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Human Rights

Nest of the Orange Eagle – จากพี่น้องคนเสื้อแดงที่

Definition

1 a : a crime (such as treason) committed against a sovereign power

b : an offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power

2 : a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance

Lèse-majesté (or lese majesty, as it is also styled in English publications) comes into English by way of Middle French, from the Latin laesa majestas, which literally means “injured majesty.” The English term can conceivably cover any offense against a sovereign power or its ruler, from treason to a simple breach of etiquette. Lèse-majesté has also acquired a more lighthearted or ironic meaning, referring to an insult or impudence to a particularly pompous or self-important person or organization. As such, it may be applied to a relatively inoffensive act that has been exaggeratedly treated as if it were a great affront.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/l%C3%A8se-majest%C3%A9-2019-09-25

For most of us, living in Canada or most western countries, think that criticism of our government is a fundamental human right, acknowledged and supported by our laws and courts. Within some limits, defying authority or calling authority into question is one of the most crucial of our human rights to the maintenance of democracy.

This fundamental human right is not so fundamental if you live in Thailand. To most Canadians Thailand is just a great place to go on a vacation, not a place where human rights take a backseat to the monarchy. In Thailand, criticizing the government comes with very real consequences, including long jail terms.

And you don’t have to be the author of the criticism, just ask Chanoknan “Cartoon” Ruamsap, who made the mistake of “sharing” a controversial Facebook entry. A pro-democracy activist, Chanoknan “Cartoon” Ruamsap fled into exile on Sunday, ahead of arrest by military order for sharing on her Facebook account a BBC profile of His Majesty the King.

Chanoknan ‘Cartoon’ Ruamsap, seen here at home in Bangkok, says she had just 30 minutes to decide, then pack and flee ahead of a junta arrest order. (FB/Moo.Cartoon)

But in the end, it’s me who made the decision. The time I spent to decide was so short and quick. I had less than 30 minutes to decide whether to stay or to leave. What is difficult is the fact that I won’t return after this journey.
Then I went to say goodbye to dad and mom. Everyone was shocked but agreed. No one wanted me to be in jail for five years merely because sharing a BBC news story.
On the first day I arrived here, I only cried because I saw no way out. Everything seems puzzling and confusing. I didn’t know how to deal with them. I kept asking myself a question whether I made the right decision to seek refuge or I should go back, and I can meet family and friends as usual after serving the jail term. But I got the answer that I couldn’t backtrack now.

https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/1403522/activist-chanoknan-flees-lese-majeste-summons

And lest you think that these laws are unique to Thailand, with its backward government and oppressive system of administration of justice, think again. There are current laws in Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, and Spain, in Europe against insulting the crown, and committing lese majeste, under which an offender could also spend years in jail, or face significant fines or other penalties. Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well as the African nation of Morocco, and the Asian nations of Malaysia and Cambodia all have similar laws on the books, which are various enforced in modern times.

So why would a modern nation, like the Netherlands, or Denmark, maintain what seems like something out of medieval times. Don’t they understand civil rights, and the right to speak out to authority? Well, it turns out, not so much. Both of those countries, as well as Thailand, do allow criticism of the government, or of government policies. What they don’t allow is insulting and gratuitous attacks on the crown, or on the government leadership.

In Canada there are no lese majeste laws, as such, but even in Canada it is important to frame critical comments against the government or the crown in language that is not personally insulting to her majesty, the Queen or her family. But not because there is laws against it, but because it is unnecessary to personalize criticisms against the government or crown.

It’s fine to attack the monarchy, if you would prefer a republic, for example. Just do it with class and reasonably good manners. Most Canadians would be quite unhappy to hear someone committing lese majesty, even if its not illegal.

Even in countries like Canada or the United States freedom of speech has some limits.

“…I can’t abide what the world has become, the frozen-ness of our product this evil thing that we kiss the ass of every hour. I want a dailiness that is free and beautiful.”

Definition of dailiness

daily or routine quality ORDINARINESSthe dailiness of family life

As I have often said before, “I love words and language.” Discovering a new word is, for me, like finding a twenty dollar bill on the street. It is being rewarded for the simple act of curiosity about the ordinary things of life, in the dailiness of every day.

The ordinariness of evil is its most pervasive aspect. Horrible is insufficient to express our feelings for people who routinely destroy people.

In some uncomfortable way, the word brings to mind the ordinariness of both good and evil in our lives. Great deeds are seldom made out of massively heroic and exceptional circumstances. Rather, great deeds are the result of the very dailiness of an individual’s existence. Routinely going about doing good, as done by Mother Teresa, to her fellow humans in the slums of India, came to her as a very ordinary thing to do by a very ordinary person. The extraordinary thing about Mother Teresa is that her virtue was lived every boring day, and every exciting day as well. Her humility was a revelation that great good could be the result of just that… a pretty ordinary person committing to extraordinary acts, even as daily habits.

Mother Teresa was faithful in a dailiness of her ordinary life, lived with extraordinary outcomes.

Evil is likewise ordinary, an accumulation of the tiny acts over a period of time which ultimately result in great evil, despite the banality of the individual steps that gets someone there. Hitler’s Nazi Germany was not evil because the railroads ran on time, it was because in the midst of one of the most efficient industrial states of the twentieth century, human beings were destroyed equally efficiently and with banal malice by other humans as a daily matter. This was so much so that the destruction of millions of lives was just another aspect of the dailiness of life in the Third Reich.

Words have the potential to stimulate great changes in us. Words matter.

As human beings we are responsible for our actions, and the necessary consequences of those actions. Accepting, and remembering the harm we cause others is the foundation of permanent change and growth – a vow to do better is nothing if it is not followed up by the small actions involved in turning virtuous behaviour into daily routine.

I was taught as a child to be “blind” to racial and ethnic differences, by a family that had fled Sweden to escape poverty and discrimination because they were Laplander in a land dominated by Scandinavian Swedes, Danes and other late arrivals to the northernmost coasts of Europe and Russia.

This “blindness” included denial by my “Swedish” family of their Lap roots to the point that I only found out by taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com that I was descended from a persecuted minority. My grandfather worked his entire life in education in first nations communities in Northern Canadian communities striving to improve the lot of Inuit and First Nations peoples in their own lands and territories.

I thought that being colour blind was a good thing, and felt no sense of difference when in the presence of people of colour. To me people were people and I judged them on the basis of their actions towards others, their level of personal accountability, and their willingness to be friendly towards me and my family.

It never really occurred to me that “colour blindness” was a symptom of belonging to the dominant race, at least visibly. By not “seeing” race it allowed me to ignore systemic discrimination against blacks, asians, aboriginals, and other people people in Canadian society who don’t get an automatic pass because of their race or color or religion.

But I have learned that it is important to see difference in people, in order to identify when they are being treated as less than full citizens or even as less than human.

Our jails are full of people who look or act differently than the dominant community – first nations, other racial minorities, religious minorities, etc. Educational opportunities to help level the playing field are seldom as equal as they seem, with economic and social barriers in place that pit all of us against everyone.

The current Reconciliation Commission and Investigation into the disappearance and murder of aboriginal women and children needs to be followed by a similar commission into the treatment of minority women and children, and their rapes and murders in Canada during the same periods of history.

Canada is NOT the United States with its history of slavery and discrimination against blacks. We have our own history, and a self satisfied attitude of superiority to American historical has allowed our nation for all too long to escape genuine self examination and rectification of serious and persistent ill treatment and denial of human rights to all too many of our fellow Canadians.

I have learned to see difference, and it shames me to see what this blindness  in my country has allowed to exist, and continues to exist.

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