Protection of Inalienable Rights as the Foundation of a Constitution and Democracy

Protection of Inalienable Rights as the Foundation of a Constitution and Democracy

This Ongoing Conversation was posted by Taiwo Ayedun on February 4, 2023. He gave me permission to repost it here. Hope you find it interesting.

Definition of Inalienable Right

Often referred to as god-given rights, an inalienable right is a basic human right that cannot be taken away, transferred, or surrendered.

These rights are considered fundamental and inherent to every individual and are considered essential for the preservation of human dignity and freedom.

Examples of inalienable rights include:

  • Right to life
  • Right to liberty (right to be free)
  • Right to pursue happiness
  • Right to own property

Inalienable Rights Not Alien To African and Other Cultures

Although formalized by John Locke – an English philosopher and political theorist who lived in the 17th century during the Age of Enlightenment – inalienable rights are not alien to African and other cultures.

Like mathematical and physical laws that are discovered and formalized over time by Africans, Europeans, Asians, etc., the discovery and formalization of existing laws of nature do not make them applicable only to the peoples that discovered or formalized them, but to all of nature.

How did the Yoruba demonstrate respect and protection for the Right to Life?

The Yoruba demonstrated respect and protection for the Right to Life through cultural and religious beliefs, values, and practices.

In Yoruba traditional religion, human life is considered sacred and is protected through religious rituals and taboos, and the taking of life, except in certain circumstances such as self-defense or to punish a murderer, is seen as a serious crime that attracts severe punishment.

The Yoruba always had a strong belief in the principle of justice and fairness, had institutions such as councils of elders and leaders who acted as arbiters in disputes and helped to maintain social order, and violators of the right to life are subject to trial and judgment by the community.

All of these elements demonstrate the Yoruba people’s respect and protection for the right to life, even before the formalization of inalienable rights by John Locke.


How did the Igbo demonstrate respect and protection for the Right to Own Property?

The Igbo demonstrated respect and protection for the Right to Own Property through traditional legal and social systems. Property ownership and inheritance were highly valued in Igbo society, and the Igbo had a complex system of laws and customs that governed the acquisition, use, and transfer of property. For example, the Igbo recognized the right of individuals to own land, houses, and other forms of property, and had established procedures for resolving disputes over property rights.

In addition, the Igbo had a well-defined system of inheritance that ensured the orderly transfer of property from one generation to the next.

The importance of property ownership was also reflected in the highly decentralized political system of the Igbo, in which land was a symbol of wealth and power, and was used as a means of securing economic independence and autonomy.

These demonstrate the Igbo people’s respect and protection for the right to own property, even before the formalization of inalienable rights by John Locke.

How did the Edo demonstrate respect and protection for the Right to Pursue Happiness?

The Edo demonstrated their respect and protection for the right to pursue happiness through cultural beliefs and practices.

The Edo placed a high value on individual freedom and autonomy and had a rich tradition of arts, literature, and religious practices that helped individuals to find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness in life.

For example, the Edo encouraged the pursuit of education, creativity, and self-expression, and valued the role of community and family in supporting individuals in their quest for happiness.

In addition, Edo had a system of laws and sanctions that protected individuals from harm and ensured that their rights and freedoms were respected.

These demonstrate the Edo people’s respect and protection for the right to pursue happiness, even before the formalization of inalienable rights by John Locke.

How did the African societies demonstrate respect and protection for the Right to Liberty?

Although the exact ways varied greatly depending on the particular society, African societies demonstrated their respect and protection for the right to liberty in various ways.

Across the continent, there was a strong emphasis on individual freedom and autonomy, and many African societies had decentralized systems of governance that allowed for a high degree of autonomy and self-determination at the local level.

Traditional customs and practices often helped to ensure that individuals were not oppressed or mistreated by others, and there were often systems of laws and sanctions to enforce these beliefs and to hold individuals accountable for their actions. In addition, there was often a strong sense of community and a culture of mutual support that helped to ensure that individuals were able to live freely and pursue their own goals and interests.

These elements, along with others, helped to demonstrate the African societies’ respect and protection for the right to liberty.

Purpose of Society and Government:

If we believe in inalienable rights, then the most important function of government and society is to PROTECT and DEFEND these rights, as well as to allow for the conditions necessary for individuals to exercise and enjoy these rights.

Why must the Protection of Inalienable Rights be the foundation of a Constitution?

If the most important function of government and society is to PROTECT and DEFEND inalienable rights, then they must be given priority over other considerations, and a framework must be formalized for this purpose.

By enshrining inalienable rights as the foundation of a constitution, a society:

  1. Signals its commitment to their protection and defense.
  2. Reinforcing their importance and status as fundamental to the dignity of every individual.
  3. Ensures that individuals are treated with respect and equality, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other factor.

Provides a legal framework for their enforcement and protection.

This promotes a sense of security and stability and helps to foster a sense of trust between society and its citizens.

When Can Inalienable Rights be Curtailed or Abridged?

Inalienable rights cannot be taken away or transferred to others, but they can be curtailed or abridged during the protection and defense of the inalienable rights of others. For example:

  1. The right to life may be curtailed in cases of self-defense or when a person is sentenced to death for a serious crime against another.
  2. The right to liberty may be abridged in cases where an individual poses a threat to public safety and must be restrained, or where a person is incarcerated for breaking the law(often due to abridging the rights of others). But there are victimless crimes also…
  3. The right to own property may be curtailed for the greater public good, such as in the case of eminent domain, where the society (government) may take private property, after adequate compensation, for the construction of public works.

The curtailment or abridgment of inalienable rights is allowed only when the perpetrator abridges therights of others (or breaks the law), or promotes the greater public good.

Coercion and Dysfunctional Human Society

A key reason for society’s dysfunction today is the (varying) application of coercion by the powerful, whether colonialists in the past, or neocolonialists, capitalists, (political) elites, or autocrats today.

The use of power to control and manipulate individuals and groups often leads to inequality and division, which can undermine social cohesion and stability.

Functional informal social groups (group of friends, classmates, WhatsApp Groups, Street communities, etc.) are observed to lack internal or external coercion. Therefore, dysfunctional human communities are indication of the presence of internal and/or external coercion where inalienable rights are not fully protected and defended.

Getting It Right With Functional Democracy

If we get it right, true and functional democracy would be akin to reestablishing the original state of nature, almost as God intended it.

If another society evolves advantages which are used to coerce and conquer us, we are at a perpetual disadvantage to not identifying these fundamental advantages, and to establish and protecting the necessary conditions and rights, respectively, required for our survival in a competitive world.





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