Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Krakow PEN-congress: day one

Krakow is beautiful with the inner city being part of Unesco's cultural heritage. Rightfully so, with it's joyful atmosphere and interesting vistas.That is the ambiente in which the PEN-congress takes place. The lead question in Timothy Garton Ash's address was: How to secure free speech in this totally transformed world? We have all become neighbors, we live in a global village with neighbors we might like or not like. Yet we also live in cosmopolis where the local has become global. Thus we should not try to regulate issues of free speech through national laws and we certainly should not try to regulate it through more and more laws. Hate speech should not be forbidden until it becomes dangerous and people could get hurt or killed. That is a delicate tilting point. China proves almost on a daily basis that the Internet is not free and private powers are at work like Google and Facebook deciding what can and cannot be posted, actually exercising 'private censorship' - except in Russia, China and Iran where there is state censorship. Yet we are empowered by the Internet, posting and publishing, keeping a blog... Yet we, all the people are not 'able' to do so: they may have no food and no roof, they may be illiterate or have no access to the net and thus freedom of speech becomes a fiction. We should not be intimidated by threats because than the dictators win, and what is the heckler's freedom, or the assassin freedom. And concerning religious freedom we should respect the believer but not the content of the belief.
Embracing difference and diversity we need to speak openly and learn to live together with civility. Inherited taboo's should be dismantled, the limiting laws set up as a protection  of the sensitivities of certain groups should be abolished because then always more laws will be made. Through self-realization and finding the truth we will also find true democracy. Find the person behind the burka or the keppel. As writers we can show the lives of others to our readers and thus help embrace diversity with sympathy, imagination and caring. And yes for many authors the question still remains (for instance in Zimbabwe what is the freedom after speech...

No comments:

Post a Comment