#08 Your Writing & The Freedom of Expression
A Brief History on the Freedom of Expression (or the lack thereof)
The idea of Freedom of Expression has existed almost as long as humanity itself. Since the first peoples assumed, commanded or took power via any means, both violent and peaceful, there has been censorship. One sure way to preserve power is to limit communication, specifically the sharing and disseminating of ideas which oppose or challenge the ruling class?s authority.
You can find traces of censorship in the earliest societies like the Mesopotamian Civilization in early 3500 BC and others since such as the Indus Valley, The Ancient Egyptian, Mayan, Chinese, Ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Aztec and Incan Civilizations. Clearly, this was a universal human imperative not limited to race, religion, region or culture. He, or she, who controls the flow of information, controls the facts and the narrative and therefore controls the people.
It was dangerous to be a human being in early human history up until recent times. Wars. Conquering nations. More wars. Violence. Discord. All of this was a perfect breeding ground for the corrupt and power-hungry ruling elite to not only snatch power but also to keep it. Isn?t it strange that this tactic is in the evil dictator?s handbook? Look at Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Kim Jong, Attila the Hun, Amin, and Gaddafi. Each one limited communication learning the tricks of the trade from the previous guy and trying desperately to correct his predecessors failed attempts.
Freedom of Expression in South Africa
At the date of this post?s publishing, it is the 27 April 2020. We celebrate South Africa?s freedom from the abhorrent apartheid regime, which spread mass race-based violence from an oppressive white regime against its non-white citizens. In 2020, South Africa celebrates its twenty-sixth (26th) year of freedom from that tyrannical regime. However, it?s devastating effects still ripple throughout our society and most likely will for some time to come.
One of the greatest tragedies was the censorship of African art, including writing which spoke out against the reprehensible mistreatment of African citizens. Artists like Herman Charles Bosman, Alan Paton, Peter Abrahams, Nadine Gordimer, E?skia Mphahlele rose up. They wrote beautiful works bleeding over the pages, some more literally than others, to share their truth with the world.
In the early 1960s, the apartheid state declared a state of emergency giving them the powers to limit the freedom of expression, which also helped curb the political uprising of dissidents. Despite this, these brave artists and many thousands like them continued to risk everything to share their stories, their art. Why was that?
?For to be free is not merely to cast off one?s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.? ? Nelson Mandela
Freedom of Expression in Your Writing
Freedom of expression is important because millions of people have died so you could have this incredible, natural, human right. ?Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers? – United Nations (10 September 1948).
You owe it to all those that came before you to find your truth and to share it boldly and without fear. Each of the great humans of history did just that ? they stood up to injustice, oppression and tyranny. Many lost their lives for it, while the horrors left others with deep scars that would never heal. And if you asked them all if it was worth it, what do you think their overwhelming response would be?
So this begs the questions ? do you care deeply about the themes you are writing? What more profound truths of the human condition are you confronting? If your writing is superficial, the authentic response to it will be equally shallow. Take some time and do some soul searching. What angers you? What excited you? What fills every fibre of your being so that you feel as though you are about to burst? That is your truth. Find it and harness it, and once you do, you must express it in your unique and authentic way. Only you can do this. You were uniquely made for it. It is your divine purpose. Now go and fulfil it.