Position Paper One

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  • 1. Security Needs Equality<br />Sarah Ehr<br />Although in the history of liberal democracies there have been times when the government temporarily abolishes or restricts certain freedoms of all within reason, if they were to permanently and without just cause remove certain unalienable rights and freedoms of a select group they would be blatantly disregarding key pillars of liberalism, such as the recognition of human rights and the value of the individual. Due to the nature of the quote and the speaker’s belief that even the opposition deserves protections of their fundamental freedom of opinion; the impression given is that the quote was spoken by a modern supporter of liberal values. By stating that even enemies of the government have the ability and right to express their dissent to the degree where it harms no one, it is a direct representation of the pillars of liberalism which give all citizens the right to influence their government and choose their leaders, as well as every individual having rights and dignity equal to others within the nation. The only reasonable restriction of the fundamental freedoms every human is entitled to is when allowing these freedoms to all could cause bodily harm to citizens of the nation.<br />At times, it is best for the security of all, if certain rights and freedoms are removed for a short period of time. According to Thomas Hobbes, human nature is to be brutish and vulgar if we are not properly controlled, and it is the job of the government to monitor people in order to ensure that every individual is functioning well in society in order to better protect and secure everyone. If one favors this ideology about humankind and how they need to be managed, then in certain circumstances where it appears a subject or specific group is a threat, they should be dealt with by the government harshly, even if the ideas expressed by the “enemy” are valid. However, if the government does not allow its citizens to express varying opinions for an extended period of time then improvement is never made in the country, nor are people generally content for they are continually strictly monitored. For example, Canada implemented the War Measures Act and detained thousands of Japanese and various other immigrants because they were deemed a possible “threat” to the security of the country. A supporter of this government action may defend it in stating that due to this action Canada became a safer country during the conflicts in which people were interned. However, by putting one specific group in a position of suspicion and distrust the basic components of liberalism were ignored and the government set a precedent for Canadians that extreme forms of racism and restrictions on freedoms were acceptable when national security is at stake. The paranoia of the government during this time led them to remove rights and freedoms of certain nationalities and this negates values of liberalism that our country so prides itself on. When equality is ignored in such an abrupt and abusive manner, it gives the impression that there has been less social progress than it appeared in Canada and that the government needs to have a greater influence over the opinions of its citizens than it should in a liberal democratic country. The government did not value all people and guard their rights and freedoms, and therefore violated their duty to protect the rights of all, even those suspected of possible opposition. Had the government demonstrated liberalism and equality, the War Measures Act would have treated all Canadian citizens equally and taken freedoms from every individual as opposed to the select few in this situation.<br />While securing the safety of all is obviously a crucial role for the government and government institutions, extenuating circumstances can cause even a liberal government to take inappropriate actions that later have extreme consequences. In the source the speaker refers to a precedent that, when set, will eventually mirror itself upon the one who initially removed the rights. In the case of Nazi Germany, the Treaty of Versailles was implemented after the First World War and decimated a variety of rights and freedoms of Germany as a nation. The treaty not only removed Germany’s ability to defend itself with a strong military but its ability to have a strong economy as well, and it was all in the name of securing a safer world for all to live in. However, by restricting Germany in such a manner, the Allied Powers created a precedent that inspired the society of Germany to elect a government that promised extremist measures in the extreme situation that had been created in Germany. With their ability to help themselves removed, the people of Germany needed a focus for the popular discontent and that became the Jewish race when Hitler came to power. Due to the power and support Hitler gained in Germany, he was able to remove rights and freedoms of all citizens in Germany through the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act removed the rights of privacy, right to vote and each and every form of dissent as well as many other “threatening” activities were deemed illegal, similar to how the winners of WWI attempted to prevent Germany from becoming “threatening.” While it is important that safety be considered by the government, it must be ensured by measures that are within reason and without creating circumstances that will harm the apparent enemy. Had the Treaty of Versailles created circumstances within Germany that allowed them to recover after the war while also keeping safety a priority, perhaps the citizens would not have been as outraged and felt the need to seek revenge by electing a man who created a dictatorship and decimated their rights and freedoms while attempting to achieve the same effect across the globe all in the name of Germany’s glory.<br />Extreme measures for safety and security often result in extreme situations and anger from the oppressed enemy, and so security should be equal for all citizens as opposed to a select group the government wants to target. In the circumstance of residential schools for the First Nation’s peoples in Canada during the 19th century, the Canadian government attempted to force the assimilation of the first nation’s peoples and oppress their beliefs and values so they embraced a more European view. The ideas at the time did not embrace diversity and that the “Indians” were seen as an unfortunate disadvantage in Canada at the time. In order to maintain the New World that was building, the government felt they had to make the Native people a part of it whether they wanted to or not. Children were taken from their parents and sent to these schools where their beliefs were demeaned and they were treated harshly. The acts of pure racism the Canadian government demonstrated negated any ounce of liberalism due to the fact that the dignity of those individuals was blatantly ignored and disregarded. When a group is segregated from the remainder of the country, it does not express a sense of equality in the nation and when citizens are treated unequally a sense of resentment begins. The First Nations people today are still receiving benefits from the government as repayment for their actions over a century ago, due to the fact that they do not embrace the impact Europe had on the world many years ago. In oppressing the First Nations, the government felt they were making Canada a safer and more desirable place; however the only result was greater hostility from the natives because they were the only group to suffer for the sake of the government.<br />John Locke was a philosopher who believed that humans are inherently good and that they need no oppression and should govern themselves. The speaker of the source would agree with this ideology, for he has a belief that people should not be oppressed by their government, for if they are they will resist. While it is reasonable to embrace freedom to a certain extent, at times sacrifices must be made for the security of the majority of citizens. Creating a safe country is a key role of the government; however it should be created while maintaining liberal values. No singular group or race should be excluded from freedoms all others are entitled to, because liberalism values equality and dignity of every individual. To deny any citizen this, is to create a circumstance for extreme discontentment and action in the future.<br />