We lack an art of forgetfulness as regards freedom of expression.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power.”
“Two legs bad. Four legs better.”
We have all heard those words before. We know the heaviness with which they were delivered when they were delivered. They were words that were meant to be ascertaining truth, establishing trust, promising hope. What power they had when they were delivered! Some of the people reading this post were not even aware of UCE.
The sad truth about these words is that they did not turn out to be what they said they were. In George Orwell’s tale, in the tale of the sowing of the mustard seed, we come to realise sometimes words fade like whispers. Like embers they get lost in translation and in the pages of history cannot be found.
People have even gone on to say that “…actions speak louder than words…”. It is debatable, as words bring things into being or put them out. They stamp the presence of things and the absence of them. Freedom of expression is ideally not limited to words or the lack of them but to a large extent it deals a lot with what is said. Words then as above are flaky. Saying of things is not the entire point of freedom, is it?
Or is it? Can we talk about freedom of expression without talking about the possibility of changing our minds about what we said? Or taking back things we should not have said? Can we say freedom of expression when it only protects or suits us? Should we not tout freedom of expression as the freedom to right the wrongs we have made without being condemned for them?
I looked for a public apology online of Clinton for his remarks stated above but found none. While it was easier to say “I did not sleep with…” it was harder to say “I apologise for saying I ….”
For the pigs in George Orwell’s tale, freedom of expression served their lusts and interests as it does many of us and many times we do not want to consider undoing our damage.
Even today, what was the “The problem of Africa…” is now “…For us in Uganda, we rejected this business of term limits. If I am in power because I am voted by the people, then I am there by the will of the people…”
There is an art of forgetfulness in freedom of expression. It is primarily in forgetting that freedom of expression is one way; self service. It is the other way too, humility.
Featured image : Squealer (@Squealer4Leader)