“Do you guys ever plan to come to China since China is developing so fast and providing so many opportunities?” My dad asked.
Of course, I’d like to be as close to my family as possible. But there are some fundamental problems about China that I cannot ignore or live with. I told my dad that unless there is freedom of speech, I don’t think I can live in China. I will visit from time to time no doubt about that. I just cannot live for long where one of the most basic human rights is violated.
“I don’t think it will be possible in your lifetime to have the freedom of speech here in China…” The voice from the other end turned gloomy.
I know I made some pretty harsh comments there but I was not mistaken.
What I found interesting is that I was not always like this – so insisting on my principles about the freedom of speech. I never even used to know what freedom of speech really means, let alone demand it. Actually, according to Wikipedia, what I truly meant to tell my dad was that I couldn’t live in a society that curbs free will. Chinese Communist Party actively remodels how and what its citizens should think, restricts freedom of expression, and rewards the so-called “ideal citizen” behavior to ensure everyone stays in line and it always stays in power.
What is Free Will?
Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction.
Freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Clearly, they are not exactly the same but after looking at the definitions, I believe that there is a good reason why I mixed them up. To me, there is a cycle of achieving true free will. It constitutes three major components: the freedom of expression, the critical thinking ability, and the freedom of speech.
How the Cycle Works
Freedom of expression comes first because that is where original insights or profound thoughts are inspired in the first place. While absorbing information, knowledge or perspectives, one will encounter various opinions and if equipped with curiosity, a necessary quality for this matter, will embark the journey of truth-seeking. That is where critical thinking ability gets triggered and trained during the process. After acquiring the ability to ask questions, to conduct research, to analyze on one’s own, a critical mind will undoubtedly seek channels to exchange ideas with others, to debate, to test, and to further improve either its findings or the process of how it concludes such findings. That, therefore, naturally leads back to a new round of information gathering, which again requires freedom of expression, only this time it needs an even better resource of facts and logic.
These three components together form an ever-evolving loop with an upward spiral that ultimately leads to free will. If any one of them is missing, the chain is broken. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened to many people including me.
End of Part 1… Part 2 continues next week.