Sima Qian is a famous Chinese historian. He is known for his view that speaking truth was equal to taking a high-risk strategy. Though his writings, he stated that writers in the country had to debate on whether they should focus on flattery and hence gain favor with the leaders or whether they should write about truth at their own peril. For choosing the path of writing about truth, Sima was taken through one of the most humiliating punishment- castration, by the authorities. His other option was execution. He argued that castration was better because execution would not have made any difference in the society. Arguably, Sima Qian is a good example that it can be grievous to write about truth in nations where democracy does not exist.
The castration process was humiliating because people were supposed to live in a certain way to avoid death due to blood loss. Sima indicated that he cannot describe the whole situation in words because of the shame and disgrace. However, in the end, his pain and suffering paid off because his written work reached to other generations. People who read his work appreciate it and many people hold him with high regard for his courage and endurance. Other brave writers in the country also help the world to understand the issues of leadership in China and other nations.
Many years after the death of Sima Qian, the Chinese authorities continue to suppress truth in the nation. Freedom of expression is not encouraged in many spheres of life. The media is keenly monitored. Use of the internet is limited because of the fear that people can use the platform to express themselves. The only writers encouraged in the nation focus on lies and use words that keep the leaders flattered. Otherwise, just like Sima Qian, they may have to go through castration or execution.
In many parts of the world, certain content touching on leadership has to be hidden. This is the case even in countries that claim to be democratic. Many leaders are sensitive about such content and may manipulate things so that it is not released. Therefore, it is true that people who write about truth do it at their own peril. It is for this reasons that activists, journalists, and historians continue to advocate for democracy and particularly the freedom of expression. As Sima Qian would agree, without democracy, writing about the truth will always have grievous consequences.
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