Something to Think About – The R’s of Life – Survival in Modern World – Our Rights – Part Two by Sally Cronin


Last week I began working through the United Nations International Bill of Rights which contains 30 clauses relating to our rights as humans. With each of those rights there is an obligation and a responsibility by the individual to work with the system. That is not always the case, particularly when associated with the law. If we are entirely honest with ourselves; many of us break the law a little’ from time to time. We justify it of course in a number of ways and it also seems to depend on whether we can get away with it.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/something-to-think-about-the-rs-of-life-survival-in-a-modern-world-our-rights-part-one-sally-cronin/

This week I continue with our rights as laid out officially and look at our obligations as recipients of those rights.

 Rights and the Legal System

Everyone has the right to be recognised as a person and equal before the law and are entitled to the protection of the law without discrimination.

This is another right that we take for granted in our own countries but is not available to millions of others around the world. Unfortunately even under our enlightened system of law and order, there are failures. Our obligation is quite simple. Don’t break the law!

This does not just apply to the accepted definition of crime such as murder, theft, assault for example, where those we deem to be ‘criminals’ break the law.

We are human and we tend to classify crimes according to the statute books… A little like white lies we manage to justify certain misdemeanours as acceptable. However they are not, and for those who feel that texting whilst driving is a minor offence, you might consider these facts – Number of Driving accidents each year

  • Worldwide globally there is a motor vehicle accident every 60 seconds
  • Approximately 5.25 million accidents a year are reported globally.
  • 43,000 or more of the USA population will die each year in a motor accident.
  • 2.9 million will sustain injuries from minor to life-changing.
  • Car accidents kill a child every 3 minutes.
  • It is estimated that by 2020, road accident casualties will exceed HIV/AIDS mortality and disability rate.

In the United States 1.6 million accidents have a cell phone involved in them. That’s 64% of all the road accidents in the United States. If this doesn’t make you realize just how potent it is, what will?

Each year, over 330,000 accidents caused by texting while driving, lead to severe injuries.  http://www.icebike.org/texting-and-driving/

In the UK the statistics based on population size is just as damning

According to the   UK Department of Transport, there were 1793 traffic fatalities in 2017 and 170,993 injuries due to road traffic collisions. Of these, mobile phone use was found to be a contributory factor in 33 of fatalities, 90 serious injuries, and 308 less serious injuries. This does not include pedestrians, and these numbers are based on 93,125 accidents.

For those who are tempted to have just one more little drink before driving home because everybody else does… don’t they?

  • In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.3 That’s one percent of the 111 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year (figure below).
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors–such as age and gender–may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

CDC Impaired Driving Statistics 2016

To put these figures into perspective there were approximately 17,284 homicides in the United States for 2017. A figure that is reported daily by the press throughout the year, but road accidents are rarely quoted as an accumulated figure.

In the UK the statistics show the same pattern Road Safety Drinking and Driving

  • In 2016, figures show that 230 people were killed and there were over 9,000 casualties in total in drink drive accidents.
  • Over 200 people are still killed in drink drive accidents every year.
  • Over 70,000 people are still caught drink driving annually.
  • In 2016, 100 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured by drink drivers, as were 390 car passengers. 40 children were killed or seriously injured by drink drivers that year.
  • In 2017, 325,887 roadside breath tests were carried out by the police, of which 44,893 drivers or riders (14% of those tested) failed or refused to take the test.

In the UK there were 716 homicides in 2017. And the 230 deaths due to drink driving should be added to that figure in my mind, as they are the result of a person knowingly getting behind the wheel of a lethal weapon whilst drunk.

Everyone has the right to remedy by tribunals for violation of the fundamental rights.

I agree with this in general, and as part of the European Union, that ‘right’ has been well exercised. There is no doubt that many were justified. However, you have to ask yourself exactly who wins from these long drawn out appeals. Usually it is the lawyers. There are some areas however, where I do question this ‘free for all’ approach to the right to appeal on the grounds of Human Rights.

Foreign prisoners including murderers and terrorists have a ‘right’ to appeal for example against deportation to their own countries. This is an expensive process that is not funded by the prisoners themselves but by the taxpayer. As is their incarceration in UK jails at £40,000 + a year per prisoner. (Their rights already include – well heated accommodation, three meals a day, television, free medical and dental).

