Lets get one thing out of the way immediately - the word minority in the title has no reference to race. Let us proceed ;)!
Asmarino (2012) explains that democracy is built upon the principles of majority rule while still protecting individual as well as minority rights.
The theory of democracy is extremely noble and worthy, but as with all manmade creations, also has its flaws. As intellectual beings we study various schools of thought and seek to improve upon them in the hopes that a more refined system will emerge in order to facilitate our progress towards something of our own utopia.
By birth into a country, we are virtually forced to live with one another. We rely on each other for knowledge, companionship, entertainment, physical health and so forth. We are a society.
Last night the great debate aired on SABC where one of the rights imbedded in our constitution –Freedom of Expression - was argued. Now, if the majority of us are against the hearing of profane language, explicit lyrics and other crude or aggressive elements of expression, democracy in theory should allow for that majority to dictate what will be acceptable or not. Yet somehow, because of the constitution, the majority is overruled and an individual’s right to express him or herself is protected despite the form that expression may take.
In 1936, the film Gone with the Wind was banned from television for using the word “damn”, a word which is almost polite in comparison to the type of language commonly found in our daily communication and entertainment today. I was shocked at this discovery. It would be mockery to ban a show for such harmless language right? Hmmmm...
Most of us can most likely concur that we are desensitized to a lot of the hogwash going around. Why are we desensitized? Perhaps it is a result of exposure to such language over certain periods of time. The majority once fought for and limited that exposure and tried to control the moral make-up of society, but the constitution defeated that cause. Now, like it or not, the majority have no power really.
Now there are many different individual rights apart from freedom of expression that need to be protected. It is true that the majority do not always make the right choice. It is indeed possible for the majority to be collectively wrong. I suppose it makes sense as to why individual rights need to be protected in the constitution. However, it is also possible that preserving one’s individual right at the expense of the views of the majority can also have detrimental effects on the type of society that the majority seeks to establish.
For example, protectkids (1998) observe that the development of a child’s brain is affected when exposed to pornography. Certain sexual developments which are supposed to occur naturally with the coming of puberty and so on, are altered. Some of the consequences or results include:
· Children believing that sex without responsibility is acceptable and desirable
· Children acting out sexually with other children
· Developing sexual callousness towards women
· Trivialising rape
· Devalued importance of monogamy and viewing nonmonogamous relationships as normal and natural
· Children having their identity interfered with as certain sexual norms and attitudes become hardwired into their brain
The list goes on actually, and it is not difficult to see some of these fruits in our society today. But hey, the majority have no say anymore! We really can’t decide what will be allowed on television or not, or whether certain content should be banned from the country. Sure the majority of us can rally together and put pressure on certain organizational bodies. They might even deceive us into thinking that a complaint to the BCCA will materialize into something. But all it takes is a few courageous individuals in a minority group to cry out to mother constitution, and out comes the whip, and after a few rounds of serious lashes, majority is sent to his room to think about what he has done by picking on the little guy.
At day’s end a democracy which purely relies on the vote of the majority will have a casualty – that casualty is the silencing of the minority. But when a constitution overrides the majority there is also a casualty – that casualty is MORALITY. We have chosen which casualty we would much rather have.
Our constitution, God bless us for coming up with such a beautiful one, is in fact the death of morality in our society. But in today’s world, perhaps we need to sacrifice morality so individuals can have an equal share at individual rights. We certainly can’t have it both ways. Can we?
Asmarino.com (2012) Principles of Democracy. [online] Available at: http://asmarino.com/articles/1442-principles-of-democracy [Accessed: 18 Mar 2013].
Protectkids.com (1998) How Pornography Harms Children. [online] Available at: http://www.protectkids.com/effects/harms.htm [Accessed: 18 Mar 2013].
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.