Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ariane Sherine - Freedom of Speech


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Transcript of Thought For the World’s thought for the day
Ariane Sherine
16th February 2009
It’s likely that I don’t know you. I don’t know how old you are, or where you’re from; what your beliefs are, or how you voted in the last election. I don’t know whether you’re female or male, whether you’ve ever been in love, and whether you prefer peas or beans.

What I do know is that you’re lucky. Not because you’re listening to this; but because, if you are, it’s likely to mean that you’re free, and that you’re safe. If you can read this page, it means that you’re literate and have received some education. And if you’re listening in the UK, you also have access to clean running water, enough food to eat, and free medical treatment should you need it.

If we have all these things, it’s hard for us to fully grasp that hundreds of millions of people living in the world right now do not, and are suffering because of it. It’s much easier to turn off the news than to hear things which make us feel helpless and sad, such as the fact that in Zimbabwe, thousands of people are currently dying from starvation, cholera and Aids, due to the failure and neglect of Robert Mugabe’s government.

Lately, many people in the UK have been despairing of our own government. They are worried about the economy, about job security, about ID cards being introduced and freedom of speech being curtailed. They are right to stand up and try to protect our freedoms, which should never, ever be taken for granted.

However, whatever reservations we may have about our government, the fact that we can speak out against them is a wonderful thing. Robert Mugabe and dozens of other regimes have imprisoned, tortured and killed those who spoke out against them. And while our current government didn’t win us these freedoms, and may not have been as determined in upholding them as many of us would have hoped, we are a very, very long way from losing our freedoms altogether, as so many people have.

In a world where our chances are largely predetermined by where we are born, you and I are lucky enough to live in a country with an average life expectancy of 79, while Zimbabwe’s is just 35 – the shortest in the world.

We are lucky to be able to concern ourselves with issues of liberty, and not have to think about how we are going to feed our children today, or how long we have left to live. We are lucky to be able to believe what we like, and say what we like, as millions of people cannot. We should never forget that.

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