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New Social Compact

The riposte of Thomas Paine to Edmund Burke: “Rights of a Man”

Nargiz Hajiyeva

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This prominent masterpiece written by Thomas Paine played a pivotal role in the history of human being that embraced all aspects of rights of a man, following natural rights, intellectual rights, natural interests, and mainly the importance of human dignity.

Thomas Paine was an Anglo-American philosopher, political theorist, and activist who made a great contribution to the history of mankind with his eminent works; the Common Sense, the American Crisis, the Rights of a Man, the Age of Reason, and Agrarian Justice. The Rights of a Man as an influential pamphlet echoes its huge impacts on the present day. In fact, Thomas Paine noted all meaningful rights of a man in his pamphlet. At the start of the French revolution, the British politician Edmund Burke who was a supporter of the American Revolution condemned the French Revolution and advocated in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France” that the French Revolution had engendered the extremist movements and radicalism which caused an unprecedented destruction of a nation’s social groups (particularly, elites, aristocracy) and devolved the civic society of France into democratic dictatorship and barbarism. After the Edmund Burke’s argument, Thomas Paine highly criticized his pamphlet and gave his pro-revolutionary riposte to him and argued in his Rights of a Man, that the French Revolution was a successful beginning of a new era of human history with which a man would be able to apply new-fangled “Enlightenment” values to his society, and by starting with new era, men could secure peace through the adoption of the system of newly secure government based on their mutual rights. “The Rights of a Man” was composed of two main parts. The first part dedicated to U.S President G. Washington chiefly addresses to the most of E. Burke’s questions regarding the French Revolution. The second part subjects to the debate of the principles of government that advocates the Constitutional Republic that the French Revolution reached it. In this essay, Thomas Paine gives his exact arguments point by point on Burke’s questions and mainly criticizes the error points of Edmund Burke on French Revolution and countered that his pamphlet concerning the French Revolution was “odd case”. Unless, some criticism on the essay, it had given huge contribution to the universal human rights in today’s world.

The Rights of a Man is an important work for both past and present days. Today, it remains the one of the pivotal works regarding human rights. In fact, the essay embraces all aspects of natural interests, rights, and the significance of human self-esteem. Therefore, focusing on this topic gives large-scale insight to understand the meaning of human rights. This essay is one of the best-known masterpieces of Thomas Paine, which he declares that the French Revolution is the beginning of a new era for the “Enlightenment” principles and values in human society. It is the beginning of the establishment of newly rational governments based on the mutual understanding and rights of human society.

As I mentioned before that this prominent pro-revolutionary pamphlet dedicated to U.S President George Washington was written as a response to the Burke’s questions regarding his attack on the French Revolution. First and foremost, there were huge differences between the opinions of Burke and Paine. According to Burke, the French Revolution had caused much destruction within the French society and engendered the despotism and political havoc. He mainly focused on the traditional values and property rights. He also argued that there were not special rights belonged to people. All rights were defined by law and people had to act according to the Rules of Law. Furthermore, he mentioned that humans were shaped by institutions and communities and rejected the principles of radical individualism advocated by Thomas Paine. Upon the opinions of Burke regarding the French Revolution, Thomas Paine sparked its radical arguments as a response to Burke’s questions and answered his questions one by one with exact points in his essay. In the first part, His dedicated his work to U.S President George Washington with these words:

“Sir, I present you with a small treatise in defence of those principles of freedom which your exemplary virtue hath so eminently contributed to establish. That the rights of a man may become as universal as your benevolence can wish, and that you may enjoy the happiness of seeing the new world regenerate the old”

With this appeal, he argues that people now alive should not have to repeat their ancestors’ acts what they did, they have to try to regenerate the old one and replace it with a new one because traditional rights and heredity do will nothing on behalf of the people, and devolve them into repression. Secondly, Burke was in favour of traditional rights and property and argued that the revolution in France was misconceived because Louis XVI was a good King, but missed the chance. As a consequence, the revolution caused the extremist and barbaric movements within French society.

