Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pluralistic Politics

In a society of many members, which believes in basic human rights, and the fundamental equality of its citizens, it is necessary that unlimited freedom be restricted, under the understanding that one man's freedom can only extend as far as the point at which it begins to infringe on the rights of another. I cannot do just anything I want, because some things would harm others, and that would not be fair to the other person's right not to be harmed - just as I would not want to allow others the freedom to do things that would harm me. This is a perfectly reasonable basis for society. But recently I've been seeing a lot of expression of a very disturbing trend, based on the concept of building a uniform social policy to be applied across the board of society.

Dealing with individuals enables scrutiny of individual circumstances. We can see just whose freedoms are being exercised, and just whose rights are being infringed. The purpose of the courts is to look at every accusation of criminal conduct (which should be defined as a rights infringement), and to judge on it, individually, by a jury of peers, taking individual circumstances into account. Yet this philosophy seems to be at odds with the popular mindset that the law is an imperfect, blunt instrument, that can only be applied to citizens equally across the board, without consideration to individual circumstances.

What I'm seeing is people actually submitting to the inevitability of the imperfect law model, wherein people are judged by the standards of the majority. Policy is dictated by what caters to most of the concerns of most of the people, with the concerns of the minority sacrificed for the good of the statistical majority. This is a gross injustice. People have come to believe that it is right that a person's freedoms be unreasonably restricted because the democratic majority has argued that exercising those freedoms causes rights to be infringed in a statistically significant proportion of instances, without concern for the fact that exercising the freedom in a particular instance may not have that effect. It's like outlawing the use of scissors because too many scissor mishaps have occurred - in some cases even to the point of absolutely forbidding anyone to use scissors, even with the proper training and safety precautions. And if a scissor expert can't use scissors safely for a good purpose, most of the rest of society will be eager to say, "that's a good thing, because unleashing the power of scissors on the populace is way too dangerous, we can't afford to even let one careful person use them, because then how do we stop them from getting into the hands of the reckless?"

This is absurd. I have the strangely uncommon belief that the law should serve the citizen, and not the other way around. The law exists to protect people - specific people - who are being wronged. It does not exist to oppress freedom for the good of the statistical majority, applying measures where they don't belong, because it takes too much effort to scrutinize which people or circumstances those measures should specifically apply to. It's a brainless, pro-conformist belief in the inherent supremacy of the majority, to the detriment of diversity and minorities everywhere. Infringing the rights of an individual is never justified by a call to statistics, much of which are frequently built on lies and stereotypes. Have I mentioned how much of a gross injustice this is? Do people not believe in the worth of the individual anymore? That the bodiless entity called "society" is not more important than your basic human rights? "For the people" doesn't mean "for the faceless mob", it means "for the individuals that make up that faceless mob". For the individuals, each of them, individually.

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