Saleh Miri is an architect who came to Oman in the early 1980s. You can contact him at [email protected]media.co.om
Freedom: What a nice and beautiful idea. It means, ‘the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants’.
In 539 BC, the armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia, conquered the city of Babylon. But it was his next actions that marked a major advance for Man. He freed the slaves, declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion, and established racial equality. These and other decrees were recorded on a baked-clay cylinder in the Akkadian language with cuneiform script.
Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder, this ancient record has now been recognised as the world’s first charter of human rights.
Three thousand years later, people fought in many countries, lost lives, were imprisoned, before we reobtained that right, which in most countries is part of the constitution. Many countries however still do not allow freedom of speech.
Let us look at what we do with this right. One looks at France, where this right is allowed for its citizens, and see the chaos it has produced with strikes everywhere. Other countries are voting to express their desire to leave the European Union, such as the Brexit initiative and we witness the demonstrations which come as a result of this decision.
Where freedom is allowed, the necessary order should also be respected. In Russia, or China, the right for freedom has other meanings than in Germany or Italy. But where is the country where this right is correctly implemented? In the States there are two parties, and you cannot think outside these parties. If you do not belong to any of these parties, you stand no chance of progress in your life. India, was till recently a country where such rights were relatively respected, but with the new laws put in place for naturalisation witnesses the same chaos.
Lebanon, because of its population some 50 years ago, had to have a Christian president, a Sunni prime minister, and a Shia as head of parliament. But the population proportion has dramatically changed and yet people are not allowed to criticise the system.
In Iran, decisions made by government to increase the fuel prices by 100 per cent have resulted in demonstrations with huge number of deaths and imprisoned people. But now people are starting to openly talk, because they believe that they have nothing to lose anymore.
The right to think, to act, to say things freely needs to be accompanied by a discipline to respect others. Very few constitutions mention the need to respect other people’s freedom. The definition should be revised and mention that this right can only exist if we wish the same for all. People in jail long for freedom. People living under an oppressive government also long for freedom. In the United States, people theoretically have ‘freedom of speech’: The right to say whatever they’re moved to say. You’ll notice the word free in freedom. Free comes from the German ‘frei’, meaning, ‘to love’. The word friend shares this origin. You can think of freedom as the condition in which you have the choice to love any friend you wish.
‘Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better,’ said Albert Camus, a French author, journalist and philosopher.
Sweden, Canada, Holland are known as the countries which fully respect human freedom and rights. It seems that New Zealand and Australia are also following them.
Unless we re-think totally the laws which guide us worldwide and we create real bodies, totally independent of political powers and which represent the people and control that government abide by the rules, the future will be chaotic.