On the contrary, Paine argued that the traditional approach had caused the hostility and inequality between the French people, and he emphasized that if Burke accepted that men had rights based on traditional principles and referred to the antiquarian approach, why did not he go back to the far enough antique history?! – With this argument, Paine countered that even in the antique history the rights of a man had carried out the seeds of liberty, liberal projects, and democratic principles. He showed the Athens as an example to support his argument against Burke. Paine’s argument clears that democratic principles have to base on mutual understanding of rights and interests of social groups. Then Paine again turns to the Burke’s opinion and mention: If we are going to appeal to history, let’s go back to the much far beginning; the creation of a man by God. He argued that God created all human being equal and gave them equally natural values, principles, rights, and mainly natural dignity. God created male and female in the example of Adam and Eve. The natural rights of a man are the foundation of all his civil rights. Let me highlight the main parts of the essay, in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, Burke referred to the history of the British Constitution and argued that this constitution grounded on the “Rules of Law” over people in Britain and people tried to obey hereditary monarchs according to these Rules of Law. On the contrary, Paine replied to him by arguing that the English Monarchy began with the imposition of the hereditary monarchy by the military conquest of William in 1066. Therefore, the creation of British Monarchy was not established by the British Constitution, it was founded in military power and the sword was declared as a name of a sceptre. According to him, the monarchy had militaristic and tyrannical power. The hereditary government subjected to ignorance and the selfish use of a power of society only on behalf of monarchs, not of human society. Hence, he came to the conclusion that the English government was one of those which was created out of military conquest not out of human society and had nefarious impacts and pressures over people and forced the English to obey its Rules of Law. He argued that constitution of a country was not an act of its government, but the act of its people creating a constitution based on their common rights and interests.

Moreover, Paine mentions that man is naturally social because of the fact that he is in need to co-operate with other people in order to facilitate his needs. Society had long survived in spite of the absence of a proper government. The government could be legitimate only where people made a social contract to establish it. The social contract is based on liberal project and democratic principles. Hence, people having mutual rights and interests in order to provide their needs create a proper government that is based on a common sense of social groups and finally, democratic principles. These democratic principles should have to be provided within the human society through mutual understanding and equal rights. Representative government appertained to the rational use of power in common interests. On the other hand, he rejected believing in the national churches and mentioned that the close link between the church and the state led to the immense corruption of true religion in society that executed injury and persecution to social groups.

Thomas Paine did not like the heredity government or monarchy and called it ridiculous and despicable thing. Burke preferred to elites and aristocracy claimed that society could only be shaped by the institutions and communities, and grounded on the roles of elites and aristocracy, but Paine disagreed that the emergence of elites or aristocracy was a clear evidence of despotism and injustice that was kept up by family tyranny and hereditary government. It had a tendency in order to destruct the human species in society. At the same time, although he condemned the taxes, but preferred to the commerce and mentioned that people were in need of trade and commerce because of their interests and demands. Taxes were the means of keeping up the power of elites or aristocracy, in particular monarchy that plundered people within society. All hereditary government had its own nature oppression, but the representative government rested on the interests and rights of society and civilisation for its basis because it was a representative system of the whole people, and whole society.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the main centrality of Thomas Paine was natural rights that led to the formation of civil rights. Indeed, this masterpiece is the proved document of not only the natural dignity of a man, but also the whole human rights. In this essay, I observed that what differentiates Burke from Paine is Burke’s placing on social institutions and communities in order to preserve ordered liberty, but Paine mainly focuses on radical individualism based on equal principles. Therefore, the French Revolution far more disturbed Edmund Burke due to the elimination of institutions in French society. To be sure, Thomas Paine as a revolutionary internationalist who believed in the Age of Revolution was a prominent man of his period. He related reason and nature closely that could lead to the newly discovered Enlightenment process in Europe. He prophesied that Europe had to be transformed from a realm of inequity and despotism to a scene of representative democracy and liberal values.

His central point is that the Revolution in France had stemmed from not force, only from reason and creation of liberal democracy referred to the principles discovered in the Enlightenment. Thereby, the French Revolution was the beginning of a new era and the “Enlightenment process” in Europe, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens founded the main basis of human rights and bestowed its admonition to present day: “Men are born free and equal with respect to their rights”.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

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New Social Compact

Joker &the Pathology of Violence

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image: Warner Bros

JOKER, director Todd Phillips and renowned actor Joaquin Phoenix’s new take on an infamous comic book villain, will hit the big screen this weekend.  It has garnered prestigious awards (such as the Golden Lion), laudatory critic reviews & is expected to attract hordes of eager moviegoers.  However, JOKER has also inspired ominous think-pieces from publications such as The Atlantic and Vox.  Additionally, the US military and the NYPD have expressed concern that the film could inspire violence.

These detractors of JOKER are arguing that the film glorifies “incel violence” and is thus likely to inspire acts as incel violence.  This logic has been used ad nauseam to condemn everything from comic books, to video games, to martial arts, to Marilyn Manson to hip-hop.  No credible study has proven that art that portrays violence causes real-world violence.  Some people may point out that extreme outliers, like white-supremacist music, could cause violence.  However, it would be more logical to argue the opposite: people who compose and listen to white-supremacist music were already enmeshed in a violent ideology.  Likewise, genocidal propaganda tends not to focus on explicitly glorifying violence for violence’s sake, but in portraying groups of people as sub-human (Tutsis being compared to roaches, Jews being portrayed as greedy and treasonous, etc.).  It’s thus a process of long, gradated inculcation.  As Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels realized, there’s no reverse-Ludovico Technique that can magically turn people into killing machines by quickly showing them a two-hour film.