To put another spin on this – There are approximately two million pensioners in the UK living below the poverty line, attempting to pay for a roof over their heads, eat healthily and to keep warm on an average of £6,000 per annum. BBC News

Whilst I agree that prisoners should be treated with humanity, I do think we need to ask ourselves whether their depriving their victims of their human rights should be taken into account before granting permission to appeal.

Recently a prisoner brought an appeal based on the fact that he had put on weight in prison due to the abundance of fattening meals. Other spurious suits have been brought all under the label of violation of Human Rights.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

This is one that is not always easy to define. Although it is strenuously denied, profiling does take place. Certainly in the US and UK, particularly following increased terrorist activity, adherence to this right seems to be suspended at will. People do find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, if the authorities are working on the basis that there is ‘no smoke without fire’, and you are associating with people who are involved in criminal activities, then you might be perceived as guilty by association.

Everyone is entitled to a fair trial or public and impartial hearing.

This should be everyone’s right, and having met people who have been arrested and charged despite being innocent, it is a right that we should hold dear. Again, the majority of people who do make it as far as trial invariably do have strong evidence against them. The amount of convictions for innocent people is not huge, but still it is a warning that even the best legal system is not infallible. Unfortunately, in our day and age, people are usually tried and convicted even before their first court date in the media and on social media. Many a reputation has been ruined by overzealous and incorrect investigations even before reaching a courtroom. That damage can be life changing. An example of that is the hounding and public humiliation of Sir Cliff Richard with collusion between the media and the police.

I also have my doubts about a jury of my peers. Does this mean that there will be a panel of 66 year old men and women who have like-minds, judging my actions? Or just those men and women who did not manage to get out of jury duty!

Everyone charged with an offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This is an established right, but again, once an offence and an arrest is made public, then it must be very difficult to be a juror in a high profile case, not go into a trial without some preconceived assumptions. Also, whilst it makes me sound more than a little cynical, I am not convinced that those who have already a long track record of anti-social behaviour should be awarded this right, time after time.

The statistics for this are hard to pin down, but they are unlikely to have changed that much from this report in the Telegraph

  • One in three offenders put before the courts, including sex offenders, drug dealers and violent thugs, have at least 15 previous crimes to their name, figures revealed.
  • The trend also made a mockery of claims by Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, this week that thousands of people are being wrongly sent to prison to appease the “popular press”.
  • The figures showed that almost half of those jailed last year were, in fact, hardened criminals with a long history of offending.
  • The Ministry of Justice research also found one in four violent offenders sentenced last year was responsible for at least 15 previous crimes, as were four in ten burglars and a fifth of robbers.
  • Other figures showed more than 4,600 offenders were given a caution for a crime last year despite have at least 15 previous offences to their name.

The money involved is in the millions each year and that is taxpayer’s money. Money that could be better spent housing and caring for those in need rather than those who feel they have a ‘right’ to abuse the system.

This is an interesting article by a legal website that shows the extent of the problem in the USA.

According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately four out of ten people released from prison are returned to prison within three years. In some states, the number of repeat offenders, also called recidivists, is even higher. Repeat offenders can pose dangers to people and property, and state governments spend millions of dollars incarcerating, releasing, and re-incarcerating repeat offenders. Are our laws and policies up to the challenge of preventing recidivism?

I also find it difficult at times to reconcile the lawyer’s contribution to getting their client off, even when they know they are guilty. Whilst everyone might be entitled to a vigorous defence, it is not a job I could do!

There is another critical ‘Right’. To remain silent!

I was once told by someone who went through an arrest and prosecution, who was incidentally innocent; to say nothing if arrested until you have a lawyer with you. It does not matter if it makes you look guilty, as the police have assumed that already. You now need to prove your innocence and everything you say will be taken down in evidence, however innocuous you may think it might be.

It is the prosecution’s burden to find you guilty, but if you have associated with people who have criminal records it does make their job easier.

To bring this particular right down to a personal level, how many of us jump to conclusions in our own relationships and presume innocence first!

Where human rights and reality impact us on a national basis.

