#WomenAgainstFeminism ?

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Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with WeHuntedTheMammoth

It’s been only two days since I found out that there is a new phenomenon on Tumblr and Facebook that carries its standard under the name of Women Against Feminism. I didn’t know whether to find the news upsetting or downright depressing. Having spent some time reading through the commentary, I felt myself torn between a desire to write a dozen hundred messages of “WRONG” in reply to some or adding my own two pennies’ worth to the mix.

The trouble with any such discussions is that it is near impossible to persuade anyone to think otherwise without days of back-and-forths, vast amounts of research to back up arguments and emotional energy to consolidate for potential losses. Plus, the likelihood of succeeding is even then very slim. More often than not the opposition will simply use well-intentioned counter-arguments  as additional fodder for their – dare I say misguided? – cause. They will continue to insist that they know their mind and that it is their right to think however they will. Well… there at least they are right. Since I was already caught in a plethora of projects of my own, I left it all alone.

Until today!

You see, earlier today I was making a much overdue incursion into the world of Facebook  and came across a puzzling article by Katie Halper. (Whoever said that Facebook is bereft of anything useful? Will not be fooled twice.) You may be surprised to find out that this piece was about cats.

Cats? you ask. What on earth could cats have of any use to say?

Alright, alright. But they were not any old cats mind, they were confused cats. Still puzzled? Well… “Like many of the women featured on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr, these cats don’t seem to really get what feminism is,” Katie says and then proceeds with an exhibition of some of their photographs and “anti-feminist” messages:

“I don’t need feminism b/c a woman needs a man like a cat needs a fish. and this cat needs a fish,declares a stripy-grey feline.

I’m against feminism because… wait that’s vacuums. I’m against vacuums,” purrs a moody-looking charcoal black cat.

“I don’t need feminism because I support the oppression of ALL humans! muahahaha”

Ok. That last one was chilling. Brrr… On the bright side, this is how I found the antidote for my upset: humour and Cats respond to #WomenAgainstFeminism with new blog: Confused Cats Against Feminism is just the dish to serve it with. Fishy? Yum.

The project started off quite simply because the blogger of WeHuntedTheMammoth found herself with two anti-feminists in her household: “Against my better judgment, I agreed to take pictures of them with signs spelling out their objections. None of their arguments make much sense to me, but, hey, they’re entitled to make their case on the internet if that’s what they want.

There’s just one little complication: the two antifeminist females in my household are not, you know, human females. They’re cats.

Needs must, however, so this ingenious blogger did not despair, but instead started off a new blog which within days became a phenomenon in its own right. Anyone can add their confused cats to the site. WeHuntedTheMammoth adds a single caveat to this: “your cats must be genuinely confused about why they oppose feminism, and generally unclear about what feminism is.”

There you are: if you have a cat who happens to be harbouring anti-feminist feelings and yet can give no clear explanation for their professed views, now they have a public platform whence to bring their confusion.

And here too is where my own furry companion has decided to take their befuddlement:

Inspired by Monty Python –  

Delivered by Cat.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

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Let’s Talk Opinion | Wanders with Werewolves

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“You write well when you’re angry, Vic.”

This was the express conclusion of a friend who had taken the time to read a couple of my Let’s Talk Opinion posts. I was surprised to hear it.

I could not recall an instance when that particular emotion had prompted me to write, at least not opinion pieces. It is true that some subjects I feel strongly about and treading on egg-shells is not my strongest suit. But anger brings to mind a flaring face, augmented to the size of a Halloween pumpkin and gradually acquiring the hue of a ready-to-explode blueberry Willy Wonka style.

My posts I hope are never dispassionate, but I did not believe them to ever be guided by a sense of annoyance or downright hostility.

Pondering with some degree of perplexity on the matter, in re-reading the posts the aforementioned friend referred to, I came to a conclusion of my own. It was my propinquity proclivity to use irony and dark humour as rhetorical devices that must have come across as written in anger.  I do this intuitively, without forethought, and like any writing that gets submitted to public scrutiny, it may at times appear to linger on the threshold of sarcasm, if not crossing it altogether.

The reader is always a better judge than I could ever be of whether that is the case or not, so I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. For now, I will keep the promise of yesterday’s Let’s Talk Opinion | Lunchtime Edition and add the remaining favourites of the series for a complete top ten:

 

thinkoutsidetheboxcold#6 Clichés | Avoid them like the plague! Laughter is contagious, and having just about managed to pick myself off the floor where I lay in stitches for a while after reading Michael Alexander Chaney‘s “cliché” misadventure, I decided to repay him in kind. This is one of those rare instances (for me at least) where humour went hand in hand with utility.

