have a rant, and maybe feel better as a result. It’s called freedom of speech, one of the many freedoms which this country offers and which is banned in other places.

However, I don’t think it’s possible to have a freedom ‘in a vacuum’, so to speak. Friend Janet is always saying that the whole of life is interconnected, and many of us are familiar with the idea of an ecosystem, where everything affects everything else.

So it follows that our freedom of speech is connected to other things – like other peoples’ opinions and feelings, which are often very different from our own.

There are some people who shrug their shoulders and don’t think that this should impinge on their right to say what they want. I beg to differ.

I’m happy to have discussions with people who think very differently from me, and I learn a lot from our differences. But I don’t think that freedom of speech should cancel out a sense of responsibility. People may say what they wish, but it should be accepted that sometimes this will have negative and harmful effects.

A good example is the cartoons in Denmark about Islam. There are those who would strongly defend this ‘right’ to write, draw and say whatever one wishes – that is a democratic freedom.

But in a world where interfaith feelings run high, and extremists are ready with guns and bombs, it is downright irresponsible deliberately to offend. Rights do not come singly. They come connected to responsibilities.

So discussion, yes. Disagreement, yes – but courteously. Slagging off other people’s beliefs? No, because trying to live in harmony, and to walk in another’s shoes, is more important than a selfish need to look big to myself in print by offending others.

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