Liberty - No Longer a Straightforward Idea!
Freedom, what freedom... The laws they are a changing.
Liberty and the great liberal democracies are under threat from within these days. And it's not from drag Queens reading bedtime stories…. It has become fashionable for the heads of western democratic states to give themselves authoritarian new laws and with increasing frequency. You know, a bit like renaming Kanye/Ye/whatever next again, again!
The US, the UK, Israel even France are passing laws that limit tolerance, human rights protection, free speech, independent courts and more. What's even more astonishing it's all being done under the guise of protecting democracy and the rights of those nations' "patriots". (The drag Queens are vorboten but have you seen some of that patriotic gear they wear… hello red, white and blue jumpsuits and 50 gallon cowboy hats). In fact the notion of liberty has become so convoluted by these authoritarians in democrats' clothing that it warrants a clear, objective written definition.
What is liberty? Simply put. In black and white. Straight from the dictionary :
the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behaviour, or political views.
the power or scope to act as one pleases.
Seems like a fairly straightforward idea then. Right? We've all been raised steeped in it's logic and righteousness. We might have even worn a Bill of Rights costume panel on Halloween or Book Day as kids, or a Bic Mac outfit on weight watchers day. And yet liberty has been coopted by an authoritarian right who insist that to protect our liberties we need to pass laws that limit the most basic of them.
Ha! Foolish us, there we were taking comfort in thinking in Britain, France, the US, we had settled the basics of this argument centuries ago. In oh say the 18th century. When everyone wore wigs (nice)… and no one had McDonald's (shame).
Didn't the US Bill of Rights, France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens and the UK's 100s of years of tradition effectively set in stone untouchable, inalienable human rights?
The UK, strangely an outlier in directly writing out rights, never got around to writing a constitution. They just practiced their freedoms. Its why they never got rid of their Kings or Queens (not the ‘say gay’ kind) as they just effectively dissempowered them over time. The UK is principle based. It means principles are important and not easily trounced however Boris behaves.
Yet, now in the 21st century it seems a large swathe of our ruling class is engaged in a giant act of gaslighting. And not the methane from the back end of a bovine.
In the US, under the pretense of protecting democracy and individual rights; parental rights; the rights of the unborn; the absolute right to carry a gun; the right to practice religion (if its Christian) and the right to visit a fast food joint whenever you wish etc we are imposing on and restricting other rights. Book banning, Don't say Gay laws, bans on transgender medicine are all coming into effect faster than NATO can say ‘no say planes’. Some of these laws don't even make sense. Parents have absolute right over how their kids are educated to the point of banning a book from a library but they can't take their kid to a doctor about gender issues….
Britain is limiting the right to protest and marches and mud slinging. Except at Glastonbury. All while contravening international law and attacking established norms around universal human rights of asylum. Obviously not the Glastonbury part.
France is taking a page from the US practice of executive action and Macron is decreeing changes to their economic rules. Israel, the only Democracy in the mideast is in an uproar while Netanyahu changes laws around appointment of judges undermining the independence of the judiciary. The fact that he is under investigation by some judges has of course passed everyone by… oh, wait.
Judiciary independence is one of the underpinnings of a successful democracy. Rule of law which we all must follow gives an arbitrary standard of conduct. It's being challenged daily by the current British government and the previous US president. And while Trump might entertain notions of dressing up like a superhero Sunak is definitely on the Conservative side.
Trump, Johnson, Netanyahu, Sunak, Macron they are all leaning into authoritarianism to one degree or another. In the US, legislatures have become exercises in obstruction. And since Obama's term its meant greater and greater reliance on executive orders. The judiciary has been systematically, slowly but surely replaced by partisan judges, once a departure from the norm now accepted as just how it works.
The Tory party with a huge majority in parliament is wanton with extreme bills that impinge on established norms and rights and the BBC. Only a recent near conflagration of the economy has dampened their enthusiasm for extreme ideological acts but still they push bills that many believe are illegal or nasty or anti Sir David Attenborough (the ultimate sin).
Their counterparts in the world, Xi, Putin et al are so extreme now that Western politicians’ comparative authoritarianism (authoritarian-lite) are noticed but little feared by the people. And so they will continue until a massive revolt takes place. See France and Israel right now. Their people are in the streets trying to take back lost democratic power. In England they just want to be able to afford to eat again.
Let's hope the British and American systems prove more resilient and can take back their power without massive protests in the street. It remains to be seen. The future Windsor framework might look a little different. But perhaps all sides need to practice tolerance. Here's that definition in case we've forgotten:
Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
So let's protect everyone's liberty and practice a bit more tolerance on both sides. Because our democracies were hard won and deserve to be strong and sure. If not, we might have to rejig the media to tell it more ‘like it is’!
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