Values and rights

It has become increasingly obvious that society is going to face very serious problems due to the manner in which values and rights are being reinterpreted to suit all and sundry as political parties jettison principles in a mad scramble for votes.

The recent referendum on gay ‘marriage’ in Ireland and the decision of the US Supreme Court are an indication of how laws legalising new rights are decided either through a majority vote or by the judiciary or, as in the recent cases of France and England, by parliamentary majorities.

Malta now remains the only European country that bans abortion, yet advocates for its legalisation are becoming more open, brazen and vocal.

A perfect example of the corruption of the real meaning of human rights is illustrated by the history of Amnesty International. This organisation was founded in the early 1960s by a Catholic convert, Peter Benenson. It disseminated the names of prisoners of conscience and the addresses of their captors. In this manner, over the years, it mobilised professional people, students, housewives and people from all walks of life to become not only benefactors but direct participants by writing letters in an effort to free victims of brutal regimes.

Sadly, this NGO, which had won such widespread support and been so effective in targeting human rights abuses, has decided to adopt what it considers a new right, the right to abortion. Until not so long ago, the right to life was universally recognised. Yet abortion has been legalised in most countries, even in European countries that had a long Christian tradition.

This should not be so surprising. One has only to look at not-so-distant history to see how the pagan, racist philosophy of Nazism that grew so rapidly to corrupt the democratic process in Germany, justified the killing of the unfit and handicapped, the brutal extermination of its opponents and finally widespread genocide that led to the infamous Holocaust.

Apparently, we have not learnt any lessons from history and seem convinced that democracy will inevitably guarantee basic values. Yet democracy, which rests on the will of the majority, is showing again and again that human dignity and human rights are no longer guaranteed, and that the rights of the most vulnerable are at risk.

Democracy has been reduced to giving a carte blanche to those in power, the stronger, those who have the skills, the money and the right influential connections to win the majority over to their own views. As long as the majority of people are assured that their self-interest is secured and that they are free to pursue their desires of self-gratification, a government is assured of votes and power. And power has a very intoxicating allure.

We have seen how majority decisions have led to the legislation of divorce, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion in many countries. It has also allowed the right to scorn with impunity what many people regard as holy. All this, of course, is permitted in the name of freedom of expression. But unfettered freedom, without responsibility and an accepted framework of clear ethical principles, is spawning a new regime of injustice and igniting a powder keg of callousness and hatred.

Amnesty International is already openly campaigning for liberalising abortion in Ireland after the recent referendum result on same-sex marriage. Malta now remains the only European country that bans abortion, yet advocates for abortion legislation are becoming more open, brazen and vocal. This all follows similar patterns and strategies that were adopted elsewhere.

Supposedly, the right to life is a universally recognised human right, and our understanding of unborn life is no longer what it was in the Middle Ages. We all have children, or children of friends and relatives whose first photos were taken in utero. There is no longer any doubt that abortion is killing.

But the electorate, like the mob, may just as well crucify an innocent man like Jesus and free a hardened criminal like Barabbas. That was a perfect example of how a very democratic decision could still be frightfully wrong.

We must make ourselves aware that it is crucial to have reference points that are not determined by politics and majority votes. It is undeniable that the State is there to safeguard the rights of each individual and the welfare of all without distinction. Yet it is painfully clear that even the majority of people are not aware what human rights are or what human dignity implies.

As Plato once reflected, truth is not a product of politics. Will our politicians have the integrity and humility to attempt to return to our Christian tradition and tap the wellsprings of its rational wisdom? Serious reflection on the values that underpin authentic human flourishing is an exercise we neglect at our peril. Sooner or later, our society will suffer the consequences.


Klaus Vella Bardon

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