Chilean Protestors

October 11, 2011

Political Theory


While scouring the NY Times just a few minutes ago, I happened to find a very short article about Chile and its president’s attempt to restrict the freedom of speech of Chilean citizens.

The summary of the article is that President Sebastián Piñera sent a bill to congress last Tuesday that would make it illegal for people to occupy public or private institutions (schools and universities) in protest. The punishment is up to three years in prison. The reason for this? Students have been protesting, for months now, to bring about a change in the current educational system. The President believes that these protests are the reason for his government’s decline in popularity.

I am not familiar with the way Chile runs its educational system nor do I know what the views are on freedom of speech. Now, we have all read Mill and have seen many comments and posts regarding his views on freedom of speech and expression. Clearly Mill would not agree at all with what the President is trying to do. But the fact the President is attempting to submit this bill is a sign to me that Chileans must not be as well versed in Mill as we in PolSci 101 are. Do you think that many Chileans (including those in congress) are familiar with Mill and other countries freedom of speech laws? If they are not, do you think that there is a chance this bill may pass? After seeing these photos, how effective would this bill be?

After seeing those photos, I am not sure that I can say that Mill would agree with such acts of violence to get the point across, but maybe I am wrong. I know for sure though that Mill would not agree with the drastic restrictions the President intends to make. What about you?

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4 Comments on “Chilean Protestors”

  1. ksaukas Says:

    Maybe, I would hope, the students were pushed to violence by the government. Not to support violent protests, but if the government is trying (and it seems may have a good chance of success) of outlawing freedom of speech I would infer that freedom of speech was most likely prosecuted before this bill was conceived. Much like the protests that started in Libya, Egypt, and Syria the intention may have been for freedom of speech but such outright violence by the government could have caused the rise of violence in the protesters.

    Yet I would like to point out an interesting fact that I seem to be noticing. Maybe Mill himself hasn’t been as widely spread as he should, but the idea that people have a right to freedom of speech and the right to govern themselves. The Arab spring, the occupation of Wall Street, demonstrations in Europe,and now Chilean students are all speaking out. Writers and philosophers teachings may not be spreading, but the their basic ideas are and they are catching on fast.

    It is similar to the 60’s and 70’s in someways. The world saw cultural revolutions that were persecuted then too, but most were successful in creating a positive change in the world. It is extremely exciting to see the Middle East join in this new wave of cultural change since they have usually been excluded. Unfortunately many times major changes such as these go through some difficult trials before they are excepted as we can see in the case of Chile.

  2. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I’m sure that at least some of the Chilean people, at least within educated circles, have some knowledge or understanding of Mill and other writers of his time. I admit that I didn’t know much about him; I’d caught his name and some of his ideas in passing as I read other material on my own in high school, but it wasn’t until this class that I actually saw how his ideas tie in with Hobbes, Locke, and the concept of American plurality.

    Whether they know Mill or not, the Chilean people understand the concepts of free speech and free assembly. If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be out doing it, after all. Most Americans probably aren’t too familiar with John Stuart Mill, but almost every American adult can tell you something about our conception of freedom of speech. I don’t think that drawing the link between the two is absolutely necessary to evaluate the feelings and academic motivations of the Chilean people. As the first commenter mentions Syria, I’ll go on that for a moment. I doubt that much of the Syrian public knows who Mill even is, far less what he wrote about or when he did it. They obviously do understand, however, how pivotal freedom of speech can be when organized and used effectively. The situation in Syria has become so severe that the issue came before the UN Security Council for a vote. Although the resolution failed thanks exclusively to China and Russia, it nonetheless underscores how vital free speech was.

    I hope the Chilean government gives more respect for protest than the Syrian one did. I’m not too sure that this will happen, but we’ll see. Of course, the governments are extremely different, but it’s interesting to note that in spite of their differences, both nations are cracking down on protest for the same fundamental reason: to protect their reputations and remain in power. I guess some things never change.

  3. tchung22 Says:

    I don’t agree with the restrictions the President intends to make. This bill would limit the citizens’ act of free speech since they should have the right to protest against the educational system. I doubt that many Chileans are very familiar with Mill’s beliefs on freedom of speech, but regardless, the citizens know about their rights to free speech and can act accordingly. Mill’s beliefs just further reinforce those rights, but are not necessary to deny the passing of the bill. After seeing the photographs, I do think the bill would be effective in limiting the protests in public or private institutions since they are threatened with prison time. However, I believe protestors would find other ways to get their beliefs across and may enrage protestors even further, nullifying the bill’s purpose.

    Mill argued for the rights of free speech since these acts allow various ideas to spread so individuals can decide who is correct for themselves, the protestors or the President. Additionally, Mill argued that often, neither side is completely correct, but the truth lies somewhere in between. Thus, acts of free speech such as protests would allow both sides to evaluate their beliefs and arrive at the truth. Mill would support the acts of protest if they seem to give the greatest good to the greatest number of people based on his utilitarian views. However, if the protests turn too violent and end up harming the majority of people instead, Mill would likely not support the protestors and would offer alternative views on freedom of speech.

  4. schoiidaho Says:

    In his excerpt on liberty, John Mill contends that we have to protect the opinions of the individuals from the tyranny of the majority. He states that we have to stay open-minded and listen to what everyone has to say. He mentions that the only way to make an approach is to hear all opinions from various perspectives, and collecting and correcting our opinions through collaboration with others is the only way we can find or strengthen the truth.
    Freedom of speech is definitely the greatest freedom we possess, since it is a way we can truly express what we think and how we feel about certain situations. There is a reason this is granted to us in the First Amendment. In this case, I do not think it matters whether the Chilean people are familiar with Mill’s arguments. However, it is true that they do know what is is and find it essential and value it very much.
    By passing the bill and outlawing public protests, the government is clearly abusing its powers to suppress the voice of the people. It is the citizens, not the government, that know what is the best for them. The government cannot decide themselves what is probably the best for the people, and absolutely does not possess the right to shut them up when things go wrong.
    Also, It is mentioned that the government is worried that its popularity is declining due to these protests. It is evident that the citizens do not support them anymore because they have failed to look out for the interests of its own people, and now forcibly taking away their right to free speech will further infuriate the citizens and lose them even more support.
    At the end of the paragraph of the article in the link, it is stated that the Chile government is now trying to “offer education proposals that have been rejected”. Hopefully, this issue can be resolved in a compromise rather than in deprivation of rights and violence.

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