|Thursday, 25 September 2003|
Freedom in chains
by Afreeha Jawad
If modernism is all about rational thought, come to think of it, the blatant inconsistencies in pronouncement and practice, obscure, undermine and send into oblivion the very concept modernism upholds.
Retrospective thinking reveals how individual duplicity, perhaps could be a link up to such mental variation and chasm intensity. In analysing such, a key word, to be mind borne is 'Facade'. Sociologist Erving Goffman's front stage and back stage of man - so very relevant here.
While pronouncing legitimacy or natural justice, legality was introduced to suit one's own purpose. One look at the status quo - so very stark and revealing.
Freedom of thought, movement and speech - symbolic supposedly of world 'democracies' - are upheld only to a point of being confronted with an iron railing, just like what we see in road division. Try breaking it, the police, a State-sponsored mechanism will swoop on you from nowhere.
Try and speak out against the judiciary - you'll be hauled up for contempt of court - yet another State repressive tool. Private property ownership demands 'Thou shalt not trespass' - lest you stray into neighbour territory.
So the once free man is now fettered and chained, yet worldwide 'democratic' constitutional proclamations boast of individual freedom. Reminds me of a law student who once in sheer disgust said, "Everything is only in theory and not in practice." Not surprising then Bala Tampoe's expression at a recent seminar - "Courts render judicial decisions and not justice."
Original man bereft of chained living was man in his natural state, in his natural environs, which then is what legitimacy is all about. The legal aspect - all of which entail social constructs - an attempt and quite a 'successful' one at that - of chaining man.
The world's system of human labour - based economies - like broiler chicken all cooped up in a pen - eight hours work - released at 12 noon for lunch, caged again after an hour, only to be sent out at 5 p.m. That's how the system works quite contrary to natural man in his natural environs.
Thus a people who tilled their lands, tethered their cattle, wore the loin cloth, chewed betel and led peaceful lives were reduced to beggary. The legal and administrative network denied his legitimacy. Hence was moulded from among them the lounge suit-clad, chauffeur-driven class - the status conscious bourgeoisie, middle social order seeing things for the first time who viewed the legal and administrative framework as the bona fide world.
Such facade's deposit in democracy is equally apparent. Democracy's sublime concept was a pullover to the horrors of majority rule. While striking universalism and pluralism, it's appendage in majority rule, state centrism, ethnocentrism, minority rights denial, threaten State existence itself.
The two major international covenants on civil and political rights known as first generation rights and the socio/political/economic rights of the second generation, targetted towards achieving social well-being are in themselves a non-attainable goal though an occasional knee jerk success is seen now and then.
The first world's unfair trade practices are quite sufficient proof of such well-being, denial for the teeming millions residing in sprawling Asian territory where reportedly average per capita income is around one dollar a day. We even witnessed a poor farmer's intense sorrow when he set himself ablaze while the WTO meeting was on at Cancun in Mexico.
Today some leading industrialists, fashion houses and business tycoons launder money - a facade for whatever is ill-gotten after even having extracted labour for a pittance. Gruesome blackmarketeers resort to charity - a softener to grotesque dealings.
Community-orientation is most often than not that front stage - a curtain drawn before misdoings.
So it goes - the vain pageant of life.
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