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The Daily Logos X

Not sure what happened to yesterday…

“Extraordinary as it will appear, to a more enlightened community in a more liberal age, there still are social functions which society allows the citizen to perform by himself.  It is by these that we must test the case of normal and traditional institutions like wine and ale.  The debate is important, not for the sake of these material things, but for the sake of the essential definition of civic freedom which must include or exclude them.  I could never see, for instance, why a man who is not free to open his mouth to drink should be free to open it to talk.  Talking does far more direct harm to other people.  The village suffers less directly from the village drunkard than it might from the village tale-bearer, or the village tub-thumper, or the village villain who seduces the village maiden.  These and twenty other types of evil are done simply by talking; and it is certain that a vast amount of evil would be prevented if we all wore gags.  And the answer is not to minimise the evil, any more than to minimise the evil of drunkenness.  The answer is not to deny that slander is a social poison, or seduction a spiritual murder.  The answer is that, unless a man is allowed to talk, he might as well be a chimpanzee who is only able to chatter.  In other words, if a man loses the responsibility for these rudimentary functions and forms of freedom, he loses not only his citizenship, but his manhood.”

-G.K. Chesterton, “Government and the Rights of Man,” The Illustrated London News, July 30th, 1921

For centuries there has been a struggle, sometimes conscious in the spirit of an age, and sometimes not, between the rights that are due to a man as a man and the  implementation of the common good of all men.  More often than not, this struggle arises out of a misconception as to what constitutes either one, or sometimes both.  In the past—and with some too-far gone individuals in the present—there has been a societal tendency to minimize the rights and dignity of a person based on inferior or different race, sex, desires, or education.  At other times, the tendency goes the opposite direction and exaggerates different race, sex, desires, and education into rights unique unto individual men or groups of men.  As usual, Chesterton’s words point the reader in the right direction.

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