I confess that I am a fan of the first amendment
Each time I think about my country and its laws, I regret that we have not made a ipsis litteris copy of the first amendment of the American Constitution.
The content of this legal instrument is simple: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”1, however, its effect is powerful! Thanks to the first amendment, if you are American you can, in your country, to express freely your ideas; even if this ideas may seem absurd to others or to the government you can publish it, you can freely profess the religion you choose without any benefit or impediment on the part of the State to this or any other religion.
Brazilian constitution is considered is considered one of the most modern in the world, and theoretically provides for freedom of expression in its Article 5th 2, subsections:
IV - the manifestation of thought is free, and anonymity is forbidden.;
VIII - no one shall be deprived of rights by reason of religious belief or philosophical or political conviction, unless he invokes them to exonerate himself from any legal obligation imposed upon him and refuse to perform an alternative provision, fixed by law;
IX - is free the expression of intellectual, artistic, scientific and communication activity, regardless of censorship or license;
And also in Article 2202, which says that “The manifestation of thought, creation, expression and information in any form, process or vehicle shall not be subject to any restriction, subject to the provisions of this Constitution”, and its Paragraph 2nd says “Any censorship of a political, ideological and artistic nature is prohibited”.
That is, theoretically the freedom of expression has the same range than in the US… really? Unfortunately not! In Brazil we have the notion of “principle of damages”, that is, you are only free to express yourself IF it does not cause direct and evident damages to the other individuals, and the State decides whether or not you are causing this damage; according to the lawyer Anala Lelis Magalhães:
(...)The freedom to express oneself can be realized until the moment in which it will not cause direct and evident damages to other individuals, being the duty of the State to restrain and / or punish actions that violate this limit. In the case, however, the state machine does not move efforts to restrain or punish harmful actions to others, for indifference or ignorance, it is the right of the citizen to denounce the situation without, however, be incurring an offense to the principle of harm, because in reality, what the citizen seeks is to ensure that he is respected through the punishment of the denounced attitude.3
|Garrincha, Roberto and Lampião: prohibited books|
In other words, in the understanding of Brazilian lawyers the State has the right to prevent freedom of expression, what we see on a daily basis, with expression of ideas being forbidden because both the ‘politically correct’ and the desire that some facts are not divulged are seen as justifications for official censorship. In the US there no such censorship? Yes and no. Yes, a lot receives self-censorship, like the exchange of the name of the villain M'Baku, called Ape-Man in the comics, who had his identity changed so that there is no possibility of racist connotation, since it is common Afro-descendants to be compared to monkeys by racists4, understandable, is not it? The difference is that this "censorship" was made by the studio itself so as not to displease its audience, and not by the American state, as probably it would probably be done in Brazil; examples of this are full here, to stay just in books, here was forbidden a book that was a biography of Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos because he does not like that people know about the accident in which he lost one leg, a book about Brazilian soccer player Garrincha because his family did not want his stories about alcoholism to be divulged, and a book about Brazilian bandit Lampião (pronounced Lampiaom) because his family did not like that a theory about his supposed homosexuality be divulged5.
Do not misunderstand me, I am opposed and fight against racism, xenophobia, homophobia… but I am also opposed to any censorship on the part of the State for the free expression of any idea. Citing Voltaire, “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”6, why? Because moral and ethics, Although fundamental to life in society are not absolute, they vary according to the personal view, time and space; so, what is true for Brazil in the 21st Century, would be considered absurd in Brazil of the 20th Century, besides being considered offensive in other countries in the middle of 2017; that is, there are no a “absolute moral truth and ethics”, there is what I am based on and why I grieve, and what other are based on and why they grieve. Maybe 100 years from now what we think and defend now will be seen as absurd and even disgusting; who knows? For all this, I think calming dissenting voices is bad, wrong and as disgusting as the prejudice. Another characteristic of Brazil is that much of our censorship is based on the idea that society is divided into oppressors and oppressed, and that the oppressed must be defended by the State. But here comes the question: who define both who is oppressed and oppressor? And on what basis is such a definition based? Is not this definition itself an idea rather than an obvious fact in itself?