You may not agree with all the laws of the land, and find some of them downright ludicrous, but they are not so funny if you are caught breaking them and hauled into court. Our obligation is to obey the laws of the country where we are resident even if they are not laws in our country of origin. This can be difficult, as I found out living in South Africa when there was apartheid. It is also becoming an issue in the UK and it is very easy to forget as you chat amongst your friends on Facebook, that your comments are visible and that you can be prosecuted under the hate crimes statutes.

Human rights state that a person should be able to practice their religion freely which is not in dispute. However, there are certain practices associated with religions that might not fit in with a host culture and can easily be misinterpreted or be found unacceptable.

Part of emigrating to any country is to begin a new life, often in a less restricted environment and with greater freedoms for change. It is understandable that those moving from another culture would want to bring their established legal system with them as in the case of Sharia or Muslim religious Law.

Unfortunately there are interpretations of Sharia that impose penalties in other countries that are particularly harsh for women. This does not fit in with our established cultural beliefs and legal system and it does create a division in society as it is feared women are not being treated as fairly as their fellow British citizens.

Sharia law is used to clarify religious and family issues, as well as some disputes, however none of the councils that are set up in Britain can overrule the regular courts.  This is where human rights and reality collide and it will not be resolved by limiting the number of people entering the country, but by establishing a clear understanding of how we can live and work side by side despite our differences.

And the issue is not just one-sided. In the pursuit to satisfy the needs of children who will only eat halal meat from animals that have not been slaughtered in a humane manner, and according to our own Health and Safety food guidelines, here are some facts on school meals. Daily Mail

  • Hundreds of schools have banned pork – sausages and bacon – and switched to halal only meat for meals even where Muslims are in the minority.
  • Dinner ladies in hundreds of schools are expected to serve halal meat to primary and secondary school age pupils every day of the week whether they are Muslim or not.
  • The driving force appears to be cost because it is far easier and cheaper to have a single source of halal meat for everyone, rather than having to provide a segregated menu.
  • In most cases the halal meat served in schools will come from animals that have been pre-stunned before slaughter, which welfare experts say is the minimum required to minimise suffering.
  • The concern among non-Muslim parents is that it is not clear which schools are using halal only meat. Separately, a move to halal only meat means children have no choice but to eat it or switch to a vegetarian option.
  • This is a particular worry for the Sikh community who refuse to eat halal meat on religious grounds.
  • A spokesman for the Sikh Council UK said: ‘We are concerned that many schools, councils and other public sector bodies and their caterers are effectively allowed to deceive the public by providing halal meat without declaring it as such.

It is my opinion that should a child have specific dietary requirements that are contrary to those already in place, that they have the vegetarian option which is usually available and eat meat prepared in their own homes. And if the percentage of children requiring halal meat is significantly more than those children who do not, then the parents should be informed and there should be a choice of meats used. And the education authorities should swallow any additional cost.

Some countries have determined that the best way to deal with this issue is to take the stance ‘My house, my rules‘ and ‘If you Don’t Like it.. there is the door.’

And that is the direction I feel the UK is moving towards as the population begins to feel that they are the ones who are expected to change to accommodate new residents.  Especially when they recognise that some of their own established customs have been suspended in case they might offend others. This does not encourage integration or a balanced view of immigration policies.

And sometimes the loudest critics are those from your own country, and as an example of this, a couple of years ago I was taken to task for running a series called Sally’s Christmas Grotto. I was called out in a public comment and admonished for using the term Christmas as it excluded those who are non-Christian.

Well, I am sorry but I have celebrated Christmas for 66 years and will continue to do so, and I would never demand that anybody else should change the name of their major religious observances to make sure I was not offended. I am sure that there would be a great deal of resistance to renaming all the other religious holidays at that time of year.

Mawlid el-Nabi — Islam
Hanukkah
Solstice — Wicca/Pagan
Immaculate Conception — Catholic
Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathustra) — Zoroastrian
Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) — Buddhist

I have enjoyed many a Christmas with friends of other faiths, who in turn have invited me to join them during their own festivals. We need to maintain our identity however cosmopolitan our society, and sharing each other’s culture is an enriching experience, forcing that culture upon someone however is not.

Our multi-cultural society is only going to increase year on year, and we have to find a way to co-exist, respect each others customs and beliefs and celebrate them together where appropriate.

©sallycronin The R’s of Life

You can find the other chapters in the series in this directory… and your feedback is always welcome: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/something-to-think-about/

Next time  Rights and our Personal Freedoms.