 

beach-love-couple-silhouette1#7 Consent is Sexy When it comes to the issue of tacit consent it is difficult to disagree with Queer Guess Code: traditional media continue to portray romantic encounters as the prerogative of silence. If the other’s advances are unwelcome, we are expected to say “no”, but are women given enough opportunities to say “yes”?

 

blogging_6#8 Danger Blogging explores the dangers bloggers expose themselves to on a daily basis, and offers a few tips on how to avoid them. I have fallen foul of a couple of these myself and the effects were immediate and lasting so beware. In conversation with Idiot Writing.

 

Vogue Issue Cadeaux#9 Child Pornography and The Sexualisation of Children “Do child pornography websites lead to acts of unimaginable evil?” asks Giorge Thomas in the wake of Ian Watkins – the lead singer of Lostprophets – being convicted of child pornography charges. With this question in mind I consider the impact of the sexualisation of children perpetrated by popular media today. Some readers found the accompanying images disturbing, so please tread with care.

 

animal-farm1#10 Some are more equal than others In hindsight I wish I had named this article “Wanders with Werewolves”.  If you are familiar with this piece then you will know why. If not: then take a peek and let me know if you think a title change is in order. I believe this is the opinion piece that my friend referred to when she said “You write well when you’re angry, Vic.” Well… angry perhaps not, but a little wolfish, certainly.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Let’s Talk Opinion | Lunchtime Edition

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I am rather fond of opinion pieces. Opinions offer no certainty. They are more likely to engender a multitude of questions rather than the opposite, and yet there is an intrinsic freedom to these flighty expressions of views and feelings. We all have them, and in exploring uncertainty, armed with some degree of experience and oftentimes incomplete knowledge, we find the courage to draw the veil and let others sift through our treasure trove of conclusions in the hope of finding kindred spirits or perhaps in order to test the strength of our convictions.

Since opinions always fall short of absolute conviction, they also allow space for communication. There will be those who will agree and those who will challenge our views. And yet by the very virtue of open dialogue, all parties are enriched, if only by glimpsing a world of possibility hitherto unknown.

“We may have our private opinions but why should they be a bar to the meeting of hearts?” – Mahatma Gandhi

I initiated the Let’s Talk Opinion series several months ago as a means of engaging with issues that are important to other bloggers and in doing so I hoped that we may journey together to discover – if not answers – at least new ways of questioning the world.

The first post of the series, titled You Will Be Offended asked you to consider “where do we draw the line between opinion, self-censorship and free speech in the blogosphere?” as well as establishing what I hope to achieve with these posts and what I do not. Whether you have been keeping up with the series or are new to ShardsOfSilence, I hope you will enjoy taking a peek at the articles that have faired best so far. Here they come!

RAPED_683000 #1 Drunk Sex / RAPED This November piece, in conversation with Sifting Reality, made it to the top of the list. Does regret in hind-sight play a role in reporting intoxication-related sexual assaults? This author begs to differ. 

 

untitled#2 You Are Not White Enough! “There’s no man in this world who will reject you because of your unbleached Bermuda Triangle.” This anti-fairness advocacy piece is a humorous rant against the racist vagina police. In conversation with Jezebel.

 

Man_Vs_Woman_by_joshnickerson#3 Men vs Women | Crossing the Divide adds another doze of humour to the question of gender difference. By all accounts, having failed to fit nicely into what OM, my interlocutor for this piece, describes as “typical” female behaviour, and afraid that I may well be facing an identity crisis as a result, I relied on that oh-so-British love of subtext to fashion a tongue-in-cheek reply.

 

#4 Get Naked. Be Art. skyferreira_albumI am certain that this will not be the first, nor the last article that questions the intent behind nudity in the music industry and beyond. luna luna asked the reader to consider the divide between art and marketing ploys: between instances when nudity is empowering and disarming, and when it is just a gimmick, aimed at increasing sales. This article, although by no means definitive, is my attempt at an answer.

 

baby-on-board#5 BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination This post considered the issue of discrimination in the workplace in reply to Quinn, who claimed that offering any special consideration to working parents constitutes “blatant discrimination – “family” vs. “individual””. Gloves were off for this one!

