When Freedom is Abused

Mideo Cruz and his ‘Poleteismo’ have been the stuff of news reports for more than a week now. The issue seems to have taken a backseat next to the growing dengue crisis, the renewal of the ‘Hello Garci’ scam and Paris Hilton’s visit to the Philippines, but it’s still there. It also doesn’t seem to show any sign of being resolved soon. If anything, the case filed against Cruz would be forgotten for years until something happens and the media decides to bring it up again, like any other high-profile case. There is nothing new under the sun, it seems.

Still, the ‘Poleteismo’ issue got me thinking about a few things. Is the freedom of expression really absolute, or does it have limits? Is the concept of art still too vague?

I believe that like all freedoms, a person’s freedom of expression has its limits. While Cruz is free to express himself through art, he is not free to offend the sensibilities of other people. And other people are also free to criticize him and his work.

I remember reading that Cruz said that he didn’t really mean to offend anyone, and that his true intention was to provoke critical thought. If that is so, then why didn’t he think critically about the possible consequences of making his piece like that?

And if the artists who defend Cruz are really defending his freedom of expression, then why are they stopping his detractors from expressing their freedom of expression by dismissing their actions as religious myopia? What, are there different rules for artists and different rules for common people? If that is so, then artists can just go about insulting the sensibilities of other people and not suffer any consequences just because they’re artists while other people can be sued for libel or slander. That’s a tad unfair, if you ask me.

While I think that the overreaction of the Catholics is a show of their narrow-mindedness and their fanaticism and I do not support them one bit, I am still more disappointed at Mideo Cruz and his fellow artists. They are supposed to be the more learned of the opposing sides, but they’re doing the same thing that their opponents are doing, the only difference being that they’re using fancier-sounding words. For some reason, they seem to have forgotten that with the freedom of expression comes the duty of using that freedom responsibly.