Something to Think About – The R’s of Life – Survival in a Modern World – Our Rights – Part One – Sally Cronin


When I was revisiting these posts from two years ago, it occurred to me that I was ranting a bit…. well more than a bit. What also struck me is that what I thought was bad then is even worse now. The collective thinking and consideration for each other is clearly not newsworthy, and whilst I know that the majority of people work hard, take responsibility for their lives, health, children, income, housing, education, old age care, pay taxes, and contribute to the community, there are a lot more people today who feel that they have a right to leech off that sector of the comminity than ever before.

For example, recently a family who have never worked talked about how they had a right since it was government money. Sorry the government has rarely made a penny itself, but has legally and sometimes stealthily removed it from the pockets of the general population who have worked very hard for it! So as a taxpayer from the age of 16, I have to say… that it is my money. Where do people imagine the money comes from to pay benefits, support a free health service, educate children etc?

As never before, across so many elements of modern life we are hearing the statement ‘It’s my right.’

What also interested me was that in many cases that expression of right, was referring to something that was not internationally recognised as a ‘right’. For example.. the right to obesity surgery, cosmetic surgery, have a baby even without means to support it, live on benefits for a lifetime, vote in elections when in prison, to be drunk and disorderly, to take drugs, to smoke, to riot, to loot, to carry firearms, to make racist comments. And all justified very passionately, including attached to the statement relating to recognised health hazards….’It’s my body’. Absolutely, until someone, usually the health service has to step in and try to undo the damage you have done to ‘your body’.

What are the official ‘Human Rights’ we should all expect?

I decided to look at the official version of what is considered to be the ‘rights’ of every human on the planet.  I am going to look at each of the ‘rights’ as laid out and explore the reality that I perceive. I am not an expert in the application of Human Rights and these opinions may not be acceptable to everyone. I hope however that they will give you something to consider the next time you feel that you need to establish your ‘rights’.

There is one thing that I do believe and that is that for every ‘right’ there is an ‘obligation’. That obligation is on us, the recipients of the ‘right’ to ensure that we value the privilege of having access to it in the first place.

There is no way that this is going to be one post…. so I am going to spread it over a number and divide appropriately where possible.

There are thirty Articles established in a Bill of Rights by the United Nations. These identify which rights every human on this planet is entitled to, and certainly, if all of these thirty articles were adhered to, the world would be a much better place.

However, it is clear from the headlines that we read daily, these rights that are allegedly attached to every human being on the planet are discriminatory and not adhered to by far too many governments around the world.

What this bill of human rights should really be called is a Wish List’. If you are reading this then the chances are you are living in a country where there is a commitment to adhering to the concepts laid out, and in most cases this commitment is successful but needs work.

However, if you look at the summary of the main points of the bill over the next few chapters, you will immediately be able to name certain countries that have not taken this seriously; continuing to treat the humans under their jurisdiction with total disregard for their rights or freedom. Whether it is a woman who has been stoned to death for alleged adultery or the imprisonment of those who choose to disagree with governmental policy; there is a huge discrepancy between cultures.

We might recognise that we are fortunate in where we live and our freedoms, and sympathise with those still living under the harsher regimes, but it is actually overwhelming and tough to understand how we, as an individual,  can make a difference.

However, we also have to recognise that with every ‘right’  we enjoy there comes that ‘obligation’. There is of course a general obligation to appreciate how very lucky we are to enjoy the majority of the following rights, and there are also very specific obligations to qualify us for that particular privilege.

You might also question why we should be concerned about these Human Rights, since so many of them refer to those who do not have them!. Whilst it is probably fair to say that getting global adherence to these rights is unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, it is important that we do at least make a start on the project for the sake of the next generation and those that follow.

1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Every human is entitled to all the rights outlined in the bill irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, politics, nationality, style of government of home country, social status, ownership of property.

This first article is very general and is a ‘mission statement’ that identifies that all humans are entitled to expect and receive the rights as laid out. Very laudable but without measurements of the numbers of those who currently receive or do not receive the rights, it is vague.

2. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Absolutely, but again this is only possible for those born into environments where liberty and security are established under democratic law. For those born in countries where there is dictatorial rule and inherent violence, they will never have that right. Although vague this does come with an obligation. Liberty is not just freedom to live safely within an environment, it is also about the ‘rights’ that we have been given to ensure that liberty for our lifetime and those of our children. This includes the right to vote for a government who protects our rights as individuals and as a nation.

