Defining freedom of speech will give rigidity to a fluid idea. Let’s consider freedom of speech as a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.
The right to freedom of speech is a right for all. But, it inherently carries a hierarchy in terms of the degree of enjoyment of this right. The people at the top of the authority will be the most ‘free’ to express their thoughts and those at the lower end will tend to keep quiet.
Is this because the people at the lower level like being quiet or is it because they are not allowed to speak? And staying in one’s limit is essential?
Be it any hierarchy, the people of the lower level do not speak up as they are fashioned in such a way. They know what level of expression is expected from them, and are well aware of the consequences of going above and beyond.
For example, in the hierarchy of a family, the patriarch will be the one who will have access to freedom of speech. The children or the younger one or the wife will be expected to speak less. If they are not quiet, they will be termed as disobedient.
In religion, the people more ‘close’ to god or the more ‘divine’ people will have the right to question and those who are not will be expected to follow the dictum.
The degree of freedom of speech is relative to your social position.
This is the reason the people in the lower strata cannot contest for their rights and someone ‘enlightened’ from the upper hierarchy will do that for them. This is because the people in the lower strata are considered as sub-humans or not human enough to speak their mind, as they are believed to have no thought at all.
Be it women rights contested by men, or human rights being challenged by the elite. At first, it is that enlightened person who will be starting the contestation of rights of people that are far away from his social range.
To talk to someone is to treat them equally, and that is the reason for the limited interaction between people of different levels.
The bigger question here is that if the upper hierarchy ready to change?
Is the mother-in-law ready to accept the speaking of the daughter-in-law?
Are the elders ready to accept the questioning of children?
And if not, there is no change as such. Changes in a small minority of an elite bubble society will not lead to the betterment of the whole population.