We’re making what I consider to be a mistake in our discussions of human rights. That mistake, I think, will cause us chagrin in the end.
Take freedom of speech as an example. We talk about it as if it’s unbridled, unlimited, unqualified. No, it isn’t. No human right is. That’s the mistake we make: In assuming that human rights are unlimited.
Otherwise I could use freedom of speech as a defense for inciting a mob to lynch you. There has to be a limit.
From 1998 to 2006, I sat on perhaps 1500 human-rights claims. (1) As a result of that experience, it seems fundamental to me that a human right cannot be used to defend an act abhorrent to society. The two are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
In this case, the act is a threat to the right to existence – the life of the person I’m threatening to lynch. I won’t be allowed to kill someone and hide behind human rights.
Another way of saying that is that I’m not aware of any human right that is not limited to a domain, beyond which it becomes an excuse for criminality.
There are many things I don’t have the right to do. I don’t have the right to harm you, with some primarily medical exceptions. I don’t have the right to control you, abuse you, rob you, torture you.
Human rights work by stopping some people to maintain the freedom of others.
If freedom of speech were unqualified, I predict that the Internet would turn into the equivalent of an urban back alley in less than a week, with the equivalent of wall graffiti all over the place.
I don’t want that for this site and I think you rely on us to prevent it. Whose freedom are we then protecting?
Have we not learned from the deep state’s use of “woke” culture to confuse and frighten the public? Do we want to throw away our discernment, our discrimination? Is that wise?
Banning something outright or accepting it outright proves to be too blunt an instrument. When the exceptions become too numerous, we sense we’ve backed ourselves into a corner.
The answer is to be found, I think, in the middle, in the center, between the extremes of “always” and “never.” We won’t escape the need to distinguish between the two in whatever court or tribunal interprets the human-rights charter at issue.
I suggest we approach the discussion neutrally, factually, and respectfully, as we would any discussion in our own courts and tribunals.
As always, there will be exceptions that will need to be adjudicated. The usual metaphor is the difference in motive between a knife in the hands of an assassin vs. a knife in the hands of a surgeon.
It’s a maxim with me that “human rights” can only apply to something that benefits, not to something that harms.
In my view, it isn’t that we shouldn’t have a global vote.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t have a global digital currency.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t have some restrictions on some people’s speech in order to protect the freedom of others.
Everything depends on the integrity of the one(s) overseeing the process. In the right hands, global opinion polls and voting could be beneficial. In the wrong hands, they could be a great evil.
In the right hands, a global digital currency might make a lot of sense. In the wrong hands, no.
In the right hands, monitoring and assuring whatever standards we decide on in public communications are acted on may create a workable global communications environment. In the wrong hands, it’d be a bad move towards censorship and control.
But the answer is neither no control or tight control. The answer is the least amount of control needed to maintain a workable communicational environment. Remaining in and returning to the middle lowers the temperature and keeps bonds intact which are often broken by taking extreme positions.
I think it’d be folly to raise the rallying cry “unqualified freedom of speech.” Wouldn’t we be back at square one again? Haven’t we tried that avenue many times? Isn’t that where netiquette came from?
In my view, after the Ring of Fire, when we’re feeling the love that fuels the higher planes, we need to sit down and decide what the standards will be that will guide the new Internet. (Right away I think of the Westminster Declaration.) (2) And then how are we going to ensure that those standards are adhered to?
We want the Internet to cease being a battleground for the ego and become again a playground for the soul. To do that, we need to build a workable global communications environment for future generations to make use of and build on.
(1) As a Member of the Refugee Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Vancouver office.
(2) “Westminster Declaration,” Nov. 20, 2023, at https://goldenageofgaia.com/2023/11/20/the-westminster-declaration/