 

I hope you enjoy revisiting these posts. If they are new to you, then I hope you won’t shy away from sharing your opinion. I am certain that at least one of the above topics will be to your liking. Nonetheless, should you be left searching for just the right topic for you, tune in tomorrow for the next set of Let’s Talk Opinion favourites.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Unusual sources of inspiration

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with SFoxWriting’s Blog 

Earlier today Steven Fox, the blogger of SFoxWriting posted an image titled Multi Coloured Car. I have met Steven some time ago when we crossed swards over an article he had written for Don Charisma’s blog in which he was invited to argue that women make better leaders than men. Steven kindly invited me to expand on a comment I had made and this resulted in a rather more buccaneer response on my part than he had perhaps expected: Women and Leadership | The End of Men as Leaders. Leaving the past aside, today’s post intrigued me. It is only an image. There is no commentary assigned to it and it made me wonder: where do we as bloggers get our inspiration and why certain topics or indeed images appeal to us in the first place.

There is of course a certain freedom for the viewer when faced with an image that does not also provide the author’s or presenter’s opinion and story. We can assign to it whatever comes to mind. After all, the painters of old were not required to be wordsmiths. Their work spoke for itself. The same goes for certain types of photography and yet…

It took me several years to overcome my initial distaste for modern art. I could not relate to it. It did not speak to me and I found it somewhat pretentious. What was I expected to see in a blank canvas with a dot on it? The works of a Rothko or a Judd left me cold. It was the encounter with Minimalism that transformed distaste into curiosity and eventually into appreciation if not love. Specifically, Burlyuk’s words have prompted me to view this development in art in a different light: “Minimalist painting is purely realistic—the subject being the painting itself.”

The subject is the painting itself. Although he referred specifically to minimalist work, this discovery had prompted a snowball effect and I was quick to extrapolate the core of this assertion to art that did not stand comfortably within that category and beyond. It was as if a veil had been lifted and I could see beauty in the most insignificant of objects, stories coursing through space and time all due to one simple fact: they are human creations. I was ready to accept that anything and everything can be deemed art if only the creator, or even “finder” deems it to be so.

It made me reconsider the significance of Marcel Duchapm’s scandalous urinal (signed “R.Mutt” and titled Fountain) as an attempt to question the boundaries between life objects and art, as well as being a subversive dig at the seat  of authority, the art establishment figures who took it upon themselves to decide what constitutes art and what does not. In the words of an anonymous editorial that came in defence of the work:  “Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.”

To return to Steven’s post, by virtue of choosing that image and presenting it under a title, he had transformed it into more than its former self: the object gained new thought. More so, it inspired me to reply in kind with an image of an exhibition piece I have recently photographed and which I now share with you:

Tokyo Exhibition piece: Car and Light. Vic Briggs photography

The image is indicative only in part of what the exhibition piece entailed. One can only glimpse a moment in time. The play of light that emerged from full darkness and mounted in wave-like crescendo until it became incandescent, the sound of an engine about to take flight, set against the backdrop of a snow-covered Tokyo city… Context and art interacted to subdue the senses. It made one question as well as admire. I was persuaded once again that an artist will make believers of us all. Are you?

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

The Blurb Offence

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with The Daily Post

Disclaimer: Things written in the heat of the moment may unintentionally cause offence to the reader. In such cases the reaction may range from minor irritation to shock and severe disapproval. If read on an empty stomach, possible side effects include a scarlet face, foot tapping and finger drumming. To minimise any lasting damage, please take with a pinch of salt.  Contact the author immediately if symptoms persist. 

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I’m not one to get hot under the collar, not even when I’m wearing one, but today’s Daily Prompt managed to get me there. I felt skin prickle uncomfortably and fingers itching to have their say. Admittedly, the fact that I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a while and things are stalling on all fronts did not help, but still. Here it is:

“Write the blurb for the book jacket of the book you’d write, if only you had the time and inclination.” Daily Prompt: BYOB(ookworm)

After reading and re-reading it several times, I had to consider the following options.

  1. Get upset and do nothing. Since smiling is infectious, I can’t be sure that the opposite is not. Do I really want to risk being ground zero for a writer-fueled rage-binge on WordPress?
  2. Assume that Michelle W’s choice of phrase “if only you had the time and inclination” is indicative of a broader problem and attempt to address it (at least in part) by writing an article on the subject.
  3. Let it go. Choose to believe that Michelle’s prompt comes with a wink to those ‘in the know’; something along the lines of: “How many times did you hear that one, hey? Watcha-gonna-do…”

So here we are.

