Noam Chomsky

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Mon Oct 26 21:16:47 PST 1998

Well, corrections are in order. I never read the UDHR before twenty minutes ago and was writing off the top of my head--full of shit as usual.

I down loaded the UDHR and noticed that the right to hold property at article 17 was given before a rather limp article 19 or freedom of speech. Here is 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."

Notice it does not say speech, the active, public expression and manifestation of holding an opinion and thereby weasels out of the kind of advocacy I was trying to support.

Of course one holds an opinion, how could that not be the case? It is advocating that opinion in a public forum through speech that is at the core of the matter. Notice we get to seek, receive and impart, presumably though, not necessarily through ordinary speech, this information and these ideas. This also seems a little weak.

It is only at article 22 that we get to have social security or a social safety net or closet socialism.

Well, I shouldn't quibble too much, but it sounds damned weak to me. It makes me ask, why not use the word speech? In any case, I didn't notice any mention of a freedom from persecution except explicitly as torture, which would be the opening phrase in a prohibition against racism and threats of genocide. But the preamble seems to imply something along those lines. Which again makes me ask, why is the preamble so much more provocative and magnanimous than the detail of the articles?

There is another matter too. Notice in the US Bill of Rights, these are phrased as prohibitions on the State. That is they are freedoms from the power of the State. But here in the UDHR, the concept of rights is reversed and held by the people. So, States are not explicitly prohibited from infringement, but rather people are provided with these rights. It is a subtle distinction, but it skips around the idea of the formation and powers of the state.

What is really deficient is some limitation on the formation of extra-governmental bodies like international corporations. Evidently these bodies are completely free to exercise their power to control the economic fate of whole countries without regard to the consequences. So, a State can be completely stripped of its economic means to support its people, while at the same time hold sole responsibility for their well being? Hmm.

Oh, well, my three are up for tonight.

Chuck Grimes

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