Brave New World (The Star)
3 December 2011
Rights are not something to be played with. It is not a political tool to be bandied about. It is fundamental and inherent. It exists in us simply because we are civilised men and women.
RIGHTS are the weapons of the powerless. And just who are the powerless? Well, in my view, it is most of us.
Ordinary folks who either do not hold the reins of government machinery or have the means to control those who hold the reins.
That is why only those who are powerless or who have been powerless can truly appreciate rights.
We only have to look at history to see that to be true. The Magna Carta was created because the nobility of Britain felt powerless against the King.
The American Declaration of Independence takes the shape that it does because the founding fathers wanted to ensure that they would never again be under the yoke of a distant king.
Our own leaders, during the early days of our existence as a nation also understood this need for rights, having been ruled by an oppressive force more powerful than them.
Of course there are those with short memories who belittle rights when they have power, bemoan the lack of them when they lose power and belittle them again when they have power once more.
But then, there will always be the utterly unprincipled in any community.
The human race has evolved. We have values which prevent the strong simply taking what they want from the weak.
Our laws are in place so that we can be assured a person who is bigger than us can’t simply knock us out and take our wallets.
And just as we have laws to protect us against thieves and thugs, so too do we have principles which prevent the rulers from abusing us.
As a race we have come a long way from “only the strong will survive”. And that is due to the civilising of human kind.
Rights therefore are the current pinnacle of this civilising process. It indicates that we are civilised.
Related to human rights is democracy. When we choose our own leaders, we ensure that we are not led simply by someone who is going to force himself or herself onto us.
Once again, we see a principle which empowers the powerless.
This is why I care so much about human rights and democracy.
This is why I get furious when those who do not understand or choose not to understand, take my rights away.
That is why I work on the premise that we must have as much rights as possible.
Of course I understand there are limitations to everything, including rights, but those limitations must be made with the aspiration that a complete right is the ideal.
It is only with these aspirations in place will we ensure that whatever limitations imposed are the barest minimum and with the smallest effect on our rights.
Rights are not something to be played with. It is not a political tool to be bandied about. It is fundamental, it is inherent. It is not something that can be given for it exists in us simply because we are civilised men and women.
The powerful do not wish to see this.
It is up to us, the powerless, to remind them.