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What is Wrong with Us Nowadays

Not too many people recognize the importance of being fully conscious of one’s rights and obligations. In most cases, many dissenters are far more concerned about their rights and privileges without putting the same weight to their obligations and responsibilities. Some of them are quick to point out what they perceive as the wrongdoings of the government without completely understanding the ultimate public interest and policy behind a specific government action subject of their protest.

This paper, however, is not an apology for unbridled government regulations affecting even the simplest facets of personal lives of the people in the community. In fact, this is a short discourse on the need to distinguish the citizen from an individual. Despite the post-9/11 atmosphere that continues to pervade specific actions of the government, such as those regulating communications and exchange of information, for example, there is still a growing number of people exhibiting cynical attitude towards asserting their rights and welfare.

Foremost of those potential flashpoints in the realm of fundamental human rights are the right to privacy of communication and the freedom of speech and expression. Jurisprudence, especially those emanating from landmark US Supreme Court decisions throughout the history of the United States as a free and republican state, is rich in legal literature about fundamental human right tenets. Despite this, the conflict between the need to secure the country from terrorism, for example, and the right of the people to freely exchange ideas through public speeches and published content materials still remain in flux.

A Brief Historial Review Human rights evolved as a dynamic concept throughout the human history. The ancient Greeks were credited for introducing to human thought several key concepts such as state, government, citizen and rights. Some of the leading ancient Greek thinkers were Plato and Aristotle, who wielded remarkable influences to those who followed suit. Plato, however, was no admirer of Athenian democracy, contrary to popular notions (Blackburn 17).

In fact, he is one of the proponents of the concept of philosopher-king, an all-knowing ruler in an ancient society who was a repository of vast public interest and welfare issues. It is oftentimes argued that the medieval divine rights theory providing for the ecclesiastical and temporal authority of ancient kings and emperors was significantly influenced by Platonic ideas. It took several hundreds of years before this notion was eventually challenged by various philosophers during the European Age of Enlightenment.

Athenian democracy, as Plato, Socrates and Pericles understood it, can hardly be considered as one in modern times. In fact, it was a democracy among male Greek citizens, precluding the participation of female Greeks and foreigners, whom they once called as barbarians, in participating in public debates and meetings in agora. At any rate, Plato, for example, was already concerned about the obligation of the citizens in participating in the affairs of the state, saying, “The price of good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.

” The medieval age witnessed the seemingly omnipotent totalitarian rule of kings and queens, relying on their divine right to govern a country. Thanks to enlightened political thinkers centuries later, they introduced and advanced the varying notions about the responsibility of rulers to the governed and the society as a whole. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher widely acclaimed for developing the concept of Social Contract, outlined the idea that government power derives from the consent of the people.

Together with other French philosophers who were born later, Rousseau’s Social Contract theory was one of the fundamental ideas behind the French Revolution that toppled the authoritarian monarchy in France. The ideas on equality and liberty espoused by the French revolutionaries soon found their way to the mindset of the Founding Fathers when they decided to free themselves from the shackles of the English imperial powers and establish what is now the United States. The fundamental tenets on the equality of man, for example, is largely influenced by the early French.

Rousseau’s ideas are still relevant in modern America. After the September 11 attacks, various legislations were enacted regulating personal communication and exchange of personal information across various media. The erstwhile Bush administration went to the extent of issuing executive directives allowing for wiretapping of telephone conversations even without the necessary court authorization. This specific legacy of the former Bush administration brings to the fore what Rousseau once said as “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains” (Rousseau 30).

Lest we forget, governmental authority is only an offshoot of agreement between the people and the rulers. The ascension of man from the state of nature implies full understanding of his rights and obligations to the society. Instincts had been replaced with actions based on judgment of what is just and reasonable. Rousseau was particularly emphatic on this when he said that “To live is not merely to breathe; it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties—of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence. ”

The title of this essay is very apt, especially in the context of modern life’s hardships and the need to survive in a highly competitive environment. The economic crunch practically affecting everyone has particularly relegated the desire to participate in the affairs of the community, at the least, because most people are concerned with finding means to live. There is no blaming on this. This essay is not even a litany of frustration on my part, knowing what Abraham Maslow tells us about the hierarchy of needs, enunciated in his work entitled “A Theory on Human Motivation” (Goble 221).

It is a basic human nature to satisfy first the varying physiological needs before fulfilling what one perceives as social responsibilities. Apathy and Cynicism Among Us Increasing apathy among many people these days led to countless government regulations potentially eliminating the murky distinction between what is essential for national interest and personal freedoms and rights. This is particularly illustrated in less developed countries where less democratic regimes continue to suppress the rights of their people to freely express themselves and seek redress for grievances against repressive governmental actions.

Even closer at home, many Americans continue to suffer from discrimination in workplaces because of their national origin, color of the skin, age and language, among others. Despite being touted as a bastion of civil rights and freedoms, the United States does not always come with clean hands. We all believe that we were born with certain inalienable rights yet many still do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all of us were created equal yet many still do not receive equal treatment. Consider likewise the state of human rights in Third World countries again.

We believe that human rights are fundamental in nature and universal in scope. However, many people in these poor countries do not enjoy full protection of the law, especially when it comes to seeking grievances and speaking against their governments. Many still speak in extra judicious language where every word uttered is guarded because of the state of paranoia still embedding the minds of their leaders. For full enjoyment of those various fundamental rights and freedoms, an atmosphere where every person is able to speak one’s mind, especially those pertaining to the public life of their countries, must be established and nurtured.

When the people are given so much leeway to speak their mind up responsibly and allowed to participate in political processes, they are likely to become selfish, which is an ideal good (Swift 218). What Do We Do Now Then? Our individual interests, therefore, should be reconciled with those of the society, lest we remain forever as individuals and not as fully functioning citizens in our country. Our goals must always be directed towards the establishment of a truly more humane society, which, in turn, secures the interest and welfare of every individual.

Our selfish worldview must end. We need to engender changes within ourselves, for how we can effect changes among others if we do not practice what we espouse ourselves. This reminds me of Leo Tolstoy who was very emphatic in declaring, “Everyone thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself. ” Changing ourselves, however, must be a sustained effort. Do not expect change to happen overnight. Not all the social conditioning and environmental factors that shaped the way we look at the things around us are going to dissipate in a blink of an eye.

The drive must come from within. We must always value internal motivation more than external ones. Bibliography Blackburn, Simon. Plato’s Republic: A Biography. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007. Print. Goble, Frank G. The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. Richmond, California: ReinventingYourself. com, 2004. Print. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. (translated by Cranston, Maurice). New York: Penguin Classics, 1968. Print. Swift, Adam. Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians 2nd ed. Stafford BC, Australia: Polity, 2006. Print.

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