With the French government passing a law banning the covering of one’s face in public, and other countries looking to follow suit, a surprisingly large number of people seem to actually be in favour of these regulations. People, I might add, who themselves aren’t going to be directly affected by it. I say directly, because laws like this are the symptom of an ever-increasing slide towards something that personally affects everyone: fascism.
There is debate over the merits of the law, with proponents offering arguments ranging from national security, secular values, and the treatment of women. The opposition cite individual freedom. Both sides have missed the point. The issue boils down to a simple question: what is the proper role and purpose of government?
As a being that relies on reason to survive, human beings require one thing in order to exercise their minds: freedom. Specifically, freedom from force. The principle that defines that no one may initiate force against another is a Right. Force prevents chosen action. Only individuals can make choices and act. Therefore, Rights only apply to individuals. The government exists to protect these Rights by using retaliatory force against those who initiate it.
People who choose to dress a certain way haven’t initiated force against anyone. To treat them like criminals is preposterous.
Proponents seem to be appealing to three major things:
The treatment of women
Legislator Berengere Poletti, of Sarkozy’s party, said face-covering veils “are a prison for women, they are the sign of their submission to their husbands, brothers or fathers.”
Whilst all religions are based on superstitious irrational beliefs, and all religions have treated women like second-class citizens, covering your face is not necessarily the sign of oppression. The cure for religious oppression is to refuse to recognise supernatural belief systems as valid. Unfortunately, our society is also riddled with subjective multiculturalism which tells people they cannot judge anything, since there is no right or wrong answer and everyone’s culture is equal. Religion has been gaining ground for years now by being afforded recognition and privileges it never deserved.
If a government does its job properly, any person of any sex, age, or religion, is guaranteed the protection of their individual rights. This includes the freedom to practice their religion.
The major casus belli against our civil liberties; this little chestnut is responsible for many violations of individual rights. The theory goes that in order to ensure security, some liberties must be sacrificed. This argument is always false, because it reverses the purpose and nature of government into a living contradiction. If a government exists to protect its citizens from threats at home and abroad, it cannot then become the aggressor it seeks to destroy! The government is the agent of the people, not the other way around. It is your agent to protect your rights. There is never a justification for government violating an individual’s rights on the appeal to any “greater good”. “Good” is meaningless without reference to values, and as we saw above, values apply only to individuals. When a man says he must violate your rights for the greater good, he is simply saying that some individuals have greater rights than you, which is a perversion of the concept of Rights. It is another way of saying that you have become a slave, a sacrificial animal, to the whims or needs of others. It can mean nothing else.
Some say the anti-veil law promotes “French” values or “secular” values. The use of “value” here is a stolen concept. A value is what which one acts to gain and/or keep. It relates only to those things within the province of individual action. There is no such thing as “group values” anymore than there is group consciousness. A group, a crowd, a nation, is just a collection of individuals. Nobody’s rights, by definition, trump those of another, since the principle defining all of them is the same: freedom. Freedom for one, freedom for a million; it’s all the same.
The reason the French government, and other governments, and indeed some individuals, support laws like this is because they believe in something else. They believe that rather than just be the agent of the people, the government is the ruler, the leader, the Big Brother, the conscience, of the people, and has a duty to further whatever agenda is in the “greater good”, or whichever agenda represents the whims of whichever group is large enough at that time to sway votes. They believe in a government that has executive power to intervene in any aspect of life: business or personal, in order to “correct” it.
Of course, no appeal to individual rights or human freedom will get you to this course of thinking or this system of government. There is only way of thinking that will, and that is to see human beings as interchangeable cogs in a big organic system; pieces of a puzzle; to be used or disposed of as the collective demands. Unfortunately, this is precisely the system that most people tacitly agree with and have been ceding power on for decades. It is happening everywhere, and it affects everyone. And only 70 years ago this is precisely the evil the world went to war to stamp out.
But fascism, and its brother socialism, never went away. They slowly returned and grow stronger every year. The idea of the state dictating what its citizens can wear sounds like the stuff of Orwellian nightmares, or 1930s Nazi Germany…yet it is happening today before our eyes, amidst cheers of support.