The Difference Between Freedom Of Speech, Bullying And Criticism

Artwork by  Alina Noir

Artwork by Alina Noir

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I really think we don’t have the right to “CRITICIZE” someone until and unless they’re physically/mentally hurting you or someone else.
Recently, or not so recently, or all through my life, I and I’m guessing a lot of people, have to deal with a LOT of criticism. Like a lot. For what we said, what we wore, what we thought, what we wrote, what we dreamed of, what we liked, for what we disliked.

People always have a LOT to say about, well, just about everything and anything, even if they don’t have ANY idea of what they’re fighting for or fighting against. All they know is that they have to say “something”, just so someone knows that they have an opinion to give.

Many have problems of understanding the difference between freedom of speech and bullying. Though, freedom of speech may be defined differently in many constitutions throughout the globe, the essential aspect of it is: You can speak for/against anything until it is harmful to others’, their reputation or the state’s security.

Everyone thinks that what they think is right, and if what they think is a popular opinion then they think they are DEFINITELY right.
In some instances, you might be right, of course. The subject of the discussion is something that has to be kept in mind.

But, sometimes, the right opinion is not a majority. Sometimes the right thing gets repressed and ignored because majority of the people think that what they’re doing is right. So, they criticize the minority. Not just criticize, they obliterate them.

If someone has a different opinion than them, people usually say just about ANYTHING to win an argument. To establish dominance, everybody wants so desperately to be “absolutely RIGHT”, everybody wants to be “unquestionable”, everyone wants to be “justified”. They say and do things that will gain them acceptance from others. But during that desperate game of acceptance collection, they quite forget that the other person, standing against them, has feelings too. Such few people are ready to negotiate. Negotiation is getting rarer and rarer as days go by. Discussions and debates are a grey affair. People insist on making it either black or white.

Anyway, I’ve always felt that encouragement is always better than criticism. And as far as, constructive criticism goes, it is quite healthy. But then ONCE AGAIN, most people don’t even know what it means. They think their “negative” opinions are constructively correct, just because constructive criticism is supposed to be cruel and honest. Honesty is not cruel. Honesty is NOT cruel. It is understandable. It can be rough, but one accepts it for what it is. It doesn’t make you cry. It makes you aware. For those of you who are unaware of what it ACTUALLY IS–
According to Wikipedia, it means: “Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, IN A FRIENDLY MANNER, rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” It is for the benefit of someone else, NOT for you to state your unjustified hatred for something. That is what it is.

Constructive criticism is NOT the following sentences: 
“This is bullshit.” “You are stupid.” “Go and die.” “Why the hell are you alive?” “You are so fucking annoying.” “You’re immature.” “I would rather claw my eyes out than read what you write.” “You are a waste of time.” “You’re worse than I thought.” “You are a mistake.”

That is bullying. You’re bullying somebody if you criticize them without a logical reason. Congratulations. You have achieved being at the lowest level of being a human being. If you don’t like something, just because you don’t like it, just move past it. Just scroll past it. Just ignore it. If you actually have some constructive feedback, that will genuinely help the other person, only then you should state your opinion.

“It was just a joke.”
People use this line as a line of defense when they’re being really, really mean.
Excuse me but, do you know what the difference between joking and bullying is?
Joking is when both people, who made the joke and on whom the joke was made on, think it is funny.
If not, and what you say makes only you laugh at the expense of someone else, you’re a BULLY. You’re a goddamn bully, congratulations!
No, you can’t degrade someone because you’re “friends” or “you always do that!” or “We’ve been saying this shit to him/her for ages!”
How cruel could you be and give THAT as an excuse for saying something that makes someone hate themselves or makes them hate something about them that they shouldn’t hate but they DO because YOU think it’s hilarious. ‘Cause maybe you’re at the top of the chain right now and you’ve got your bully friends with you, but someday who YOU’RE so blatantly making fun of, WILL be you. I can GUARANTEE you that. So, change. Change for better. Change before it’s too late. Change before you actually become this person you’re pretending to be. Once you let it take over you, it’ll be really difficult to find the way back to yourself. Don’t sink so deep that you lose sight of the surface.

Very few people, like really few people, actually stand up to people who degrade them in the name of “love”, to their relatives and friends and even parents or siblings, when this subtle murder of their inner self happens. Be that kind of person. Please. “Bullying is bullying no matter where it comes from.” I read that on a Tumblr post.

It’s not a joke, or “concern” or “just for fun” when family members bully you. Tell them to absolutely back the hell off. Protect yourselves, man. PROTECT yourself NOW.

No, standing up for yourself isn’t “lame” , it’s not being a “buzzkill”, or not being able to just “take a joke” or having “no sense of humour”
If someone says that to you, that you don’t have a sense of humour, tell them the attack on your mental health and your self-respect isn’t hilarious to you and these things are more important to you than their 5 minutes of entertainment.
They might forget 10 seconds after what they said to you, but you won’t.
You’ll toss and turn in your bed thinking about it, it’ll never leave your mind. These things eat you alive, man.

Another way of standing up, if you have problems with speaking out loud against some people, is to own your flaws. You can be awesome without being “perfect”. Just in case somebody hasn’t told you this so I’m going to: “YOUR FLAWS ARE NOT A LIABILITY TO YOU. You don’t have to hide them. Recognize them, and if ‘YOU’ (only you) WANT to overcome them, work over them. Let them know you KNOW yourself so well, they don’t need to shout it out for you. Say yes to your flaws. “Yes, I can’t dance like a professional. I’m still going to dance.” “Yes, I don’t sing that well. I’m singing for myself.” “Yes, I write too emotionally. I’m writing FOR myself.” “Yes, I’m too shy. Accept it or move on.” “Yes, I frown a lot. It’s my face. It’s MY face. I can make whatever expression I want to make.”
Like Tyrion Lannister said, “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

There is just too much hate in the world, too much bigotry. Try not to add more to that. My mother always said that if I can’t say something good, then I should just keep quiet. And I should always find the goodness in things, no matter how bad they are. There will always be people who ignore the good things because it’s really easy to hate things, but I should never do that. Not everything is black and white.

And I read somewhere that when in doubt, think what your mom would do. She’s the only person whose opinion matters to me. Be the person your mom would be proud to have as a child. Not proud for what you DO or who you date or what you score, but for what you are. I am my mom’s legacy. What about you?

Oshin Ahlawat is a young poet and writer based in New Delhi, India. “I believe people who write are like tornados and cyclones. We wreck a lot of lives; for better or worse. It all depends on the people who read our work. They decide where the damage is going to be; the heart or the mind and whether it’s going to be for the good or for worse. I wish to give them the choice to decide that. I’m just going to focus on doing what I want”, she says.