India Uncut

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Defending our freedom

Timothy Garton Ash writes on "the creeping tyranny of the group veto":
Here the animal rights campaign has something in common with the extremist reaction to the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, as seen in the attacks on Danish embassies. In both cases, a particular group says: "We feel so strongly about this that we are going to do everything we can to stop it. We recognise no moral limits. The end justifies the means. Continue on this path and you must fear for your life."


If the intimidators succeed, then the lesson for any group that strongly believes in anything is: shout more loudly, be more extreme, threaten violence, and you will get your way. Frightened firms, newspapers or universities will cave in, as will softbellied democratic states, where politicians scrabble to keep the votes of diverse constituencies. But in our increasingly mixed-up, multicultural world, there are so many groups that care so strongly about so many different things, from fruitarians to anti-abortionists and from Jehovah's Witnesses to Kurdish nationalists. Aggregate all their taboos and you have a vast herd of sacred cows. Let the frightened nanny state enshrine all those taboos in new laws or bureaucratic prohibitions, and you have a drastic loss of freedom.
I quite agree with Garton Ash when he writes later that "Inch by inch, paragraph by paragraph, we are becoming less free." Read the full piece.

How much do we care about individual freedom in India anyway? Time and again, we see the "tyranny of the group veto," as in the attacks against Khushboo for her comments on pre-marital sex or in the denial of the right of bar-girls to pursue their chosen livelihood in Maharashtra, and in so many other things in so many other ways, some of which this blog has written about. And each time those freedoms are threatened, I think to myself that it's just a small, vocal minority that feels this way, and they don't speak for most of us. But noise often translates into action, sometimes through intimidation, and sometimes I think the silent majority is too darned silent. No?

(Garton Ash link via Instapundit.)
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