In my opinion, the societal value of a concept like free expression is nuanced and multifaceted, holding both public and personal significance alike.

Publicly speaking, free expression is a fundamental value to democratic societies as it allows for the open exchange of ideas, opinions, and information. It’s instrumental in promoting dialog and critical thinking, thus encouraging a more well-rounded and informed citizenry. Also, in democratic systems of governance, the ability to freely express oneself is often considered a tenet or cornerstone of political participation. So that would be an invaluable aspect of a nation’s citizenry; being able to fully and without fear of retribution, express yourself.

Now, from the personal perspective angle, I think that free expression is linked to individual sovereignty and the right to your own self-determination. It allows us to articulate our thoughts, feelings, and individual perspectives, helping to contribute to the formation and expression of our unique and individual identity. Also, I believe that the ability to freely express oneself is closely tied to the notion of personal agency.

From this week’s readings, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” focuses on the marginalized voices that are often times excluded from the mainstream discourse narrative, stating

“It is, rather, that, both as object of
colonialist historiography and as subject of insurgency, the ideological
construction of gender keeps the male dominant. If, in the context of
colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the
subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow. . . (Spivak, p.5, 1988)”

This perspective adds another layer to the discussion, spotlighting the importance of considering and listening to the many voices of those who have historically been hushed or ignored in polite society.

Free expression also plays a crucial role in shaping one’s personal identity by allowing the freedom to express oneself, contributing to the self-discovery and the construction of a distinct, sacrosanct identity.

I do believe that the protection of free expression is paramount and essential for maintaining a healthy, liberal and vibrant society. Limiting free expression can have the effects of stifling creativity, hindering progress, and the impedement of a robust arena of thoughts and ideas. If we offer society an open venue of free and unbridaled expression, then we’ll know exactly where everyone stands on subjects and were not left to wonder one way or the other. I feel that was the impetus and the spirit of the First Ammendment.

Ultimately, the societal value of free expression rests in its contribution to a spirited and inclusive public dialogue, as well as its role in forming one’s personal identity and fostering one’s individual autonomy.

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