Our obligation: In 2015, which was a critical general election with the prospect of a referendum on the EU looming, 66.1% of the UK eligible voters went to the polls. This means that nearly 34% of the UK population did not exercise their right to vote for a government that would take them into a very crucial time in British history.

There are millions around the world who do not have this right to vote for a democratic government and it would seem to me that there is every reason to ask those 34% of voters why they chose not to exercise their right… and make sure that they understand how important their contribution is.  http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

3. No one should be held in slavery or servitude and the slave trade is prohibited in all its forms.

Slavery has been abolished but it still thrives. Here is an excerpt from a global study by the United Nations based on information from 155 countries.

‘The term trafficking in persons can be misleading: it places emphasis on the transaction aspects of a crime that is more accurately described as enslavement . Exploitation of people, day after day. For years on end.

According to the Report, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.

The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa)’.

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html

Having read the executive summary it is important to note that only percentages are used and there is no mention of the fact that those percentages represent millions of women, men and children worldwide.

Our Obligation: Do not remain silent if you believe there is any form of this vile trade being conducted around you. In most countries there is a way to report crimes anonymously and in the UK you can contact Crimestoppers – https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information – that one call could prevent the suffering and often death of an individual or a much larger group.

4. No one shall be subjected to torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, degradation or punishment.

Obviously this one is definitely not globally adhered to by governments; in fact there are probably far too many countries employing these tactics than not.

But what about our personal obligation to ensure that where we live, this ‘right’ is afforded to as many people as possible?

The one cruel and degrading treatment that comes to mind is bullying. There has been a steady increase in the number of young teenagers committing suicide which is unacceptable.

Bullying Frequency https://www.ukwristbands.com/bullying-statistics

Recent U.S. studies have found that 28% of students in grades 6-12 and 20% of students in grades 9-12 have experienced bullying. That’s between 1 in 4 and 1 in every 3 students in the U.S.

But, the UK Annual Bullying Survey of 2017 has showed more alarming results. The survey was conducted in secondary schools and colleges all across the United Kingdom. 54% of all respondents said that they have been bullied at some point in their lives – that’s every other child! 1 in 5 said that they’ve been bullied within the past year, and 1 in 10 has been bullied at least one in the past week.

Number one motive for bullying was attitude towards victim’s appearance – 50% of all bullying motives. 40% were attitudes towards interest and hobbies, followed by attitudes towards high grades, household income, low grades, family issues, disabilities, race, cultural identity, religion, sexuality and gender identity.

The most common type of bullying is reported to be verbal bullying, followed by physical, cyber and social.

This is in countries where we like to think we are civilized and live in a free and democratic society. Worryingly these statistics will be mirrored in most of our countries.

Our obligation begins as parents.. a school is a place to be educated and basic civilisation and morality should be taught in the home before a child begins to interact with others.

The school then has an obligation to have a zero tolerance policy on bullying, but that can only happen when those who are bullied come forward, which they are more often than not too scared to do so. Also these days there appear to be far too few consequences for the act of bullying towards another. Detention just seems to enhance the culprit’s status amongst their usual sycophantic following. Removal of phone and other online privileges are not effective as they buy a burner phone or use public online access.

Personally, and at the risk of causing a PC melt-down, I favour a little public humiliation in the form of the stocks and well aimed rotten tomatoes.

As bosses and leaders there is also an obligation to ensure there is a zero tolerance policy in the workplace. This is enlightened self-interest since businesses are badly impacted by bullying, not to mention work-related discrimination law suits. Bullying in the workplace tends to be towards groups as well as individuals and can be insidious. The intolerance to bullying needs to be emphasised at induction training of all staff at every level, and should be included in performance reviews annually. The tone needs to be set from the top down. And considering the millions of sick days taken each year which impact the bottom line of every business, many stress related, bosses need to ensure that bullying is not part of their culture.

As individuals we also have to accept the responsibility. It is easier to turn our backs when we see individual or group abuse happening and some of that is self-preservation. But what if it was our child or grandchild. At the very least, if there is a personal safety issue, there is no reason not to pick up a phone and talk to someone who can deal with the matter as quickly as possible. If urgent, then the police, but if systemic in your neighbourhood, work with the council and community outreach programmes.

