I AM sitting on my desk. Just there waiting for my turn to report. One of my classmates stands in front, reporting. My mind sifts through everything. In a snap, my attention is caught. “There is no absolute freedom,” Randrew says during his report.

No absolute freedom. These words kick-started a series of thought.

I re-tweet, “I hate people who think freedom of speech means I can say whatever I want and you cannot get mad about it.”

Freedom of speech is not absolute. It is relative. Another person’s right to privacy, dignity, right to be presumed innocent before proven guilty, right to believe, and even right to free speech just restricts. The very rights that we are given is also given to others. Our freedom can go far. But, it must not hinder the freedom of another person.

We can say whatever we want, and we are free to practice any religion we want. But, once what we say destroys that dignity of another, we overstep our right. Once we start harming others for religion, we are now abusing our right.

My rights are also other people’s rights.

Freedom. You can do whatever you want. Restrained. You are limited to what you can do. Both oppose each other. You cannot be free if you’re hands are restrained. Nor, we are restrained when we can roam freely.

Yet, Randrew said, “There is no absolute freedom.” We are free to roam, do what we want, but to the confines of other people’s rights. We are free, yet restrained.

A paradox.

I pause that line of thought. I had to report. I think I delivered well. I just finish my report. I sit down, and sink down in thought again.

My mind just does a 360 back flip. Now, I find “restricted freedom” as equal to respect, not a paradox.

Trixie, a transgender, felt discriminated, and defamed. Club Valkyrie stopped him from entering the club. Now, I start to ask. Doesn’t Valkyrie have the right to restrict who can enter their private establishment? Of course they do.

Doesn’t it have the right to implement rules in its premises? Of course they do.

And, doesn’t it have the right to have opinion against crossdressers? Of course they do.

What makes stopping Trixie from getting in “unacceptable”? The answer returns to “my rights are also everyone else’s rights.”

Valkyrie’s right to uphold its dignity is equal to Trixie’s right to uphold his dignity. A straight’s freedom to dress as he/she pleases is equal to a transgender’s freedom to dress as he/she pleases.

“There is no absolute freedom” is not a paradox. It just says that “What you have is what others have. Don’t take it away.” If you can do something, others can do it, too.

When Valkyrie “defamed” Trixie, it stepped on Trixie’s right to uphold his dignity.

When we touch on religion, the same principle applies. If Christians are free to believe and act on their faith, Muslims, agnostics, and all other religion should also be free.

This sounds very similar to “respect”—one of the first morals we learn from our parents.

We recognize that others are just like us. We see them as people with the same right to speak, right to live with freedom to choose.

Respect is recognizing that what we have is what others have. Respect is knowing that your freedom is not absolute.

My freedom is limited. I may not speak out of contempt. I cannot discriminate. I cannot defame. By accepting that I may not, I now start truly respecting others.

As my train of thought comes to an end, I exhale.

Those few minutes of zoning out ends: “When we accept that we have no absolute freedom, we begin respecting others”.

-o0o-

Joshua Andrei is an AB Masscom student of the Ateneo de Davao University.

We owe a lot to this increased accessibility for the surge in political awareness, especially among the youth. Not to say that teenagers didn’t care about politics before E-Journalism (and social media, which plays a great role in spreading the word) came along. (Joshua Andrei Bon T. Gilles)