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Free Speech has Limits, So Think before You Speak

Mar 24, 2011

"LIBERTY means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." That's what George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), an Irish dramatist and socialist, said many years ago.

Of course, the same is true of freedom of speech. This is a simple truth. But the realization and acceptance of it may take a long time and some common sense. Like many young people today, in my own youth, I longed for freedom of all kinds.

My favorite verse was: "Life is dear, love is dearer. Both can be given up for freedom." To my undeveloped mind, freedom meant saying whatever I wanted and doing whatever I liked.

By that standard, the West was the place where my dream of total freedom could come true. Needless to say, my hallucination of absolute freedom has long evaporated. If my own awakening came from my acquisition of knowledge and improved analytical faculties, one of my friends learned his lesson about freedom the hard way through his own personal experiences.

Like me, he was a fanatical advocate of Western freedom. But he went further by marrying an American woman and becoming an American citizen.

Wu Guangqiang is Shanghai Daily columnist.

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