Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Right to Say "No"

*Congress for Freedom of Culture Manifest, Berlin, 1950. Taken from “Anatomy of a Myth and other Essays” by Arthur Koestler.

1. We hold as self-evident that intellectual freedom is one of man’s inalienable rights.

2. Such freedom is defined, above all, by man’s right to hold and express his own opinions, and, in particular, opinions that differ from those of his government. Deprived of the right to say “NO”, man becomes a slave.

3. Freedom and peace are inseparable. In any country, under any regime, the immense majority of common people fear war and are opposed to it. The danger of war becomes acute when, on suppressing democratic representative institutions, government denies the majority the right to impose its peace objective.

Peace can only be maintained if every government is subjected to the control and inspection of its acts on behalf of the people it governs, and when it agrees to submit all matters involving immediate danger of war to an international representative authority, whose decision it will respect.

4. We maintain that the main reason for the current global insecurity is the policy of governments that, while speaking in favor of peace, refuse to accept this dual control. Historic experience proves that it is possible to prepare and wage war under any slogan, even that of peace. Campaigns for peace not supported by acts that guarantee its maintenance are like counterfeit money placed in circulation with dishonest intentions. Intellectual sanity and physical safety can return to the world only if those practices are abandoned.

5. Freedom is based on the tolerance of divergent opinions. The principle of tolerance does not logically allow the practice of intolerance.

6. No political philosophy nor economic theory can claim an exclusive right to represent freedom in the abstract. We hold that we must judge the value of such theories by concrete measures of freedom agreeing in practice with the individual.

We hold also that no race, nation, class or religion can claim exclusive right to represent the idea of freedom, or the right to deny freedom to other groups or faiths on behalf of any fundamental ideal or any lofty goal. We hold that we must judge the historical contribution of each society by the extent and quality of freedom that their members effectively enjoy.

7. In times of emergency, restrictions on freedom of the individual are imposed on behalf of the real or perceived interest of the community. We hold that it is essential that these restrictions be reduced to a minimum of clearly specified actions, that they be considered as temporary and limited recourses, as sacrifices, and that measures restricting freedom be subject to wide critic and democratic control. Only thus will we be reasonably assured that the emergency measures that restrict individual freedom will not degenerate into a permanent tyranny.

8. In totalitarian states, restrictions on freedom are not intended, nor are they publicly considered as sacrifices imposed on the people, but, on the contrary, they are represented as triumphs of progress and accomplishments of a superior civilization. We hold that both, theory and practice of these regimes hinder the basic rights of individuals and fundamental aspirations of humanity as a whole.

9. We hold that the danger of such regimes is much greater since their means for imposing themselves far outweigh those of all previous tyrannies known in the history of mankind. The citizen of the totalitarian state is expected -and is obligated- not only to refrain from offending, but to conform all his thoughts and actions to a previously indicated mold. People are persecuted and condemned on the basis of accusations so little specified and generic as "enemies of the people" and “elements socially unworthy of trust"

10. We hold that there cannot be a stable world as long as humanity remains divided with respect to freedom, to "the haves" and "the have nots". The defense of the existing freedoms, the re-conquest of lost liberties (and the creation of new freedoms) are part of the same struggle.

11. We hold that the theory and practice of the totalitarian state are the greatest threat mankind has faced in the course of civilized history.

12. We hold that indifference or neutrality to such a threat is tantamount to treason to humanity and the abdication of the free mind. Our response to that threat can decide the fate of mankind for generations.

13. (The defense of intellectual freedom imposes a positive obligation today: to offer our constructive responses to the problems of our time).

14. We address this Manifesto to all men who are determined to regain the freedoms they have lost, and to maintain (and extend) those they enjoy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, great.

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