calpirg out here reminding me to vote

Shown below is a CALPIRG sticker encouraging students to vote for their cause. Exercising our right to vote has been a hot topic lately with the primary elections coming up. Throughout the course of US history, suffrage has evolved from being limited to white males over the age of 21 to including any US citizen over the age of 18. This right stems from the definition of democracy: a government ruled by the people. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen states that “[l]aw is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation.” In other words, every citizen can be involved in the discussion and creation of laws. This notion is derived from Rousseau’s social contract theory where people enter a social contract by willingly submitting to the general will of society and execute this general will by participating in government matters. Voting is one way to contribute to shaping a government that meets the people’s expectations. However, this begs the question of whether the people are the best judges of the change they want to see in society and how to go about bringing that change. Without considering the amount of time needed to count the votes, would it be better to let the government’s decisions be decided on the direct vote of citizens or the vote of an educated and elected few?

CALPIRG voting sticker on a pole near PC bus stop

Is Buying Police the New Trend?

Last year, John Hopkins University decided on a new Act called the “Hopkins Bill” which won a vote of 94-42. It allowed them to essentially “buy” the police in a private sector to defend the school. The university is known to be located in what people would call “a dangerous neighborhood” and they wanted the area to feel safe. However, people were concerned on how it might be “over-policing” the area and is tasked to only protect the students. However, there exists other residential areas with people nearby and according to the Act, only the students are priority. This raises the question regarding Article 12 in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in which “to guarantee the rights of man and the citizen requires a public force; this force is therefore instituted for the benefit of all, and not for the personal advantage of those whom it is entrusted.” While Hopkins is trying to benefit people by having more police, it is apparent that they are violating the 12th Article since it is not guaranteeing the rights and benefits of ALL people and citizen. This skepticism can be expanded to the general use of buying police forces for an institution or person in which it puts only a certain party as a priority and is not a benefit for all but rather for a personal advantage.

To what extent do we hold the rights of free expression?

Every time I pass the blackboard in the student center, I always spend a few seconds to look at those comments on the board. Some expressing their wishes and some directly speak out their personal views about the ongoing things. As a viewer, I always find this interesting and feel more relaxed with those written ideas on it. It creates a relaxing environment that encourages free expressions from students. As a diversified University, every different kind of idea exists here should not be disregarded, since we all have the freedom of speech and expression in many forms, which corresponds to the Article in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, “The free expression of thought and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: thus every citizen may freely speak, write, and print” (Article 11, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen). Apart from this blackboard, there are also a few boards in front of the student center allowing students to do their paintings on. The paintings on them change frequently and range from different styles. However, there are sometimes that words on the blackboard appear to be offensive that may make others or a particular group of people feel uncomfortable.

This leads to my question that to how large the extent can one have the right to freely express their thoughts and opinions publically?

Grand Theft of India

Image result for india during british rule

This is a picture of a conflict between Indians and the British Army in India. Although, the declaration of independence wasn’t written for India, many of its argument aligned with the views of Indians during the British takeover. Indian people also had enough of the oppression from the British government and wanted their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Indian people were also sick of the British government imposing taxes on them without the Indian people’s consent. The British government attacked anyone who spoke against their presence and power in India. Indians were divided back then based on their religious beliefs, but the hate for the British government got them to stand together. Together they were able to kick the British government out of India. India is still somewhat divided due to different religious beliefs. It was the hate against the British government that got all Indians to stand together as one. Now, I don’t what it will take.

The Pursuit of Natural Rights

“Declaration of the Rights of Man and if the Citizen” is the definition of natural rights which the National Assembly gave during The French Revolution. The painting below is “prise de la bastille” which pictured the capture of the Bastille, one of the most important events of The French Revolution. Considering the policy of King Louis XVI’s government unbearable,  French civilians decide to revolt the governing of King Louis XVI. This revolution is their pursuit of natural rights.

One of the goals of French civilians was to build a government according to Article 12 that “To guarantee the rights of man and the citizen requires a pubic force; this force is therefore instituted for the benefit of all, and not for the personal advantage of those to whom it is entrusted.” However, the French Revolution was not perfect. From 1793 to 1794, the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror, and at least 16594 people had been executed for counter-revolutionary activities during this period. But this violation of the natural rights seemed necessary in that period because, to build a new bureaucratic system that protects redefined human rights, the old one must be destroyed. In this process, people who relied on the old system for a living would definitely be affected.

Then, there rises a question that in a country that has settled a bureaucratic system will the redefinition and pursuit of natural rights inevitably lead to violations of the natural rights of some people in this system? If so, isn’t that contradict Article 2? if not, how could the old system be destroyed without affecting people relying on it?

Making Freedom “Stick”

Despite there being no apparent American iconography (actually, most of them are Asian culture references) on the stickers I’m showing on my laptop (and towards the back, my hydroflask), I still believe there can be a connection made between them and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In the text, two articles resonate with me: Article 11, “The free expression of thought and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: thus every citizen may freely speak, write, and print” and Article 10, “No one must be disturbed because of his opinions, even in religious matters, provided their expression does not trouble the public order” (Declaration, pg. 239). These two excerpts connect to my having stickers on my laptop because each one, although whimsical and not necessarily referential to anything serious, symbolizes the value I place on what each sticker illustrates. Thus, my stickers are more than just aesthetic adhesives, but semblances of my beliefs and personal thoughts. This becomes relevant to the American thought of freedom because such documents, which provide a foundation for the American perception of liberty, hold that it is my right to express myself and my values (so long as it brings no harm to others). This is maintained even for interests which have an origin outside of the American world (as I’m pretty sure neither Aristotle nor the Final Fantasy JRPG franchise were created in the US).

Largely, the reason why I chose to discuss stickers for this assignment is because of their frivolous nature: by no measure is there a clear necessity for having such things. Despite their frivolity, stickers can represent two significant–and often, inextricably tied–notions which are fundamental to the American existence: freedom and expression. With this in mind, it has led me to wonder whether or not freedom and expression can indeed be separated, and, if one’s freedom was confiscated, they could still retain their right to expression. Would a similar outcome occur if expression was taken away for liberty?