Now I hope that you are not staring blankly at this point wondering what on earth could have gotten me irate about this prompt. It’s straightforward enough. What kind of problem could I possibly have with it?

Let me explain.

There is a reason why when a stranger asks what it is that I do, I tend to waiver. More often than not I will say that I’m a postgraduate research student. Why? Well… Because on the few occasions that I was asked and said that I am a writer, I got one of the following reactions:

— Oh, yes. I’d write a book myself if only I had the time, but you know… Got more important things on my plate at the moment.

— It’s nice that you have the time to do it. I’m too swamped with work, kids and everything else to indulge.

— Aha. Everyone’s at it these days. God knows where people find the time.

You see? It’s the daily prompt in a nutshell: anyone would write a novel “if only they had the time and inclination.”

I don’t imagine that people in other professions get that line. Imagine being at a party, the conversation flows as well as the [insert beverage of choice here]. You go to the counter for a refill and can’t help overhearing the following snippet of a conversation:

“So what is it that you do, Gill?”

“Oh. I’m a paediatrician.”

“You know, I’d try my hand at it too, but I just never get the time. Busy-busy-busy,” said no guest ever.

When it comes to most professions, the assumption is that one would require to put in years of work in order to become proficient. When it comes to writing on the other hand…

It is true that writing a novel takes time. I won’t dispute it. Many an hour that could be spent raising children, shopping, doing the housework, meeting up with friends, making money and what have you, will have to be sacrificed if one is to be a writer. 

What I take issue with is the idea that writers have magicked up spare time for themselves in which to do the work, time that others occupy doing things that are far more important. I don’t write because I have time that others lack. It is not an inclination that I choose to indulge. I write because this is my vocation, and I trust that this is the case with all writers.

Do I believe that there is a book in everyone? Absolutely. We are all story-tellers. Can anyone be a writer? Sure. Anyone can be anything they want to be if they have passion and determination, and if they are willing to put in the necessary work and learn the nuts and bolts of it. This is the case with writing as much as it is with anything else.

The art of writing is more than the sum of free time plus inclination  It is the exhilarating ambiguity of a world yet to be created. It is about finding your original voice as a writer. It is the arduous task of plotting and characterisation, learning the art of description and dialogue, building the story scene by scene until at last the first draft is ready. It is a matter of constantly working at improving one’s craft so that the words we sent into the world may not ring false or empty. 

Writing is fun – yes – but it is also a lot of hard work. We write, rewrite, revise and then rewrite some more. In the words of Kingsley Amis: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s trousers to the seat of one’s chair.”

I’ve said my peace.

There was of course a fourth option in reply to the Daily Prompt. That is, I could have simply added my blurb and be done with it. Alright then. Glove taken.

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FINDING SWIFT

September 7th 2011. Jane Swift wakes up to a shocking reality: she has no memory of who she is, where she is, or what brought her there. He was her only visitor, this man who brought her to the hospital after her collapse, yet Jane cannot shake off the feeling that Cedric Stewart is hiding something from her. And then there is Gray… Where do you start when you’ve lost your past?

Armed with an iPhone and little else, Jane begins her journey into the unknown. The more she delves into her past life, the less sure she is whether it’s worth burrowing further.

She feels haunted by the life of a woman she is getting to know, but not like. 

Should she allow her past to dictate her future?

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Danger Blogging

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Idiot Writing

“For the most part blog writing is pretty much a great thing to do – yet on occasion – do you find you take it a little far and go over the mark and incur grievous bodily harm in the process (mostly occurring at after midnight sometime)” Is Blogging A Hoot?

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You wake up early in the morning, have your first cup of coffee, and eyes still glued with sleep, you stumble into your study to write up the first post of the day. Or perhaps you are a night owl and it is the evening that you dedicate to your blog. You may feel tired, emptied out and uninspired. And yet you’ve made a commitment to write something new every day, and even though there is so much work to be done elsewhere or children to take to school, a family to feed, this half hour or so is yours alone to impart your musings with the world.

Blogging enables us to be prolific and disciplined when we are having a determinately bad day. It forces us to manage our spare time with greater care. It allows us to give free reign to our imagination. But more importantly, it is a platform where we can share what we create, receive feedback and encouragement – the very opposite of writing in a void.  

