Friday, January 9, 2015

Freedom of Expression, Means and Context; A Short Essay by Payman Akhlaghi (2015)

Memo: Freedom of Expression, Means and Context
An Essay by Payman Akhlaghi (Draft 1)

(*) First published at on 01.09.2015 under Memo: Freedom of Expression, Means and Context.

Freedom of expression is not only about being free to express myself, but also about the means of expression, the subjective truth of the expression, the context of expression, and to the extent possible, the foreseeable contingencies of its interpretation. It's about saying -- writing, drawing, singing, making, presenting, posting, commenting, behaving, etc. -- what and how I wish to, freely, honestly, clearly, with my audience in mind, and without hindering the freedom of others to do the same.

As such, freedom of expression starts with life and continues to reinforce its flourishing. Freedom of expression would be self-negating if your expression prevents his or her fair chance of expressing themselves. Censor on the one hand, and violent response on the other, in their various forms and degrees, are the two extremes of violations of the freedom of expression. Censor can find many forms: a crowd mobilized to intimidate, ostracize, and silence a voice; a regulation, almost invariably arbitrary, to strain the freedoms of authors, artists, thinkers, scientists, scholars, or any other civil person for that matter, in freely expressing themselves in their non-aggressive means; imposing the wills of a tyrannical oppression; aggressive and intrusive means of expression that would deprive others of their chances to express themselves, or to exercise their right to refuse; bullying; vandalism; and that extreme and primitive form of response, that is, acts of violence and savagery against the persons expressing themselves. The list continues.

Freedom of expression is about carrying out a civil conversation on both the small and large scales without resorting to fists and clubs to settle the arguments. To that end, you don't need to agree with what's being said; but you can neither censor, nor intimidate, nor bring harm to others, because of your disagreement. And as the countless lonely voices through history have proven time after time, this is one place where "the wisdom of the crowd" does not apply, for too often it has been that very single voice that would prove to be right, though often after a long while.

(*) I was ruminating, and enumerating, the above points especially for the past few days, when I came across the following timely, erudite, comprehensive, and fairly argued recent column by Mr. Albert Brooks of NY Times. I naturally share several of his convictions; and reading it further helped focus this essay, particularly in regards to the element of context.
"I Am Not Charlie Hebdo", Albert Brooks, 01.08.2015,

© 2015, Payman Akhalghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.

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