Tuesday, May 09, 2006

MYOPIA OF THE MASSES: EXCHANGING HUMAN RIGHTS FOR "FOOD ON THE TABLE"

For the past few weeks, I have been covering on issues pertaining to the General Elections in my native country, Singapore (for anyone who is curious, kindly proceed to www.disgruntledsporean.blogspot.com).

Prior to this, more often than not, I have avoided writing issues about local politics, which are conspicuously absent even from my own blog. I guess, like most Singaporeans, I am guilty of being too apathetic towards politics here, partly because of the predictability and staid state of affairs of our political scene, which can be summed up in three words: "The Lee Dynasty".


Writing about our elections has been a humbling experience for me: For once, I sincerely felt the terrible loss of our rights, literally, for what seems to be the most basic of human comforts: A home to live in, food on the table and a job to go to (if you are lucky). All these, in exchange for our political apathy and enforced meekness in the face of wanton abuse by semi-government and government entities (Check NKF fracas).

Imagine my horror, when a Christian Filipino of a particular forum, of which I am an inactive member of, wrote about the supposed "horrors" of the freedom of the press. He claims that this "freedom" has been abused by journalists, who are being bribed by unscrupulous politicians to slander their political opponents.


Now, in an open, secular society, such acts by corrupt journalists and their associating newspapers would have been exposed by worthier, decent newspapers. In any case, corruption ought to be punishable under the full weight of the law, provided, of course, a healthy, democratic nation has in place a totally unbiased judiciary, plus an enlightened people to question the powers-that-be, without fear of being sued or threatened via physical means.

This Christian further enthuses, to my complete and abject dismay:"I understand the lack of freedom of speech in Singapore; but, I tell you, millions of Filipinos will trade their freedom of speech just to have the kind of food Singaporeans serve on their dining tables. They will be willing to trade their "chewing gums" just to provide them suitable jobs."

According to this rather naive Christian, human rights can be traded for food on the table.

Herein lies my question: Does the genetic makeup of any sane human rest on having food on the table for the rest of his/her miserable life? If so, he/she would have been better off languishing in some miserable prison.


According to the famed Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:


Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

1. Physiological

2. Safety

3. Love/Belonging

4. Esteem

5. Actualization


1. Physiological:

This is the most basic of needs. It pertains to the acquiring of materials to facilitate certain actions essential to the immediate/almost immediate survival of any human being.- the need to breathe reasonably clean air;

- the need for clean water;
- the need to eat decent food;
- the need to dispose of bodily wastes via proper sanitation facilities ;
- the need for sleep in proper shelters;
- the need to regulate body temperature (i.e warmth).

This is the most basic level of needs; any viable system of government must set aside provisions for the purposes of meeting these needs, failing which, the government is to be held accountable for its failure to do so.


2. Safety Needs:

This is the second level of needs that demands almost immediate attention: The need to provide the masses with a relatively safe and secure environment to live in.

These include:

- Security of employment: Worker's Unions, laws protecting workers' rights, etc
- Security of revenues and resources: Checks on government revenues by external auditors, anti-corruption police units, etc.
- Physical security: Police, Armed forces, and other security agencies.
- safety from violence, delinquency, aggressions.
- Moral (i.e laws of the state) and physiological security: Laws, civil and criminal.
- Familial security: Healthy family units, each headed by a father and mother.
- Security of health: Health insurance, social welfare, etc

3. Love/Belonging:

This is a level of need which is more or less exclusive from government intervention. It involves a longing for love and recognition within a social group/family unit. Human beings, being social creatures, long for a sense of belonging within a social circle. This is where churches and other religious groups come into play.

4.Esteem Needs

This is a higher form of need that requires the government to foster an open society, thereby enabling a high level of autonomy in terms of free speech and freedom of the press, along with other freedoms pertaining to the right of expression.

Esteem needs cater to the very human side of nature: The need to be respected, through engagement in a bid to gain recognition and acceptance from a particular niche or group.

