I have found myself thinking about how important it is to preserve individual freedoms. This, probably because of a few things that Ive heard happen recently that challenge the idea that everyone has the right to self determination.
If you live in the western world, you have no doubt heard of the debates that rage about hijabs. If you havent, you can read about it here; in Australia’s case you can read just one of many stories here. There are more stories from Canada and the United states, however Americans tend to believe heavily in the ideal that everyone has the right to choose the course of their lives, at least in theory, and for that reason, a ban on head coverings seems unlikely.
Recently I’ve heard it said that some employers allow Muslims and not the Africans in their employment to have head coverings. In Australia, some people take it further, holding the belief that African employees are bad for business, and a investigative report a few years back showed that people with African names were more likely to be passed up for a job than people with names indicative of another ethnicity. The fact that Job prospects improve if you have an Anglo-Saxon name has caused some people to acquire a more “Western” sounding name in order to land a job and there are parents who even choose to give their children English names, to make their lives better.
Now, in the event that you hear someone in the workplace express views that indicate they feel one ethnic group to be inferior and that opportunities for furthering themselves should be limited, do you report that person or do you ignore it with the aim of protecting the person’s freedom of expression? Where does the balance lie? Are such views a threat to the individual freedoms of the ethinicity in question? And is reporting such veiws a threat to freedom of expression?
In today’s world, you see conformity becoming the new aim. People’s right to pursue a livlihood seems constantly under threat and government policy seems hell bent on making people conform to what some consider the norm. Take for instance the vaccination debate; I am a partial vaccinator, and a lot of people look at me funny when I indicate that I dont get the flu vaccine. I recently had a workmate stare at me blankly when I told her that.
You see, I work in the health sector and the health department recommends that health workers get the flu vaccine yearly. Currently, people are allowed to refuse but I wonder how long for. Previously, in Australia, parents could conscientiously object to children being vaccinated and while they still can, in recent years the government has moved to cut entitled payments for non-vaccinators. I believe that in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of families, the role that parents have always had in deciding what is best for their children must be protected. Rather than heavy handed tactics, and threats, and in this case, withdrawal of money that could put children at a disadvantage, goverment needs to create opportunities for discourse, where concerns on both sides are heard. In a democracy, we convince with ideas and not coerce through legislative power.
And yes, I do understand that parents don’t always get it right but to assume that governments are better able to decide the welfare of children is a misplaced idea. For instance, a few years back, there was something wrong with the flu vaccine and had severe reactions, with one child in particular experiencing life-long disability. Personaly, I would be better able to come to terms with something going wrong if I had made the decision on my own, rather than through coercion, and ultimately, it is the family that has to pick up the pieces of any adverse outcome of any choice they make.
That aside through, we also need to remember that the power that government has, needs to always remain in check and that if we give up to many freedoms, we give rise to tyranny. The idea that humans today, are better than those of old, is something we might need to view with a lot of scepticism. The assumption that the rights we take from ourselves and give to government are going to be used to the benefit of society seems to me, a dream far removed from reality and what we have seen happen time and time again suggests that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.