Now, it is true that a few violent criminals have cited works of art as inspiration for their actions.  This is statistically inevitable, but insignificant.  There are bound to be a few outliers who have bizarre interpretations on art, just as there are a few people who have been inspired to commit acts of terrorism based on personal interpretations of religion or politics.  It’s no more logical to suggest that we ban violent video games or art because of mass shootings than to suggest we ban Buddhism because of Aum Shinrikyo’s gas attack on the Tokyo subway, or that we should ban Irish patriotism because of the IRA.  Furthermore, some violent lunatics have been inspired by works of art, such as John Lennon’s killer citing Catcher in the Rye, that aren’t even violent in nature.  Clearly, the people who commit mass killings are incredibly unhinged individuals who are in a violent frame of mind, regardless of what media they consume.  Likewise, 99.99% of people who play FPS games or who watch slasher flicks aren’t going to go on a shooting rampage or create a torture dungeon in their basement.

To return things to JOKER itself, the film in no way “glorifies” violence.  For starters, half of the violence is inflicted on the main character (the “incel hero”); there are two scenes where The Joker gets jumped mercilessly and a third scene where he gets sucker-punched in the face.  The violent acts that The Joker himself commits are portrayed in a very gruesome manner (in one scene with The Joker and a neighbor of his, the violence isn’t even shown, but is merely implied).  When The Joker bashes someone’s head in or shoots someone point-blank, there are no crass jokes, inspirational music or voiceovers quoting The Art of War. The plotline doesn’t imply any justification for the killings.  When someone gets killed in the film, audience-goers don’t hoot and holler like they would in a screening of a zombie film or a Nazi-revenge flick like Inglorious Basterds.  Rather, there is an awkward pall of silence in the theater at the nihilistic spectacle.

JOKER makes it very clear that the title character’s violence is motivated by nothing but his utter insanity.  The Joker descends into a killing machine after being released from an asylum and after he stops taking seven different psych meds (which weren’t helping him much, anyway).  When being interviewed, he admits that he isn’t compelled by any ideology whatsoever.  Rather, The Joker literally views the act of killing as a joke. 

Nor does The Joker gain any tangible reward for his violence; he gets fired from his job, arrested, hit by an ambulance and committed to an asylum as a direct result of his actions. Joaquin Phoenix’s character gets a thrill from the media coverage that his killings elicit (and a standing ovation from fellow thugs in the film’s penultimate scene), but that not’s a real reward, but rather a feeling that many real-life killers in fact get when they are portrayed in the news.  For instance, the as-yet unidentified Zodiac Killer literally played games with Bay Area news outlets, sending them letters that boasted about his kills, contained cryptic puzzles and threatened to blow up a school bus if he didn’t receive even more media attention.  Many other serial killers who were apprehended were found to have hoarded newspaper clippings that documented their crimes.  Similarly, coverage of a mass shooting often inspires “copycat mass shootings”.  The takeaway from this is that the media should be careful about inadvertently turning stories about mass shootings and terror attacks into personal biographies of the killer.  When covering these kinds of attacks, some news outlets, like The Young Turks and The David Pakman Show, deliberately choose to blur the killers’ faces and avoid naming them, so as not to give the killers the attention that they wanted to garner and to avoid inspiring other violently-deranged individuals who crave attention.

The fact that JOKER doesn’t merely portray the villain as an Evil-Incarnate caricature doesn’t mean that it is therefore glorifying violence.  The audience is meant to sympathize with The Joker when he get jumped without warning or when he talks about the crippling depression that he has felt for literally his entire life.  There are scenes showing The Joker comforting his mother and entertaining sick children.  The mere fact that The Joker is portrayed as a full human being, good traits and bad traits, doesn’t mean the film is justifying how he releases his violent rage.  No human is evil 100% of the time: there is no villain who tortures hamsters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is only by studying the causes of violent criminals’ various motivations that we can ever hope to ebb the tide of violence.  Most violent criminals have suffered from childhood abuse, childhood poverty, a missing parental figure, bullying and/or mental illness (The Joker had to deal with all five of these traumas).  By empathizing with these plights, we can create programs (drug treatment programs, stamping out bullying in school, removing children from abusive households, etc.) that can reduce violent crime.

It’s not comfortable to acknowledge that history’s most evil people had humanity or that societal norms (like persecuting people, tolerating child abuse or underfunding mental illness and addiction treatment programs) can fuel violence.  It’s evident that Todd Phillips, through his direction and screenplay, and Joaquin Phoenix, through his tortured portrayal of The Joker, meant to give us a glimpse into the mind of a demented killer, not so we can sympathize with the protagonist’s brutal violence, but so we can sympathize with the myriad factors that drove the protagonist to criminal insanity.  The nearly uniform media portrayals of mentally-ill individuals as Pure Evil only serves to misinform the public and to scare those suffering from mental disorders from seeking help.  Hopefully, the discussions being generated by JOKER will encourage people to learn more about complex diseases like schizophrenia and to be more proactive in reaching out to loved ones who are displaying signs of mental anguish.

