Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Freedom to Choose a Partner in Life as a Universal Human Right

The idea of "feudalism," as marked by the inflexible, hierarchical, and often hereditary relationship between a wealthier and more powerful lord and his poor and submissive servants, as opposed by the foundation of modern republican nation-state, is often just as socio-cultural in nature just as it was political and economic. Yes, the overthrow of the established elite aristocratic class was a means to break their monopoly of political control and means of economic production, but what really distinguish the so-called "feudalistic" society of the middle ages and most of the modern and developed societies is just as much in the field of "common attitude" as by wealth.

The definition of what constitute that "modern attitude," of course, varies from society to society. In some, the values of individual freedoms are maximized and completely decriminalized as long as the freedoms of one person does not interfere with those of others. In some, the idea of conformity to the generally practiced norms of society in all aspects of life, generates collective social conscience. And still in some, modern attitudes are redefined, but at the same time not constrained, by reexamining classical values of the past.

But the premise of all such examples are the same, the modern society, just as any society of the past, relies on a set of what is considered right and wrong accepted by the vast majority of its constituents to operate smoothly, without constant accusations of unfairness and immorality. While no universal legal code as such exist, any blatant opposition of the widely accepted established values with direct intent of restricting social freedoms can simply be defined as violation of a universal human right.

Under such definition, the modern human would view the hereditary nature of the feudal lord-servant relationship to be restraining the social mobility of the servant, and thus violating human rights through unnecessary limitation of freedom through coercion. The exact same logic works for situations as varied as Internet censorship in China to outright racism, expressed even in the most subtle of methods. Those who seek to violate such rights may not receive legal punishments, but are sure to receive social rebuke if known to a globalized citizenry.

One such violation that has yet to receive much-deserved public attention, especially in the Western world where such idea has already for centuries been considered outdated and worthy of ridicule, is the institution of arranged marriage. The idea, still very much in vogue in the upper social echelons of places such as the Indian subcontinent, is intrinsically a feudal idea of preventing social mobility by ensuring that certain "good" families, as defined by their positions in social hierarchy, maintain high social position down the generations by bonding only with other "good families."

Scarily enough, the feudal institutions has evolved along with modern society. Even in republican and democratic societies, a political oligarchy of literati and businessmen have come to exert almost complete political and economic control of a state, bolstered by presence of large populations who seem largely content with their complete lack of real voice with the functioning and future course of the nation. In such societies, arranged marriage has not only stayed, but is even making a comeback.

The newly rich and powerful, mentally congruous with medieval lords, are more and more willing to segregate themselves socially from "the others" in the background of an increasing discrepancy between haves and have-nots. A violation of a universal human right, one that is even considered ludicrous in some parts of the modern world, is now being framed as a matter of social necessity to protect the political and economic oligarchy against populist and potentially violent encroachment of the "uneducated, unknowing" general populace.

And today, the oligarchy is trying to sell this inhumane institution to the younger generations as something normal and acceptable. Using the unparalleled power and wealth, the establishment, in the form of family friends, older relatives, and even parents themselves, is forcefully reverse the negative global image of the institution. And if the younger generation does not resist, then one day, a human rights violation may indeed, in the public opinion of the majority, become part of the universal norm...

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