Sometimes a problem can appear to be so overwhelming and we can feel that our contribution will be a mere drop in the ocean. However, if our actions only help just one person who is trapped in this nightmare, then we have done a good thing. Multiplied by millions of individuals doing the right thing… and a huge difference can be made.

©sallycronin The R’s of Life

Next time –  Rights and the Legal system.

You can find the other chapters in the series in this directory… and your feedback is always welcome: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/something-to-think-about/

The R’s of Life – Chapter Eleven -Right to Freedom of Speech and Religion


The R's of Life

According to the Bill of Human Rights we are all entitled to Freedom of Speech and to follow a religion of our choice. As I have highlighted in previous chapters, these rights come with  certain obligations that we need to fulfil to enjoy them to the fullest.

We are all free to speak our minds in private, but that does not necessarily mean we will get away with it in public!  It depends on what your government has deemed as a subject you can voice your opinion about outside your own four walls!

For example in the UK:Any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone is forbidden. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both’.

In some countries freedom of speech is completely denied to a population and any infractions dealt with severely; in some cases with death. Religion too is not exempt from rigorous penalties rained down on individuals as well as groups of worshippers.

I am sure that like me, you would never condone any speech or piece of writing that incited hatred to any group or individuals, whether it is racially offensive or is going to cause distress. However, it is becoming more of a minefield, as there are a great many subjects that have been added to the list of offensive topics all coming under the term ‘Politically Correct’.

In some schools for example, traditional activities such as nativity plays and Christmas carol services have been suspended so as not to offend those in the school who are not Christian. I don’t understand why we cannot be grown up about this and have a celebration with elements of all the religions represented by the pupils! Perhaps a celebration of spirituality and winter…… or would that be considered pagan?

I think we are all aware that most of the world’s conflicts since the dawn of time, have been primarily down to two main contributory factors. Politics and religion. There is a good reason they are usually banned from the dinner table.  Nothing sparks off a heated debate than everyone expressing their freedom of speech on those two subjects between courses.

Millions around the world do not have freedom of speech and men and women are effectively gagged from talking about politics or practising religion. It is unimaginable to me, how terrifying it must be to have to guard every word that you say and to keep your family safe in that environment.

However it is a sad fact that some of us who enjoy the right to speak our minds frequently misuse its power. Both on a personal level  and now, courtesy of the Internet, on a much wider scale.

Of course some members of our communities take their right to freedom of speech to extremes. The paparazzi for example, who feel that they have the right to intrude into people’s lives and dish the dirt even when they do not have the facts.. Sometimes they exercise their right by simply publishing a photograph with an ambiguous headline and let our imagination do the rest.  Even alleged mainstream media lean to left or right according to their financial and political affiliations rather than editorial responsibility, and there is a definitely a manipulation of facts and statistics when it comes to the political and financial institutions that govern our day to day life.

But is it not just the major media organisations who manipulate the truth to cause dissent or to stir up friction between communities. It is easy to for us as individuals to create barriers before we even begin communicating with others online.

We seem to be fixated with creating labels for ourselves and others. Certainly on official paperwork we have to define ourselves as White, Black, Asian Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon, Quaker, Catholic, Irish, English, Scottish, disabled, Gay, married, single, divorced, widowed, retired or all of the above!

But we seem to be doing this in our personal lives too. I look at the profiles of some people that approach me to connect and they appear to want to belong to as many groups as possible. Even if I was meeting them for the first time face to face, I wouldn’t have an interest in their colour, religion, sexuality, political affiliations or that they are a feminist or manist! These terms do not describe a person, only the labels they have adopted that they feel defines them. There are some things that I deem as private and don’t believe belong in a persons Facebook or blog profile.

Personally I would like to know more about what makes them a human being. What areas would we both be interested in such as books, writing, the cinema, love of animals, sport, meeting new people and learning more about others. I don’t want to know about the groups or labels that might highlight our differences before we get into some form of relationship to establish how much we have in common.

What happened to the joy of belonging to the human race?

