As we struggle to preserve our freedom of speech, many people have been quoting the United Nations ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. They cite Article 19:
- Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Sounds very nice: solid, unequivocal, reassurring. No sitting on the fence here. Right?
Yet, Article 19 is only one of many which make us the lofty documents which so many of us faithfully believe guarantees us our rights and freedoms. The document has to be considered in its entirety, because following the articles which address specific ‘human rights’, there are others which modify these by defining when and how they are to be applied.
Please, consider Article 29:
- (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
- (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
- (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
All right, let us look at it…
Section 1 is a blatant statement that individuals owe their soul to the community and that the community owes nothing back to them. I use the term ‘soul’ in the sense of ‘that essence which makes us uniquely us’ and not in the religious sense, because the implication of the clause is quite clear: without the community, none of us would be free to become who we are.
Personally, I most vehemently disagree with this statement. The ‘community’ is often much more crippling to our development than not…
It is true that people have a greater chance for surviving when they form communities – and it is also true that many of our social needs are fulfilled by being members of a community. I do not deny that. However, the benefits which we derive from being members of a community have a great price: we must necessarily give up much of our individuality in order to do so.
In other words, by being members of a community, we may enjoy physical safety – but at the cost of not developing of our full individual personality!
That is why I disagree so vehemently with the statement in Section 1. But, why should that statement – or anything like it – even be included here? What possible purpose is there in asserting the superiority of the community over every individual, in a document which is meant to address individual human rights?
Having affirmed the superiority of the community over every individual in Section 1, Sections 2 and 3 then go on to invalidate any and all individual human rights which the community does not wish to grant.
Section 2 begins by saying:
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law …
That seems pretty unequivocal, too. Laws trump rights. Any law which is passed by any jurisdiction can limit the exercising of any of the rights and freedoms so gloriously listed in the previous articles! In other words, if you live in a country which passes laws to deny its citizens any of the rights listed in the declaration, these citizens have just lost any ability to exercise these rights!
So, what was the point of the exercise in the first place?
If you live in a country that allows its citizens to exercise freedom of speech – for example – then you don’t need the UN’s declaration. And, if you live in a country that does not, Section 29 has just clearly stated that you are out of luck! You may still have these rights, you are just not allowed to exercise them!!!
The section then goes on to say more about the types of laws which are so important they can over-ride our human rights:
law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(Yes, I would like to have highlighted the ‘rights and freedoms of others’ – but I am attempting to align the highlights not with what my priorities are, but with what I, in my never-humble-opinion, think are the current priorities of most of our governments, the EU and UN in the lead…)
The implication of these words? MORALITY??? It is legitimate for governments to ban speech which they thind does not think is moral enough?
And, of course, speech which might disturb ‘public order‘ can also be legitimately banned by any government! No wonder that governments are rushing to criminalize speech which might annoy the most militant, most ruthless segments of society. Instead of living up to their responsibility and keeping order, it is much easier to shut up those who might stir up trouble.
But it is worse than just that: if a government deems it is against ‘public order’ and ‘general welfare’ of a society for its political opponents to exist, this gives the right to ban their legitimate opposition from speaking. Think about it. Really think about it…
If you still had any doubt that the intent of Section 29 is to silence political opposition, please, examine Section 3:
These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
The UN is a political body – right?
This is an unequivocal statement that anyone whose politics, views or ideas are not aligned with the political aims and goals of the United Nations, has no right to exercise any of the rights and freedoms the UN had so universally declared!
Yeah, I put it into a rant, too:
What a UNIVERSAL HOAX!