The limits of freedom: rights at the expense of responsibility

Much discussion about freedom has arisen from the recent murders in Paris of Charlie Hebdo staff who had published provocative cartoons. Many demonstrators, even world leaders, have shown their solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo philosophy of total freedom, with numerous references to the French Revolution ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality.

Much discussion about freedom has arisen from the recent murders in Paris of Charlie Hebdo staff who had published provocative cartoons. Many demonstrators, even world leaders, have shown their solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo philosophy of total freedom, with numerous references to the French Revolution ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality.

How realistic was this?

Greg Neiman, in his excellent editorial Publish and be damned?, which appeared in the Red Deer Advocate on Jan. 13, wondered whether we should “blast those cartoons all over the world.” Then he asked the right question concerning our freedom to do so: “But what, exactly, would we be proving? That we are all capable of gratuitous religious insult? That we will all provoke anger, just because we can?”

While on vacation in Aix-en-Provence, France, in 2012, I came across a very interesting monument in this regard. It was the cenotaph of a well-to-do carpenter and developer named Joseph Sec, who died in 1794, at the height of the French Revolution, when the heads of aristocrats were rolling, society was being reshaped, and ancient customs were being abandoned. This monument declares rather poignantly the limits of freedom. Loosely translated, it states: “Having left a cruel slavery, I have no master but myself. But I will use my liberty only to obey the law. Faithful observer of these laws which God himself has graciously given us, I admire them more each day and would rather die than abandon them.”

Joseph Sec understood that freedom is not licence. He knew that the proper exercise of freedom means restraint and alignment with the law of God, expressed in the Golden Rule.

Perhaps the greatest problem unleashed by the French Revolution was its disassociation of liberty, fraternity and equality from this biblical context expressed by Joseph Sec. Freedom is neither independent nor an end in itself, but an opportunity to benefit oneself and others. Unfortunately, the Revolution emphasized rights at the expense of responsibilities.

I hope and pray that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all religious groups, including agnostics and atheists, will be able to exercise their mutual responsibilities in respect and peace, because without that, the ideal of a multicultural society is unsustainable.

Jacob M. Van Vliet

Red Deer County

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret… Continue reading

Quinn Mason died from an opioid overdose at the age of 23 in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta mother whose son died from overdose advocates for ‘change’

It’s been about nine months since her son died from an overdose,… Continue reading

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Majority of Albertans to receive first shot before June 30: Shandro

Shandro says all Albertans should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Alberta’s Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer spoke on Thursday by webinar to Red Deer Chamber of Commerce members. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Alberta’s economic diversification is already underway, says Jobs Minister

From the geothermal to the TV industry, new jobs will be created, said Doug Schweitzer

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp gives instructions during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Phil Noble, Pool via AP)
Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen reacts to a goal by Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny, left, during first-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Toronto Raptors guard Terence Davis (0) shoots after grabbing a rebound against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Boston. At right is Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel answers a question during a news conference addressing hockey issues at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The International Ice Hockey Federation has confirmed the postponement of the women's world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May 6-16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Mark Humphrey
IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

Quebec Premier François Legault chairs a virtual news conference Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. The premiers from the left are: John Horgan, B.C.; Jason Kenney, Alberta; Scott Moe, Saskatchewan; Legault, Quebec; Brian Pallister, Manitoba; Doug Ford, Ontario; and Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Most Read