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Freedom of Expression versus Dignity Transgression

24 May 2012, 08:30

What comes first? Should there be a choice between the two, or should the choice rather be that both these very essential human rights be put on the scales with the two choices in perfect balance? Common sense tells me the second option is the only worthy one. All people (especially artists!) should walk this line delicately, because the ice is always thin on the road of expression.

I very much love the cartoonists of the newspapers, and when I could still afford to buy one, I always opened the newspaper at the main page with the cartoon. Some cartoonists are so incredibly talented that they sum up the main news of the day with a few brilliant strokes of the pen. Some of these artists never failed to astound me. But if they start to ridicule what is holy to others, like making fun of the prophet Muhammad, or Jesus, or the Cross or whatever may be hallowed to others, some may share in the fun, while others will be deeply hurt. Can that be called ‘freedom of expression’? I very much doubt that, because the scales are out of balance, favoring ‘freedom of expression’ at a dear cost to the ‘right to dignity’.  

The Presidential Cloth: Let me get to the crux of this article. Public Office (including in Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques etc.) comes in two parts- the Person plus the Cloth. Now the person is always fallible. There is certainly NO human on earth who can claim perfection. The Cloth (Office) of the pope may be infallible, but never the human wearing the cloth. The same goes for the Presidential cloth. Like popes, presidents come and go, but the Cloth is sort of permanent. It is the Cloth that is holy. Like the clothes of Aaron and his sons. Their persons were sanctified by the Cloth. The command was clear: they had to wash themselves thoroughly before they put on the cloth. Oh yes, when they were off-duty, they were just ordinary humans, doing ordinary things. And yes, they had to be careful how they walked in civvies, because their fellow humans so easily associate the person with the Cloth. In fact, someone really has to rise to the occasion to separate the person from the Cloth.

On the one hand one gets the person in whom there is both the good and the bad. Sometimes even the ugly are also present, depending on the character of the person. Some humans walk taller than others and they get more than their fair share of flak. Sometimes it is like when you hold up a perfectly white and clean sheet with just one small dirty spot in front of others to judge. Most of the time people will only see the little blemish and will discuss it feverishly, but have nothing to say about the spotless rest of the sheet. I will agree that there must be some kind of judgment as to the capability, suitability, and efficiency of the person applying for the Cloth of whatever Office. I will agree that the character of a person must be carefully weighed against the dignity of Office and should the person be found wanting, another candidate must rather be considered.

But when it comes to the point where a person has donned the Cloth, a very special set of rules must come into effect, because the Cloth is holy. Artists or even ordinary people must be especially wary if they want to include people of the Cloth in their repertoire of fun making. Here the thin ice has melted, and one should only attempt that if you can walk on water. On the other hand, there must be some machinery that can be activated if someone brought disrepute to the Cloth, which will enable the stripping off of the cloth. In the case of politics the political party or the system that chooses people to office must bring the wearer of the Cloth to responsibility, because if the person in the Cloth brings shame and dishonor to the Cloth, the image of the party also gets badly tarnished. I’ve seen some church ministers bite the dust, because they did just that.    

In closing: Take your comparably dirty hands off President Jacob Zuma. He is my president and all the other South African’s as well, whether they agree or not. He is our president like HF Verwoerd, PW Botha, or FW de Klerk was, whether we agreed or not. And he will be our president as long as he wears the Cloth, until he relinquishes it, or be voted out of it, or be stripped of it.
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