In the 21st Century, What Does Freedom of Speech Mean?

The women below are exercising their constitutional right to Freedom of Speech — or are they?


These ladies — who won an international Bridge competition last month — put together their sign in response to questions they got from other teams in the tournament. Members of teams from other countries were questioning how the American government could justify its policies — the ladies just wanted everyone to know that they disagreed too.Well, the United States Bridge Federation disagrees and is now trying to punish them severely — including cutting off their ability to make a living as Professional Bridge players.

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

It’s been a long time since the founders of America put together the US Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

At the head of the Bill of Rights, they chose to put Freedom of Speech as the very first guaranteed right of all citizens. They had lived in a time when speaking out against the King of England was literally a crime punishable by death, so it’s no wonder they felt so strongly about it.

So now, in the 21st Century, have things changed?

With America at war in Iraq and Afghanistan — should people still be allowed to speak out freely? And at what point does criticism of the Government or of the President cross the line? Is there — or should there be — any line that can be crossed to make Freedom of Speech no longer a guaranteed right?

What do you think — should the United States Bridge Federation be able to punish them financially for their actions? And if so, what exactly does Freedom of Speech mean?

Three Projects — AND Three Values

On of the challenges faced by most of us in our modern world is that of ‘Overload’. We have hundreds of cable channels, hundreds of news outlets, millions of blogs — all beckoning us to spend our time with them.

How to deal with “project overload”?

All these things are waiting to sap and drain our most valuable possession – Time.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading blogs like Zen Habits and books like The Four Hour Work Week (4HWW) and Getting Things Done (GTD). They help me better manage my time and tasks so I can make the best use of my time and minimize the stress I deal with.

Practical Ways To Deal With Project Overload

A great example of better time management I’ve picked up are The Low Information Diet from 4HWW. Tim Ferris, author of the 4HWW describes the low information diet as essentially ignoring all news unless it finds its way to you.

He recommends watching no news programs and reading no news websites. None. If something is so important that you need to know about it, you’ll hear about it somehow.

Another interesting approach is the idea of Haiku Productivity from Zen Habits. The idea behind this is that you organize your work into projects, as recommended in GTD, but only work on 3 projects at a time. If you work on more, then you can struggle getting things completed.

By limiting your projects to three at a time and focusing on project completion, you can rapidly get things accomplished — rather than spend all your time on tasks while not actually completing things.

But there’s something missing — Values

I like both these ideas, but I believe there’s something missing in them both. Something important — and that’s Values. If we all simply stuck our heads in three projects and ignored the world around us, then important changes in our world might not get off the ground.

How can we expect people to learn to conserve energy, or reduce consumption if all they think about is the three projects they have going right then?

We can do anything — if we can put our minds to it

I believe that if our society were to set its mind to it, we could tackle many of these challenges. We could develop less better transportation systems. We could reduce what we consume and focus on making more of our consumption sustainable. But in order to do that, the Values of society will have to change.

As a society we’ll have to change our Values to make these things more important to us all. Once society adopts the Values of reduced consumption and sustainable living, I believe we’ll be amazed at how quickly things change. If you look around, in fact, you can see the beginnings of this already.

Add “Three Values” to your “Three Projects”

So while I agree with the ideas behind Haiku Productivity — limiting yourself to three active projects at any one time — I’d add to that “and Three Values”. Reducing your consumption isn’t a project anyway — it’s simply changing your beliefs about what it appropriate. It’s about changing your values.

Here are some examples of values that might be appropriate to focus on:

  • It’s best for me to reduce how much I drive and how much gas I use.
  • It’s appropriate for me to purchase products that have minimal packaging — and the packaging should be recyclable.
  • I should consider altering my goals to make them less materialistic and more focussed on family, community and happiness.
  • I should make an extra effort to recycle — even if it’s inconvenient (like bringing soda cans home from work to reccle them, instead of throwing them in the trash can at work if your work doesn’t recycle).

So as your putting together your GTD Projects, and as you focus on your three Haiku Productivity priorities, also consier adding three values to your list. They don’t have specific tasks associated with them — but they may be even more important in the long run.

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