Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Free Speech Twice Distinguished

Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, Napa, California, USA

December 22, 2019

This essay, Free Speech Twice Distinguished, is the companion piece to A Way With Words.

In these United States, we have the right to free speech. It's protected by the first amendment to our constitution. In this realm, "free" speech is a figurative term. Not all speech is protected by the amendment. You don't, for example, have the right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Laws / legal precedents block obscenity, fraud, defamation, incitement, threats, criminal conduct, and hate speech - none of which, no matter its content or your opinion of it, is protected by the first amendment.

When we distinguish free speech this way, we're discussing that which we're free to talk about. It's free speech which occurs in the epistemological  domain, a domain which houses that which we know (or opine to know) about. I'd like to consider there's another lesser deployed distinction "free speech". This free speech is deployed in a different domain, the ontological  domain, the domain which houses who we be  (yes I do mean who we "be" here, and not who we "are" - try it on for size).

In a real sense, who we be is our speaking ie who we are is our spoken word. And transformation is said to be the harbinger of the recognition that who we are, is our spoken word ie that who we are is known by our linguistic acts  ie by our speech acts. Let's differentiate between the former "free speech" as say, the right to disagree with federal policy, and the latter "free speech" as being  free to Self-express, being facile with language, being free in communication, being free from holding back, being free from stage fright  (if you will) when speaking in front of groups. The latter free speech isn't like a right or a legally endowed privilege. It's free speech like being unfettered, free speech like being free from being shy, free speech like being free from being (self-)repressed, free speech like being free from being held back - in a word, free speech like being transformed. And the two types of free speech distinguished here may or may not overlap (they often do, but they don't have to).

The personal freedom coming with transformation empowers our mastery of language - indeed it catalyzes our recognition that our speaking is who we be. Look up "integrity" in Werner's lexicography. It's defined as "honoring your word" - period  - nothing more, nothing less. Be careful: "honoring" your word is different than "keeping" your word. "Keeping your word" alone is an earlier (now archaic) concept of integrity (but that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion).

The idea of free speech in the context of being transformed, still doesn't come with the right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Yet as is often dramatically testified, authentic transformation has such a profound impact on peoples' outlook, both for the future as well as for what happened in the past, that it's not unusual for hate speech to simply disappear in the process of Life itself which, when you're fortunate enough to be present when it occurs, is moving and extraordinary beyond belief.

To complete this, the notion of "inalienable  human rights" should be examined. If a surgeon dissected you with a scalpel looking for your inalienable human rights, she wouldn't be able to find them in there anywhere. As counterintuitive as it is, there are no such things as human rights. But there were conversations human beings had, after which the ideas / ideals comprising human rights, were declared. Prior to their declaration, there was no such inherent notion as "inalienable human rights".

We could therefore say any human right (and free speech in particular) is a function of language. Where free speech shows up in the context of being transformed, is in being facile with language, in being generous with the joy of Self-expression, in being unfettered and unheld-back in expressing who we really are, indeed in being unfettered and unheld-back with language itself, being free to deploy language to speak who we might be really. In this realm, "free" speech is also a very literal term.

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