Tuesday, 10 April 2007

The world - improving by fits and starts

I'm an optimist. I believe we are alive at the best time in history. The world has seen unrelenting progress since the dawn of human civilisation. Yes, there has been dramatic backsliding as well, such as the Nazi holocaust and the Chinese cultural revolution, each claiming millions of lives.

Still, on the whole, our lives have only improved. Slavery, colonialism, apartheid, -- all gone. Women's equality and voting rights, increased awareness and protection of minority rights, increased awareness of child abuse and consequent steps to protect children, a hundred different ways in which our world has improved.

But from time to time, something occurs to remind me that as much as the world has improved, it still has a long way to go. The latest event to my mind has been the hanging in Iran of two gay youths. This was not the work of a homophobic gang. This was the execution of the law of the land, carried out by officials of the state. A quick check of the calendar: This is 2007.

I'm not gay, but I'm not homophobic either. People don't harm others by being gay. Why can't they be left alone? Social opprobrium is bad enough, but legal punishment? And punishment by death? For juveniles? Have people gone mad?

The key to social advancement is education. Little by little, the world needs to understand the value of individual liberty and human rights. Of the humane wisdom behind Voltaire's words, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I'm an optimist, so I believe that one day, the world will learn. I only hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
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