A GIFT OR A RIGHT?

Apparatchiks, by definition, owe supreme loyalty to the organisation. State apparatus, corporate business or any Christian denomination you care to name, there are always those who find their purpose in defending the organisation as such rather than promoting the purpose for which the organisation exists. This tendency is seen especially in supra-national governmental bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations.

UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson

In a press conference a couple of days ago one such apparatchik, Deputy General Jan Eliasson, the No2 man at the United Nations, gave us an interesting take on free speech. According to Eliasson free speech is “a privilege that we have, which in my view involves also the need for respect, the need to avoid provocations.” He also maintained that  “we should recognise that you have this gift given to us by the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights.”

No, seriously he did say that.  According to this Swedish placeman free speech is a gift given to us by UN officials in 1948.

John Milton, John Locke, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill you should have realised that all that thought, writing, and debating was finally going to come to fruition when we would be granted the privilege of free speech by a body containing representatives of the most repressive, dictatorial and corrupt nations on the planet.

Free speech is neither a ‘privilege’ nor a ‘gift,’ it is a right. Eliasson might have caught on to this due to the clue in the document he mentioned, the Declaration of Human Rights.

That truly excellent document the American Declaration of Independence speaks of those ‘unalienable rights’ with which we are endowed by our ‘Creator.’ Our rights are ours by nature of our creation in God’s image. These rights are not granted to us, they are not a privilege bestowed by politicians, they are rights we have simply because we are human beings.

The first amendment to the United States Constitution, which is contained in the Bill of Rights, contains amongst other things the right to free speech and freedom of the press. Many consider this the bedrock right, without this all the other rights will fall because there will be none able to speak out against error, injustice, wrong, malfeasance and corruption. Without the power of freedom of speech we are powerless, without the right of argument we are subject to the will of the powerful.

No matter what the apparatchiks of the UN think we must never consider freedom of speech as a privilege or a gift. A privilege once bestowed can be rescinded, a gift once given can be taken back. A right is ‘unalienable.’

Why then should Eliasson speak in such a manner?

The UN is constantly under pressure, as are many Western governments, to make supposed ‘hate speech’ against religion a crime. This pressure comes, of course, from Muslim governments. These are the same governments which have no qualms about their citizens describing Jews and Christians in the most vile terms.

There is a rule of thumb for Christians when it comes to how we speak, it is usually described as “speak the truth in love.” This involves two things, truth and love. What we say must accord with the facts and it must be spoken from a motive of compassion for the other.

This does not mean, however, that we are thereby unable to say that which offends or provokes. Sometimes the loving thing is to offend, even if it costs. We should recognise that our Saviour was offensive, and deliberately so. Jesus spoke the truth to the Pharisees when He called them hypocrites. It was offensive, even provoking, but necessary to make them stop and think.

Many Muslims find it provoking when it is pointed out that female genital mutilation is a barbaric custom, as is forcing women to walk around in searing heat wearing black bin bags, as is murdering any who slight their prophet. Keeping quiet about these things out of fear of being provocative, however, is not a loving thing to do.

To keep silent about wrong and injustice, especially when perpetrated by the powerful, is to be complicit in their crimes. Most of the apparatchiks in positions of influence are more than willing to bend the knee to those who have power. The unfortunate things is that when it comes to a struggle between wimps and barbarians you should bet on the barbarians.

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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