There are some of us who rank our belief over our freedom of speech and others who rank our right to information and our thoughts over our right to express them.
There is a term in Sanskrit called ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which denotes that the whole world is one single family. The term extrapolates how worldviews vary among people but this does not diminish the need for respecting differences; if anything, it increases it. Essentially , ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is the premise behind modern multiculturalism and was revived as a contrast to (what was perceived as) Western absolutism. The philosophy also recognizes other ecosystems and organisms as having an ‘atma’ and thereby being worthy of respect. It is an ethical and rational seesaw – whether ‘freedom’ and ‘respect’ go hand in hand or not. This posits a moral mathematics that the UDHR does little to address.
What needs revision is whether both these categories are still equal or whether one needs to be placed above the other. There are those who argue that aspirations are nice and all, but practice is elementary – then again, being perpetually stuck at the elementary level means accepting that we are not built to better ourselves. In his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus describes the fallen king as a parable for the absurdity of human life. He concludes by saying “one must imagine Sisyphus as happy. The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” Perhaps it is and perhaps it isn’t, but when it comes to freedom, it is worth imagining that we are each our own Sisyphus lugging our individual boulders up our personal moral peaks and plateaus…some freely, others bound.
Maria Amir is Features Editor and columnist for the magazine.
[i] The Universal Declaration has established many of the principles for a number of important international conventions and treaties including the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading treatment or Punishment; the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1981, clearly defines the nature and scope of the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief contained in the Universal Declaration and the International Covenants.
[ii] Cartesian doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of René Descartes. It is also referred to as Cartesian skepticism, methodic doubt, methodological skepticism, or hyperbolic doubt. It forms the systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one’s beliefs, which has become a characteristic method in philosophy.
[iii] Pragmatically speaking, this view is in keeping with UDHR Article 18 which states “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
[iv] Holocaust denial, the denial of the systematic genocidal killing of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, is illegal in a number of European countries. Many countries also have broader laws that criminalize genocide denial. Of the countries that ban Holocaust denial, a number (Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Romania) were among the perpetrators of the Holocaust, and many of these also ban other elements associated with Nazism, such as Nazi symbols.
[v] The Rapture is a term in Christian eschatology which refers to the “being caught up” discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord in the air”.The term “Rapture” is used in at least two senses and is commonly used among US Christians who welcome a final resurrection.
[vi] The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist.
[vii] Reference to Jesus addressing God in Luke 23:24.