While scratching my head at all the absurd evils of the world, it occurred that we lack a charter of common sense.
The ideological dichotomy that western societies presents, ie the left and right, breeds a system where oppositions negatively campaign against common sense. Co-operation over basic ethical principles is rarely discussed, hence layers of choking bureaucracy are added.
But what about common sense? As it happens an Englishman proposed this during the American revolution. Common Sense, a 48-page pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1776, challenged the authority of the British government and the monarchy. Essentially it was a reasoned argument for the US to be independent from British rule.
It was an immensely popular document in its time, and not only examined how societies function and the need for self-governance, but refuted tyranny. Paine claims there are two tyrannies in the English constitution: monarchical and aristocratic, and they do not benefit a society. ‘[The] king and peers… rule by heredity and contribute nothing to the people,’ he writes. Common Sense was a hit because its language was clear and easy to understand. Its broad appeal persuaded many undecided settlers to want independence and it is widely regarded as one of the catalysts for the American War of Independence.
The best common sense document that democratic societies can produce is of course a constitution, which specifically sets out laws on governance. The difference between our constitution and the US is that ours doesn’t include a Bill of Rights, which is separate from governance. The US Bill of Rights, or amendments, are aimed to protect freedoms of religion, speech, a free press, free assembly, free association and the right to keep and bear arms.
Arguably America was founded by educated atheist intellectuals whereas we were a dumped colony of uneducated convicts. How else can we possibly excuse our appalling treatment of Aboriginals and those who seek refuge from wars we are involved with? A Bill of Rights would address these issues and more – it would also negate never-ending inquiries into our human rights abuses and would have addressed the current media inquiry.
An interesting history and analysis of our constitution and (lack of) a Bill of Rights is at www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/resources/lectures/bill_rights.pdf.