Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Is there now a human right to an airbrushed history?"

It appears so.

Rewriting history has been the order of the day for many years now, we've seen it in Australia with the History Wars' differing versions of history between historical fact and history defined by feelings. (Note the stoush regarding Aboriginal history and the white-man's treatment of Aboriginal people playing out between Manne and Windschuttle. )

Dr Paul Moon has written This Horrid Practice in which he has spoken of pre-colonial cannibalism and, in the same vein as Germs, he has said it was caused by rage and anger, rather than the desire to consume the "mana" or traits of the person consumed. A complainant has taken this issue to the HRC because they claim that the book "describes the whole of Maori society as voilent and dangerous".
The HRC is playing it down for the moment, pointing to a high threshold that needed to be met to avoid unnecessary incursions into the right to freedom of expression. That is all well and good. But one needs to ask why we have allowed such a stifling atmosphere to develop where the immediate response if someone is offended is to clamour to authorities about a breach of human rights. Am I the only one thinking that if we shut these places down, we might just learn to cope with robust debate and return to an atmosphere where free speech is cherished rather than chastened? The ability to run off to some Big Brother bureaucracy is weakening our Western fibre.
Janet Albrechsen has covered the use of Human Rights law to enable revisionism in history in her column this week.
There was once something honourable about human rights. They were limited to the essential rights that most reasonable people can agree on. The right to vote, the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, the rule of law and so on. But the human rights project started going awry the moment we started drafting up great compendiums purporting to list all the rights of man.

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