Unfortunately, we in India don’t have free speech. We have a nice illusion of it but reasonable free speech in India doesn’t exist. Poorly implemented unclear laws and a thriving and ever increasing number of self-appointed culture polices don’t help the situation much.
Till about a few years ago I used to believe that banning hate speech in a multi-cultural society like India was a good idea. But I guess I was simply drinking too much of the NCERT Civics text book kool-aid.1 These can-hate laws, as I like to call them, simply don’t work. If canning all the hate was the idea, why are the Modis and the Advanis of the world still roaming the streets? The ones that have these laws to blame for their jail time are artists and innocent couples. That kind of a track record can’t argue well for a bunch of laws.
What hurts me more is what we are missing because of all this. Look at this guy -George Carlin. He is a stand-up comedian – spiteful, offensive and even brutal. But he is good. He says it like it is. He is smart, charming and damned well knows how to get a point through. He once said something along the lines of the duty of a [stand-up] comedian is to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately. And he really does a good job when it comes to that. By these standards Indian stand-up comedy is in it’s infancy. In fact, it is more like a retarded infant.
My point is that when you allow hate speech, you can have a comedy show on HBO whose opening line is this -
[Warning: All videos on this page might be offensive to some and even NSFW. Viewer discretion is advised.2 ]
And then go on for an hour speaking your heart out against the primary religion of the country and it’s ruling party, it’s a whole new refreshing kind of freedom. I think that kind of a freedom is important for a country to grow and that you can only grow so far with these kind of restrictions on free speech.
Here is George Carlin on the Ten Commandments which was a part of his Complains and Grievances routine -
Life is worth losing is the latest routine of George Carlin. It’s good. And the whole of it courtesy Google Video.
There’s a lot more of Carlin around. May your favourite search engine be with you!