Friday, March 03, 2006

"Every human right has its opposite: the duty"

The discussion on this blog has gone far way from the liberal thought, therefore it is time to step in again. Let's first tackle with the problem that religion has been banned from the European public sphere and that only atheists have their own prevailing say. This is essentially what Movrin espouses. If this was a genuine perception of the reality, I would full-heartedly join Movrin and condemn this kind of situation, since it is anti-liberal. In a liberal society no comprehensive doctrine: either religious or non-religious (i.e. secular) has a privileged position. If European public sphere is like that, it is anti-liberal and we have to fight it back, as Movrin does, to establish the equilibrium of free and equal citizens within the society of a public reason.

However, I am afraid that a view that religion is expelled from the public sphere is a fortiori Slovenian perception, where religion was effectively not just banned from the public sphere, but people were even persecuted for holding their religious beliefs. In the West there is no embarassement on either side between the two interlocoturs if the question is posed about being religious or not. In Slovenia these kinds of questions are taboos, and the answers are concealed under the veil of cowardness. The same goes for political views and opinions.
Hence, my dear friend Miha: maybe it is not as black as it seems, it is only on us to step from behind the veil and assert our religious views in a way it is permitted in the trully liberal society.

Jernej's views have in the last weeks, similarly, drifted away from liberal and some sort of anti-imperialistic speech is comming from his mouth. "Most of Western European societies face at this point of time major problems in grasping and accepting the fact, which one may nowadays trace down only in the history books. That fact rests on illusion that Europe remains a centre of world, which could be further from the truth. Western European high-societies warm-heartily reminisce the day where the world balance has been shaped differently as it is now." What does this have to do with the question of freedom of speech? And after all, cartoons were published also by non-western European states... This anti-imperialistic sentiment spurrs some concerns.

But, my final and gravest concerns lie with the continuous and ever-lasting-re-emergence of the claims that human rights have also their opposites: the duty? What is this? Merely a redundant saying or a wish for an oppressive society? Would we like to live in the society where we would again need to ask the authorities wether is compatible with our duties to publish something or not? Which authorities: state, communist party, a church?

Societies based on duties, and not on human rights, are based on criminal law, they are oppressive societies. They are not based on individual's freedom. Of course, I warmly agree that freedom has to be exercised responsibly, this is our duty, but this can be and it is, if it is, enforced by the state only by criminal means. The more emphasis on duties, the powerful the state. Since human rights are conceptually understood as being aimed against the state, human duties are in favor of the state aimed against the indviduals.

The case of Karikaturstreit is a genuinely hard case, since the very liberal scheme of the society is at stake. Apparently liberalism has its limits, has its threshold of decency - called justice. We are all aware that carving out areas of taboos is fatal for freedom of speech, whereas we simultaneously know that cross-religious-practice of defamation and insulting is not what a just liberal society would want us to pursue. Therefore Dworkin says that UK press acted prudently for non-publishing the cartoons - but he at the same time insists that free speech taboos should not be created. I hold that if one newspaper publishes these cartoons, it is covered by freedom of speech, whereas an intentional concerted practice based on the assertion of power of the press all over Europe - just in order to show that they can insult and that everything is allowed, is not. In such a case secularism purports to have a privileged position and it is imposed on all non-secular-believers. This breaches the equilibrium of free and equal citizens and it is despicable.

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