Delroy Beckford, GUEST COLUMNIST
Queen Ifrica's 'unfortunate' statement at the recent Grand Gala defending heterosexuality and nuclear family has been interpreted by others as an attack on homosexuality. And, maybe so it was. Whether the statement veered from the script and, therefore, calls for condemnation is not the issue if that can be done in an acceptable way. But then who decides this question?
The moral majority is not the one to decide this question, or if it is, it is on the defensive if it sees any celebration of its lifestyle as something not to say publicly, being forced to take into account evolutionary notions of human rights.
Nothing is wrong with the concept of human rights being subject to change. Inclusiveness, and diminution of intolerance and tyranny are the usual welcome results, at any rate for those who felt victimised under the previous regime.
We may question, however, whether the evolutionary concept of human rights has now moved to 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' with regard to groups we regard as the Other.
If this is so or not, negative reactions to the statement prompt an enquiry of when does criticism become hate speech or when does defence of one's lifestyle become hate speech? This is a thin line to draw.
A parallel may be drawn with slavery with the usual caveat about analogies.
If the moral majority in the South defends slavery and the slave trade as natural and moral institutions, are they (or are they not) saying that freedom for a class of subjugated people is wrong by extension?
But would that be hate speech against the class of subjugated people? If one says, on the other hand, that slaves must be killed, harmed or subject to inhumane treatment, this would definitely be a candidate for hate speech or incitement to violence against this group.
Of course, Queen Ifrica's statement does not fall in the latter category and could perhaps be treated as an acceptable means of freedom of expression.
To be sure, defence of one's lifestyle implies a rejection of an alternative. Support for democracy eschews authoritarianism in much the same way as defence of freedom rejects slavery. But then, the evolution of societies has always been about the acceptance and rejection of modes of living with often violent contestation about these ideas until a predominant view prevails or there is a predominant view for pluralism.
It is perhaps too early to remark on the likelihood of the Other mode of lifestyle taking precedence to that of the moral majority, but given hard-held beliefs on either side, whether by virtue of contemporary notions of human rights or time-honoured beliefs about God-ordained naturalness, it would seem that the offing portends a state of pluralism.
A state of pluralism in this event would neither amount to an onslaught on the one, nor tyranny of the same, since contemporary notions of democracy have included the Other as a legitimate voice, except that voice is no more able to silence others in much the same as it is not expected to be silenced.
Dr Delroy S. Beckford is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.