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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Democracy should protect every body

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WE ALL know roughly what we mean when we talk about a free society. It’s a place where every individual has the unquestioned right to exist and to be treated with equal respect; and it’s where such restrictions as cannot be avoided if people are to live together in harmony are kept to the minimum. It should not need saying that, among other things, such abuses as mandatory health treatments, government control over the individual’s own money, and any kind of digital policing of individuals lie a huge distance beyond an acceptable minimum.

The happy state of living in a free society does not arise spontaneously. Freedom is never free of charge. It is gained at the price of blood or at least by the significant efforts of those who seek to extract it from those who intend to withhold it. Once gained, it needs constant guarding; malign forces will always be trying to seize it from us.

One bulwark in the ever-present battle for retaining the maximum freedom of every individual in a nation is democracy. The protection of democracy – the fight by ordinary citizens to root out corrupt people, practices, and policies – requires that everyone understands the foundation upon which democracy is established and the principles by which it works for everybody. With that knowledge we should be able to recognise immediately when it is failing us.

Many, but not enough of us, in the Western world are acutely aware that our democratic freedoms are now under extreme attack: we’re losing them very fast. We need desperately quickly to help our fellow citizens understand what is happening, what is at stake, and how a steady ratchet of corrupting measures is destroying our democracy and seizing our freedoms from us.

The very first requirement for democracy to exist is universal recognition of individual bodily sovereignty. What’s the reasoning that justifies such a statement?

Our own existence as unique human individuals is manifested by the reality of our living, physical bodies: we are our bodies, our bodies are us. Because we alone inhabit our bodies they are exclusively ours. This gives us incontestable authority over what is done to them, notably in regard to sexual activity and medical treatment.

It’s important to be clear that this sovereignty is not granted as if it’s a right bestowed on the individual by some external human source such as a government: it is something which is intrinsic to a human being’s existence.

Any attempt to take the absolute powers of sovereignty over our bodies from us by unwanted crossing of invisible but universally understood boundaries amounts to invasion of the unique territory which defines our individual existence: it seizes control over the very essence of who we are. To do that is to engage in slavery. And the argument around slavery is clear: any human being who has been forcibly placed into slavery has become property and so has been robbed of the human dignity with which he or she was born.

Each one of us occupies space and needs food and shelter in order to survive. So, in defence of our individual bodily sovereignty, we need broadly accepted arrangements which allow us to live together within a stable and secure social and economic framework. If we have rejected the violent tyranny of ‘the rule of the strongest’ (the law of the jungle), we need instead to find a form of coexistence where our activity is regulated by the ethics and laws of civilisation.

At best laws can be wise and just, at worst they can be irrational and abusive. We certainly do need them for stability, but they can only exist if there is a universally accepted authority which is their source and author. If there were no such authority, there could be no respect or reason for taking notice of laws that carried no authoritative weight. So we do need a body of people which has authority to write laws, and we need a coherent mechanism whereby it can come to exist.

Dictatorships, where sovereignty (and its associated authority) is won by violent means or inherited from those who have done so, can possibly be benign but carry a high risk of becoming tyrannical. Although democracy is never perfect in reality, most people in the Western world view it as the preferable system of government. Until relatively recently it served us here in the UK tolerably well.

If we’ve chosen a parliamentary democracy as our arrangement for living harmoniously together, we need a way by which we can appoint a body of people (the parliament) which everyone is prepared to respect as the governing authority. Since it is only individuals who inherently possess sovereign power, it must be to ourselves as individual possessors of sovereignty whom we turn, via elections, to create a parliament which is then lent authority within a securely defined constitutional framework. Any parliament which overrode the individual sovereignty of its citizens would be overriding the very sovereign authority which lent to that parliament its legitimate powers: the parliament would therefore be invalidating the powers which had been lent to it and thus invalidating its own existence (it would be cutting off the branch on which it was sitting!) The term ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ describes only the process whereby the legislating body can convert the people’s will into practical action; it does not describe ownership (of sovereignty).

Democratic parliaments must always defer to, and serve, the will of the people and never their own interests. Our parliamentary representatives must be constantly and diligently held to account. This implies the absolute right of all citizens to full information about what’s going on, and the practical necessity for journalistic exposure and questioning of the parliament’s actions and intentions. How has that been working in recent times?

Democratic decision-making is not solely a matter of arithmetic. It is not the case that a simple majority of the members of a democratically elected parliament can legitimately decide to do exactly what it chooses (for example to exterminate a minority or to seize their assets).

There are limits to what a parliament can do while retaining the validity of the authority which has been lent to it by the people. So the members of a democratic parliament have a particular responsibility toward protection of every single individual’s bodily sovereignty which is the only thing that can validate their authority. Every MP who has not vigorously protested (and voted) against the mandating of Covid ‘vaccination’ (for example) has seriously failed in his or her duty to protect the bodily sovereignty of the citizens he or she is there to represent and serve.

Secondly, if a democracy is to survive, the options open to its parliament can only exist within the boundaries of what is morally good. That is because its survival rests on the trust of the people that their parliament is acting on their behalf with integrity. In practice the arbiter of what is morally good has to be the judgement of the people themselves; and that is why a nation of people who themselves have an unreliable ‘moral compass’ cannot nevertheless expect their democracy to work justly or even to survive at all.

Uncorrupted democracy is the most reliable protector of individual freedoms within a stable society. But it can only only when the sovereignty which is inherent to the living body of every individual is understood and accepted as the source for its own valid authority. Thus democracy’s debt to your body is the duty to protect its sovereignty whenever it is threatened. A democracy which fails to do that has destroyed its foundation and can no longer be trusted to defend the people’s freedom.

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Don Benson
Don Benson
Don Benson was self-employed in the building industry and is now retired.

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