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".
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.
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).
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."
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.
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.
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 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.
2. Safety Needs:
- 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
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.
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.