“Which field do you wish to build a career in? Why don’t you seek help from Sharma Ji’s son? He has cleared IIT-JEE! Be back before 10 PM! Dress modestly. Marry someone from our caste.” These typical run-of-the-mill conversations are commonplace in Indian households. Research suggests that over 74% of the youth are dissatisfied with the amount of freedom they enjoy and value it more than anything else. This could have multiple connotations, i.e. freedom of expression, speech, career choices, life partner (!), lifestyle, clothing, etc.
A seventeen-year-old teenager might not possess the right to elect the country’s leaders but definitely wishes to enjoy the freedom and opportunities to speak out, to have a say in things, to express his/her views and thoughts freely, without having to worry about the ramifications it might cause. This leads us to the burning question: Why is this freedom of expression so important to the youth? Primarily because they want to be heard as individuals. Whenever the ideas of the youth are heard and implemented, it gives them an inexplicable sense of achievement, which in turn builds their confidence in the long run. Besides that, freedom of expression is an unequivocal ingredient for the unity of any family. When young people’s opinions are taken into consideration, they are assured of having a significant influence on their families. This also strengthens the parent-child relationship.
From a personal standpoint, this freedom allows youth to stand up for what they believe in, and for what is right. Most young people often try to imagine themselves in situations without the freedom to voice out what they believe in. Being forced to just nod and agree to something when you actually do not is one of their worst nightmares! It is therefore evident that the freedom of expression is important to young people. They wish to speak for themselves, to be respected as individuals, and to have the opportunity to contribute to their families and even the society. To be able to state their opinions publicly is their right. Is it too much to ask for? Surely not. In certain social structures, leaders dictate what is right and wrong. The leaders can define criminal convictions, as followed by some monarchies and totalitarian governments, military dictators or religious
heads throughout the course of history, or even today. Those leaders often think that violence and wars are acceptable as long as it is done for the cause of a ‘correct thought’. A true democracy is essentially the opposite. It entails each person taking their own decision. People have the liberty to think what they like, act however they please, without infringing excessively on the space of others. A democracy will only flourish if there is freedom to think and legal limits on actions. Science is often touted as a method that helps you define your own thought, but you are free to think what you want. The only “restriction” is that you need to believe what you observe.
The youth has always been perceived to be more liberal as compared to their elders. In the 1960s, baby-boomers spearheaded the social revolution that sprouted liberalization of values across Western countries. What were then fringe issues, such as suffrage, gender parity, racial equality, are now social norms in most developed countries. And even in places where they are not, youth form the biggest chunk of endorsers of such values. However, as a new survey by the Varkey Foundation reveals, among young people there is broad support for expanding rights to historically marginalised minority groups. This includes the ones racially discriminated against, the lower economic strata of the society, the LGBT community, etc. This demonstrates that freedom transcends the boundaries of mere expression for educated and upscale societies.
It is often preached that ‘with great freedom comes great responsibility.’ Taking advantage of freedom entails risk. For instance, if a person chooses to exercise the freedom of expression to publish a piece of literature, it could offend a few sections of the society, could be misunderstood or cause opposition from people of a different opinion. If a person utilizes the freedom of commuting by public transport, then the risk of traffic accidents would follow. Developing a new product or launching a new business also entails considerable risk. The philosophical understanding of freedom is a complex and concocted concept. The centrality of freedom cannot be undermined in society. A healthy and free society would be one that has risks associated with freedom, yet accepts those risks!
Rashmi is an MBA candidate at TAPMI, Manipal. A Computer Science Engineer by qualification, she has worked in the IT industry for around two years. She is a Marketing and Strategy enthusiast and a passionate public speaker. A true Delhiite at heart, she describes herself as a bibliophile, clinomaniac and a big-time foodie!