A lack of tolerance and respect for others probably raised its ugly head as humans and Neanderthals began to inhabit the same terrain around 45,000 years ago. There is some evidence that the two groups did co-exist for around 5,000 years and very probably did cohabit too. There are genetic links to a tiny proportion of modern day man that supports that theory. However, the investigation into the mystery as to why Neanderthals became extinct is still ongoing. One theory is that the modern humans migrated in as the earth warmed up and pushed the Neanderthals out over time.

Chances are that modern man wanted nice cozy caves, rich hunting grounds near to flowing rivers and established plants and fruits. It may have taken them 5000 years but in the end they got what they wanted. Including the freedom to live, worship and survive without the complication of a group with a different perspective and needs making life difficult. That was just two groups working against each other.. We now have thousands of factions all shouting about their needs and beliefs; it is no wonder that the world is in chaos.

Then of course there were the gods who have maintained their presence in our lives throughout the history of man in many guises. One group would worship the moon and others the sun and fall out over it. Some believed that their gods lived on mountains and were omnipotent.. Others felt that throwing some poor individual, preferably a virgin, into a fiery volcano would appease these legendary beings. Wars have been fought, some cultures wiped out and many of these early religions disappeared completely. However, after thousands of years, we are still following this tried and tested method to get people to join our gang or suffer the consequences.

Thankfully most people agree to differ, respect each other’s beliefs and live and let live. Yet there is an element of every society, who have defined themselves by their interpretation of a religion, and take the moral high ground, expecting everyone else to convert. There have been extremists in every religion on earth and it will always be so.

There are some individuals who assume that freedom of speech entitles them to say whatever they like, whenever they like and to whomever they like. Because of course, their political, personal or religious views are the one true path. And despite all the laws enacted against hate crimes or inflammatory language, we do not seem to be becoming any more tolerant.

You don’t even have to get up close and personal. The Internet provides a wonderful platform for free speech despite the new legislation. Which is why cyberbullying is such a popular sport and that the main casualties are young people. Words can be brutal and young people in particular of both sexes have not concept of how devastating their comments can be to someone of their own age.

  • Over the last three years there has been an 87 % increase in the number of Childline’s counselling sessions about online bullying.
  • 40% of 7 to11 year old respondents know someone who has been cyberbullied .
  • 7 in 10 young people aged between 13 and 22 have been a victim of cyberbullying .
  • An estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyberbullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis

The statistics for bullying of gay students is even more concerning.

  • Over two in five gay pupils who experience homophobic bullying attempt or think about taking their own life as a direct consequence  Three in five young people say that bullying has a direct impact on their school work and straight-A students have told us it makes them want to leave education entirely
  • More than half (55 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools
  • Ninety six per cent of gay pupils hear homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’ used in school. Almost all (99 per cent) hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school http://www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/4/7/facts-on-bullying

Of course bullying is not the only misuse of the freedom of speech. Many suicides of young people are because they do not wear the right label. They do not belong to the accepted in crowd, and because they are different, they are ostracised and isolated.

Added to this is the continuous bombardment by the media, across all communication devices, of the devastating results of human intolerance. The young of today face a climate of fear and uncertainty for the future that has never been experienced before in human history on this scale.  Is this really the world we want our young to inherit from us?

In the United States a young person commits suicide every two hours 11 minutes

Everyday 11 young people will commit suicide.

1 in 12 students attempted suicide in the last year.

It is tough to imagine that we as an individual can make a difference to the world and its chaos. But we can certainly make sure that we and those close to us understand that freedom of speech is a ‘right’ to be treasured. A right that when exercised with thoughtfulness, can positively change things that are broken, instil trust and understanding with others. We can set an example and be role models for our children and those we meet that have a different view of life and religion that we do.

We are too far down the road for this to change overnight. Some of the conflicts that are currently fuelled by hatred and intolerance may not be resolved without more violence but we have to start somewhere and that is right here and right now.  We need to choose the words that we speak and write more carefully and treasure the right we have to use them in the first place.

At the end of the day there is only one true fact and that is we belong to just one group and the label reads Human Race.

Sources for statistics on bullying and suicide

http://www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/4/7/facts-on-bullying
https://www.teachervision.com/education-and-social-issues/mental-health/57131.html

The previous ten chapters can be read here:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-rs-of-life-new-book-by-sally-cronin/

Thanks for dropping in and reading this latest chapter in my book..Sally