I remember the day that I first spoke up against someone. She had openly criticized me for being a snob. Incensed, I reported her to to the higher ups. I didn’t like being called a snob. Not in public. Not amongst peers.
The higher ups told me that people could talk however they wanted, and I had to deal with it. So I pouted, sneered, growled, and huffed off. And I dealt with it by ignoring the insults.
I was 10 years old.
As the years went by, I slowly realized that everyone called everybody else names. Insults were rife. Criticism was common. But dealing with criticism in a mature manner? That was rare.
Still, I had to deal with criticism, whether it was against my novel writing, my research, my dancing, my being myself. I had to keep on writing, doing research, dancing, and being myself. And if the criticism was valid, I had to improve myself.
This latest cybercrime law brouhaha should have me fearing for my life. After all, I am an outspoken critic of anything that I choose to criticize. I am a voice amongst the many who speak out against a variety of issues. I am a voice against racism, and prejudice, and intellectual snobbery, and arrogance.
But that is what matters most: I am a voice.
The cybercrime law seeks to silence that same voice, that same right to bear and speak an opinion. So should I be fearful?
This law, if anything, is telling of our lawmakers. They are afraid to be criticized, afraid to be told that they are wrong, afraid to be spoken of online. They are as afraid as that 10 year old child who was called a snob.
But that 10 year old child chose to grow up.
So I ask again: should I fear for my life? Or should I fear for the future of my country as it sits in the hands of these lawmakers who signed this law into being? Would I dare trust lawmakers who are no different from children on a playground, pointing fingers at each other and wiping snot from their noses? Would I dare trust lawmakers who are more preoccupied with what the public says about them than how they can be of better service to the public?
Would I trust anyone, for that matter, who is more preoccupied with what people think – instead of doing their job?
The law extends our country’s jurisdiction to the online arena. If anything, the law is reminiscent of lawmakers engaging in their own desperate “territory grabbing”. Would I dare trust lawmakers who criticize the bullying of a superpower in one breath, and yet, in another, try to exercise jurisdiction over a territory that is not covered by our laws?
May they never criticize China for its territorial bullying again.
Today, we are being urged to black out our websites. But I want my voice to be heard, because it must be heard. Because it should be heard. Because it is a voice. And because I have the right to be heard.
I can already hear the admonitions. If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all. All freedoms have their limits. Where one’s rights end, another one’s rights begin.
But if I know that a politician is corrupt, and I choose to speak up about it, will I not save money and lives by doing so? Will I not be safeguarding the rights of those that the politician claims to serve? If I choose to be silent, will I not be part of the problem? Will I not simple be part of the insane machinery that is sending my country to ruin? If I know that someone has done something wrong, and I choose to speak up about it, why should I be penalized?
I will back up my claims with sources. I will stand by what I say. I will not hide. And if I break logically-formulated laws, then I will willingly go to prison. That is what is meant by being held accountable for what you write.
I will cite my sources. I will say sorry and admit to wrongdoing if I am found guilty of plagiarism. I will attribute all my text to the right authors, whether or not I translated the text. That is what is meant by being held accountable for what you write.
But I refuse to follow a poorly-written law that stops me from making criticism in the first place. I refuse to follow a law that treats me like a rabid dog that must be muzzled; that oppresses me; that insults the legacy of my forefathers.
That bullies me into silence.
I refuse to believe that I have elected children who want to silence my voice because they feel threatened, because they want to do their jobs in peace without hearing from the people whom they serve.
You cannot do your job by silencing our voices. You cannot serve the people without hearing what they have to say. You cannot be good lawmakers if you are as easily hurt and bothered and irritated and insulted as children.
I am no longer that 10 year old child. I will stand up for what I believe in. I will be unafraid when the criticisms come. I will listen to the admonitions. And perhaps I shall cry when I am alone. But I shall listen, because I have an ear. And I shall speak, because I have a voice.
To silence my voice is treason to a country that won its freedom by blood. To silence our voices is treason to the people that the government claims to serve.
So, I ask again: should I fear for my life?
To paraphrase a popular movie, I should not fear for my life – and neither should I fear the government. The government should fear its people.
More precisely, the government should fear the voice of its people. As one dead president might tell you, had he the means: it is only the uneasy quiet that can truly awaken and unite the power of those who have been forced into silence.