29 February 2012

Cultural rights

The last group of rights that cannot be missing in the text of the European federal constitution deals with cultural rights. My suggestion determines principles for altogether four domains that maybe match not entirely with the title: education, participation in cultural action, science research and protection of the natural environment.

The first four paragraphs/letters are dedicated to education. The first of them is partially taken over from the Universal Declaration (its article 26) – it says above all that everybody has the right to education. It says also that education shall be free (of cost), especially in its elementary stages and compulsory. But if it is written that it shall be, it follows from it that it also need not to be such. But it is absolutely unacceptable; to admit a possibility that every person should not have at least primary education would turn us back at the least in the 19th century, if not deeper in the past. The constitutional text therefore must read that primary education is compulsory and free of cost. I totally do not understand the regulation of the article 14 of the Charter of Basic Rights that speaks about possibility of compulsory and free education. What is the purpose of it? This wording cannot be interpreted otherwise than that somebody wants education not to be compulsory and free of cost for all because such regulation gives only a recommendation that guarantees nothing. Such provision doubting about necessity of compulsory and free primary education is a shame of Charter of Basic Rights and cannot naturally be taken over in the European federal constitution. The article 26 of the Universal Declaration further says that also higher education shall be accessible to all according to their abilities. I took it over and only added the word “free”, otherwise it is unnecessary to discuss necessity and legitimacy of this provision.

The following letter (b) expands on what should be the purpose of education; it is again partially taken over from the article 26 of the Universal Declaration. This provision is very important because today there is great pressure that education should be considered only as specialized means of making material profit. But such view devalues education, the purpose of education is and always was (much) broader – it is why the Universal Declaration says that it should be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Portuguese constitution is also a document that contains a good formulation of the purposes of education standing in opposition to present commercialization of education. It says (in the article 74) that education contributes to overcome economic, social, and cultural imbalances, to enable citizens to participate on a democratic basis in a free society and to promote mutual understanding, tolerance, and a spirit of solidarity. I added only one more sentence to it which emphasizes that education is not a commodity assigned to making the greatest possible individual profit on the basis of it: education of individuals shall be a contribution for the society.

The provision of the letter (c) is taken over by me almost literally from the old Austrian constitution from 1867 (the article 18) and says that everybody has the right to choose his occupation and to prepare himself for it in such places and in such manner as he may wish. This provision should prevent an authoritarian power – whether governmental or another one – from attempting by force to press its deformed kind of education as an only possibility to the citizens.

The following letter (d) taken over by me from the article 26 of the Universal Declaration has the same meaning and it grants parents a priority right to select the kind of education for their children.

The letter (e) follows and it repeats the first paragraph of the article 27 of the Universal Declaration. According to it, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the society, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. It is not necessary further to explain it, the occurrences of the European history to which this provision responds are sufficiently known.

The following two paragraphs of my suggestion are an extension of the article 13 of the Charter of Basic Rights. The letter (f) suggested by me almost tallies with the mentioned article 13, it guarantees freedom of cultural expression and says that academic freedom shall be respected; my suggestion makes it more accurate by the words “freedom of research and administration”.

The suggested letter (g) then deals with freedom of scientific research. It guarantees it but not so unconditionally as the Universal Declaration does because some restrictions there must be if science should not be immoral or even felonious. First of all, such scientific research cannot be admitted whose making violates human rights – it is quite self-evident. But the fact that scientific research cannot be made by making suffering to other creatures must be self-evident as well which is not taken into consideration today. For the reason of various researches, mostly of researches on effects of various chemical substances, animals are abused in various painful experiments whose character cannot be often described otherwise than as sadist torture; research laboratories using animals could as well bear a name torture chambers. The fact that vocal chords of some animals subjected to experiments are removed from them before experiments testifies very well about character of the experiments. Unfortunately, majority of the society considers animal tests as necessary, as necessary evil that is needful in the name of progress. It is very selfish attitude – if the pain that suffer the experimental animals were made in the name of progress to the supporters of this attitude, they certainly would not defend the cruel experiments so naturally. I do not understand that any man who approves of intentional cruelty to other creatures so that he himself (her herself – cosmetic products!) can live in comfort can lay claims to be moral. And I have one more comparison to present which shows how two-faced we Europeans are (and others with us) though we consider ourselves to be the most moral worldwide and destined for spreading our values. During the World War II (or the second phase of the European civil war) prisoners of German Nazi concentration camps were abused to many tormenting medical experiments, mostly for the purpose of discovering limiting resistance of human body for military purposes. After the war, the Nazis stood trial for their crimes and their medical experiments using humans were described as crimes too. But contemporary experiments on animals are described as science, not as a crime though they can compare in cruelty to the Nazi ones or even outdo them. So why we condemn the Nazi medical experiments as a crime against humanity today when we make completely the same suffering at the same time? Why we moralistic highlight Nazi crimes and pardon the same action to us, if number of tortured to death in Nazi experiments reached hundreds or thousands but number of animals tortured to death in our laboratories reach (at least) tens of millions? We use an excuse that experiments on animals are necessary in order that we achieve deeper cognition. But the Nazi doctors had the same reason in their defence! Everybody who makes suffering has an excuse for it! Why tormenting experiments on humans were described as a crime against humanity but not also tormenting experiments on animals that moreover occur in much wider extent? A question aimed at conscience of present Europeans (and not only them) reads: Are we better and more moral than the Nazis? As for our acting towards other creatures in our laboratories the answer is that we are not a bit better, we are utterly like them. It is also absurd that severe laws against cruelty to domestic animals that occurs relatively seldom are in force in most European states whereas mass and systematic (and more cruel) mistreatment of laboratory animals is allowed and non-punishable. To continue in the present brutal merciless practice is not more possible if Europeans want claim in the future that they have a (good) conscience. Cruel mistreatment of animals in the name of progress and knowledge must be banned by the constitution and I added therefore this condition to the previously mentioned restriction of freedom of scientific research. The last restriction of freedom of scientific research that I added in the proposed letter (g) prohibits such kind of scientific research whose aim is restriction of basic rights laid down in the constitution.

The letter (h) of my suggestion is taken over from the article 3 of the Charter of Basic Rights and only slightly restated. It is a provision that prohibits a eugenic research activity striving for cultivating improved human beings and that prohibits cloning of them as well.

The last two letters of my proposal are dedicated to the natural environment. The first of them, the letter (i), at first says that everybody has a right to live in the satisfactory environment which is a provision taken over from the constitution of the Czech republic. I added then an obligation of everybody to protect the environment to it (without it a right to satisfactory environment has no reason). These days, the greatest problem with environment protection is its plunder for the purpose of private enrichment (from the side of economic subjects, especially great firms). I do not know how to guarantee for certain the interest of environment protection against private interests in another way than by a provision saying that protection of the environment is the public interest.

Also the last letter (j) of my suggestion is inspired by a provision of the constitution of the Czech republic and of Poland too. It says in my formulation that everybody has a right to receive true and complete information about condition of the environment. This provision however corresponds to the time when entire economic activity in these states was managed by the state and the state was so in fact the greatest polluter of the environment and therefore condition of the environment was as much as possible concealed. But today, the greatest polluters of the environment are (great) private firms that however tend to concealing their impact as well. I added therefore also a right to achieve information about their influence on the environment from all economic subjects. And it is also the last provision of this article concerning cultural rights as well as of all rights incorporated in the proposal of the European federal constitution. However, the following post will in addition deal with applying all the discussed rights.