The absence of esteem needs for any individual may lead to low self-esteem and a host of other personality problems in relation to the loss of self confidence. When you compound this problem on a national scale, the end result is political apathy and a abject loss of national identity.

5. Self-Actualization

This is the ultimate nirvana of any enlightened human being: To use his/her unique talents to achieve his/her maximum potential.

According to Maslow, self-actualizing people:

- embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them.
- are spontaneous in their ideas and actions.
- are creative.
- are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives.
- feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life.
- have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority.
- judge others without prejudice, in a way that can be termed objective.

The level of self-actualization is the highest goal for any society; to foster this need, a higher autonomy and human rights must be granted. Only an open system of government allows and caters for a free and unbiased exchange of views.

CONCLUSION

Human rights are part and parcel of achieving the needs of every human being. Regardless the urgent need to meet the most basic of needs, sacrificing your rights to a political tyrant to meet your temporary urgent needs is not the way to go, even if its a mere act of chewing a piece of gum. Who knows, maybe a medicinal gum may just come along and bring an end to some excruciating, delibilating disease? Wouldn't you fight for your rights, if that were the case?

To exchange human rights for "food on the table" is tantamount to sheep willing to face the slaughterhouse for a bunch of hay. We are intelligent, insatiable beings in our own right. Food on the table is important, but we can't just be myopic about it and forfeit our rights, and in the process forfeit the rights of our future generations.

7 comments:

Advocate1 said...

This is why wer invited beast to join us over here. Easily one of the best posts here to date. Well said in every way.

BEAST said...

Advocate:

Thanks for the compliment.

Having been born and raised in an overtly patriachial, republican-style authoritarian govt here, I was appalled to hear that people actually do not treasure their rights.

The truth is, our govt in Singapore fears liberalism. They think that once the government releases it hold on the masses, the people will start to go ape and riot like chimpanzees.

People have been jailed for what the govt deems as "seditious" remarks, politicians have been jailed for allegedly "defamatory" remarks against the govt, and one opposition politician is currently questioned by the police for forgeting to fill in a form and quarreling with the elections department over the petty issue.

This is not the country I want to live in. Sure, there is food on the table, but this is not the kind of environment I want to raise kids in, much less feel any pride towards this obnoxious system.

Ragnarok said...

Question: "Does the genetic makeup of any sane human rest on having food on the table for the rest of his/her miserable life?"

Answer: Yes.

Freedom, rights and food are by no means mutually exclusive, but the human race and all other species relies on survival of the fittest. First a human fights for survival, then it fights for freedom.

GROUP EFFORT said...

Of course it may all depend on leadership. If you're living under a political party which promotes greed and self interest as natural orders of life you may find youself in a society which does indeed promote social darwinism

Ragnarok said...

Greed and self interests ARE natural orders, regardless of leadership. Even a system of government designed to reverse such an order only managed to increase it (Marxism, Communism, whatever you wish to call it).

Brandon said...

In a certain sense that is true, Ragnarok, but by the same token, love, cooperation, and altruism aren't exactly UNnatural desires either. I wish I had the material in front of me, but there is an evolutionary explanation as to the purpose that the qualities I mentioned above were important in the overall evolution of our species. In the end I suspect that it comes down to a choice as to which side we're going to embrace. Whether you're a religionist following a faithful call to love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek, or an agnostic or an atheist looking for logical and rational reasons to treat human beings with a certain degree of gentless and kindness, we have a duty to the society at large to behave like something more than a right wing Social Darwinist. Judging from your past posts and comments I would not place you in the survival of the fittest camp.

Jolan Tru

Ragnarok said...

Believe me, I do not wish to fall into such a camp! However, I believe selfishness is within all of us, and it is a fundamental part of being human. If we were building a human, that would be component number one because without it, that human wouldn't survive.

Love, cooperation, and altruism are a result of our evolution (socialially or anthropologically), but they have not replaced nor can ever replace the self-importance and greed, as I said, these qualities are not mutially exclusive.