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The Contendings of Horus and Set

August 15, 2012

One of the more interesting incidents that occurred during this latest Olympics was the verbal attack made by a disgruntled Twitter follower on British diver Tom Daley after the latter’s defeat in his first round of competition.  The attacker said that Daley, who finished fourth in his event, had let down his recently deceased father by failing to medal.  It was a painfully callous remark that provoked a huge number of replies by the British athlete’s supporters.

Daley’s attacker seems to be a very unpleasant person, who indulged in deliberate cruelty merely for the fun of it.  However, for the British government to arrest and charge him with an offense for speaking his mind was a response far more offensive than his original action.  Britain has apparently declared that a person’s right to free speech is now secondary to the convenience and approval of the rest of the population, even if they are in no way affected or harmed by the exercise of that right.  To be outspoken is now a crime, it appears.

There was a Frenchman once who paid a visit on George Washington.  While waiting for the president to see him, he happened to pick up a newspaper that was lying on a table nearby.  He was shocked to discover it was full of vulgar attacks on the American leader.  “But why is this allowed?” he asked as Washington entered the room.  “In France, the editor of this journal would surely be imprisoned and fined, and his libels suppressed!”  “Put that paper in your pocket, Baron,” Washington said to him.  “And when your countrymen ask you what our liberties mean to us, then show it to them.”

Human rights are not one-sided.  They are absolute.  They are unrestricted potentials.  They are not bound by ethics save insofar as each individual may choose to limit his actions in accordance with his own moral code.  There is a right to murder as much as there is a right to save life.  There is a right to insult as much as to praise.  There is a right to do ill as much as to create beauty.  We may regret that this is so, but there is no overarching force that can change it.  Each of us, as an individual, has the right to interfere if we see an act being committed of which we disapprove, but beyond that we have no absolute or ethical right to compel someone else to change his behavior.  We can force him to obey us if we like, if we are stronger and more numerous, but we are no better than he is, nor in any way morally superior to him.

This is the unresolvable problem in all human affairs, this right and ability of each man to do as he wills, and the inevitable clashes that follow when two wills come into conflict.  It is what defines all forms of war; it is one of the most basic interactions that can take place between individuals.  It is not a problem that can be solved.  No system of organization, society, government, or ethics has ever been able to suppress human rights more than temporarily in order to produce what is called stability.  None ever will, since the problem is endemic to humanity, a consequence of man’s exercise of free will.  And striking out viciously at those who only exercise their rights will not solve it.


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