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New Social Compact

Women outnumber men in higher education but gender stereotyped subject choices persist

MD Staff

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Education is essential to achieving gender equality. From the earliest schooling to the highest levels of post-graduate study, education influences the opportunities that can shape people’s lives.

This is why education and training of women is one of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, while target 4.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for the elimination of gender disparities in education by 2030.

In the UNECE region girls tend to outperform boys in terms of learning outcomes in schools, and women outnumber men in tertiary education (university level and beyond) in almost all countries of the region.

Women remain in the minority, however, as students of stereotypically “masculine” subjects such as ICT and engineering, although in recent years they have begun slowly gaining ground.

Tertiary level graduates

In 39 out of the 47 UNECE countries with data, more than 55 per cent of tertiary graduates are women. Iceland has the highest share, with 66 per cent women.  Seven countries are close to gender parity, with the share of women ranging from 48 to 55 per cent, and only in Uzbekistan are women in a clear minority, with 38 per cent of tertiary graduates.

After decades of increase in women’s participation in higher education, women substantially outnumbered men among tertiary level graduates in most countries by 2012. Since then, women’s share has declined in 32 out of the 47 countries with data. Whilst in Azerbaijan and Turkey fewer than half of tertiary graduates were women in 2012, more women have entered tertiary education in these countries since and the 2017 data already show gender parity there. 

Subject choices of women and men

The subjects studied at tertiary level by women and men can reflect stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine” subject areas. Some subjects may be preferred by potential employers and may affect occupational segregation once graduates enter the labour market. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (EMC) are two broad groups of subjects where male students have historically predominated.

Women remain a minority among ICT students in the UNECE region, with percentages ranging from 11 in Belgium to 33 in Greece. The four countries with the largest share of women among ICT students are all in the Balkan region. Among students of EMC, the share of women is somewhat higher, but still falls far short of parity, ranging from 14 per cent in Georgia to 44 per cent in North Macedonia.

In both of these subject groups, the recent trend shows small gains for women in some countries but reductions in others. Overall, progress towards gender equality in these two typically male-dominated subject areas is uneven and slow.

UNECE Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting

Progress in achieving gender equality in education will be one of the areas in focus at the upcoming Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region, with a particular emphasis on how women and girls can enter currently male-dominated fields.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life. 

The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.

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New Social Compact

Call for Action from Leaders and Business on Violence against Women

Newsroom

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Spiralling levels of violence against women in Africa require immediate action from governments and businesses, including tangible measures to create safe spaces, experts from across the continent told the World Economic Forum on Africa today.

Protesters in South Africa have taken to the streets and social media to demand action, following the rape and murder of a Cape Town university student who was attacked in a post office. Uyinene Mrwetyana was just the latest of many victims of brutal assaults in a region where approximately 45% of women and girls over 14 years have experienced physical or sexual violence.

“I’m dumbfounded by the idea that we can continue with business as usual,” said Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso, Director of African Monitor, who urged technology companies to take a lead in delivering solutions. “It would take a click of a finger for a tech company to say we are going to deploy a software that can assist us with an emergency response system for poor women in South Africa free of charge.”

The potential for technology to help in the fightback highlights the need for businesses to think creatively, given that cyberbullying can also contribute to discrimination in the first place. Mniki-Mangaliso said the wider business community should also step up to the plate by backing a gender-based fund to address the deep-rooted problems behind the rising tide of physical and sexual assaults.

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women in Africa Initiative, said Africa could learn from China, where decisive action was taken to ban harmful practices like foot binding and polygamy. African governments, by contrast, too often fail to enforce bans on polygamy or genital mutilation, thereby reinforcing a culture of discrimination against women that becomes embedded from childhood.

The failure to protect women is not just a moral issue; it also comes with a high economic cost. “Who drives African communities? It’s our women. Our women can drive Africa’s development, if given the chance, if protected, if their rights are respected,” Abiola-Costello said. “Africa missed the first industrial revolution, we missed the second, we missed the third. If we don’t address this issue, we will miss the fourth.”

Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, who spearheaded the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria and is a fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, said calls for women to help drive African development will simply ring hollow if violence is not addressed. “The world lacks the moral pedestal to stand on to ask girls to aspire if we cannot have the back of those who are vulnerable,” she said.

With 16,000 deaths due violence against in women every year in South Africa alone, Akudo Anyanwu, Associate Dean at Johns Hopkins University, said: “Our presidents and the leaders in government need to come out and take a position. We need to have our leaders come out and call crimes a crime.”

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