In my opinion, to shut up someone, however much we disagree with what he says, directly violates the right to free expression, that is, it is not the fact of not agreeing, of being in bad taste or of being disgusted with what you say that should give me the right to shut you up legally (by popular pressure, as in the case of Ape-Man is a horse of a different color, every group should also be free to pressure society to change according their own thinking), or else I shall also give the State the right to remain silent when I disagree with this. For many conservatives, for example, what I am advocating when I am in favor of homosexual marriage, or freedom of choice in relation to issues such as abortion and euthanasia, or even favoring stem cell research, will certainly seem insane, disgusting, wrong, immoral, in bad taste, after all, all that contradicts his view of the world. It is not, however, the disagreement of such groups that I must legally keep silent. I must have the right to express my world view, to fight for it, to press for it, to spread it... If I think so, that I have the right to express myself freely, whether or not others like what I say, how can I deny this right to others? How can I say “no matter your opinion, I think I am right and I will continue to manifest myself “, and at the same time, say “you think different from me, therefore you have no right to manifest?” Where is in this the freedom, the free will and to act according to one's own conscience?
Am I right? Am I being radical? Am I an asshole? Maybe… or maybe I am just getting old and I have lived a different reality. I grew up in a military dictatorship (established in 1964 and completed in 1985; I was born in 1970); I fight against it dictatorship, I was beaten up by the police demonstrating for my right to express myself... similarly, being I the only not Christian I knew until I was in my twenties, many times others tried to shut me up in the classroom or on conversation for the simple fact that what I believed in (or did not believe) went in the opposite direction with what the majority held. Was I right and they wrong? In my opinion yes, in their opinion not. Who was right? Maybe I, maybe they, maybe both, maybe no one; and who can decide that? The conscience of each individual, not the State, which is composed by human beings with personal tendencies and visions of world which influence their own decisions (as in any other human being), that is, neither I nor you are not impartial in our opinions… neither the State!
Summarizing, we lack in Brazil a first amendment, but there is still a lack of awareness that everyone, regardless of what they think, should have an equal right to express their ideas, no matter how much we disagree with them. In this spirit I finish by quoting the Brazilian writer Martha Medeiros: The politically correct has one foot in good intention and another in the repression of freedom. I tend to be a strong advocate of ethics, however, do not count on me to give leash to the exceedingly good ones, who aim to sanitize the universe with stupid measures which, I hope, will never be taken seriously. If they begin to restrict art and free expression, zzzzzzzzzz, then boredom will rule the world and put everyone to sleep earlier.
1 - http://constitutionus.com/
2 - http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/constituicao/constituicao.htm
3 - MAGALHÃES, Anala Lelis. O limite da liberdade de expressão: um enfoque filosófico diante do princípio do dano. In: Âmbito Jurídico, Rio Grande, XVI, n. 118, nov 2013. Disponível em: <http://ambito-juridico.com.br/site/?n_link=revista_artigos_leitura&artigo_id=13787&revista_caderno=15>. Acesso em jul 2017.
4 - BREZNICAN, Anthony. How Black Panther solves the problem of M'Baku. In: Entertainment Weekly, 2017. Disponível em <http://ew.com/movies/2017/07/13/black-panther-mbaku-man-ape-issue/>. Acesso em jul 2017.
5 - ROLEMBERG, Paulo. Livro sobre Lampião retirado das prateleiras. In: O Jornal de Todos Brasis, 2013. Disponível em <http://jornalggn.com.br/blog/luisnassif/livro-sobre-lampiao-retirado-das-prateleiras>. Acesso em jul 2017.
6 - Voltaire did not really say the phrase, but it sums up his thinking well on the subject.