There is of course the other side of the coin. Blogging is about sharing knowledge and experience, adding value to others peoples’ lives by giving freely what you might have taken years to learn or perhaps have spent quite a bit of your hard-earned cash to become an expert in. It is about helping others as much as it is about speaking up. When you care and love, educate and entertain, then you know you’ve got a blogger’s mindset.

I was told once that in order to blog you ought to be mentally prepared before you even get into blogging, have a clear vision and a plan for what you’ll be blogging about. Sage advice, but I’ll be the first to admit that I broke all the rules and began with neither. My blog has grown organically and its eclectic posts reflect the diverse and at times incongruous nature of my interests. I am curious about too many things in this world to limit what I write about to only one.

To me, blogging is a learning process, and although I have been lucky enough not to incur any “grievous bodily harm” in the process, I am aware that there are many dangers associated with it too. Here are some of the red flags I’ve discovered:

Infrequent posts: If we only post once a month, chances are the message will be lost in the sea of others’ more frequent media efforts. On the other hand, post too much and too often, and we may be in danger of providing quantity over quality. Flooding the blogosphere with poor content will have the additional drawback of making a bad first impression for first-time visitors, who may very well leave never to return. Finally there is the matter of the antisocial blogger, who does not respond to comments and refuses to engage in discussions on their posts. Although for high-traffic blogs it may be impossible to respond to each individual comment, it is still a good idea to acknowledge those who have taken time to read and respond, even if it is done in the form of a one-off message for all readers in which the key issues that the’ve brought up in the comment box can be addressed.

Consistency in both the frequency with which we post as well as the quality of what we post are key, although admittedly, it will take time and effort to achieve both.

As for the physical dangers associated with blogging… “Acute Blogger’s Elbow” is the worst, as this prolific blogger was ready to testify: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Clm7sehenb8 Just make sure to contact your doctor if you experience any of the enumerated side-effects 😉

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Freedom of Speech | Words do not Kill

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with CRAZYCONTRARIAN

“A recent survey suggests that 45% Americans don’t understand the First Amendment.  (…) Contrary to popular belief, the First Amendment does not allow people to say anything they want without consequence.  Speech has never been protected in all situations, and the First Amendment has never applied to private citizens and private entities that have prohibited speech in one way or the other.” FIRST AMENDMENT 101

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Freedom of speech is yet another issue that has left the realm of abstract debate.

Most people would consider freedom of speech as a prima facie right, one that cannot and should not be alienated, yet trigger-happy governments have been known to overreact to instances when this right is used by individuals with questionable personal or political agendas, by proposing bills that would curtail that freedom. I refer here to a bill proposed in the UK a few years ago that intended to outlaw speech that incites religious hatred, prompted by crazycontrarian‘s Side Note, which indicates that in the US  for example “the government can interfere and punish speech when the speech (1) incites violence; (2) constitutes “fighting words”” and so on.

Is the freedom to criticise ideas not a fundamental freedom of society? I do not condone the use of this freedom to incite religious hatred, and yet legislating against opinion and curtailing the freedom to express it seems like a step too far. There are already sufficient laws to deal with extreme situations.

Words do not kill. In a democracy at least, we should cherish the right to criticise rival ways of life and express our disagreement freely. We may disagree with those who exercise their freedom, but this freedom should be protected, or else we will come to live in a world where only those views ratified by the state would be acceptable. I lived under such a regime. It is not one I would like to ever return to.

As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” 

At times it can be difficult to balance between liberal-democratic beliefs in freedom of opinion and expression and the language that multiculturalism can take against religion. Nonetheless, making legislation to prohibit criticising religious and other ways of life will neither eradicate hatred, nor stop it from being expressed through media that is more difficult to regulate. Conversely, this may increase the appeal of illicit language by giving it an aura of anti-establishment valour.

This debate opens another crucial subject: rights as ‘privileges’. The subtext of this theory is more dangerous than it appears to be.

Firstly it rejects the universality of human rights, transforming them into a good conferred to a limited number of individuals, thus it legitimises the prosecution, torture or even enslavement of the “unprivileged”.

Secondly, it implies that rights can be taken away and denotes that they are at the disposal of governments; this could justify such mayhem as the concentration camps during the Second World War – if rights are given by governments, they can just as easily be taken away.

Finally, it implies that rights should be earned or deserved, somewhat like the Honours conferred by the Crown. The above picture appears to be better suited to describe the organisation of crime rings, rather than liberal democracies.

In my opinion, human rights – freedom of speech amongst them – shouldn’t be subject to overruling and any government intending to countermand them should be required to justify their actions extensively.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)