11 Jan 2015

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

In december 2013, I was made a French citizen, in an official ceremony that moved me. There were hundreds of us, from all parts of the world, who were given the honour of French citizenship.

One of the reasons that I am proud to be French (I have kept my British nationality too) lies in the truly remarkable set of principles that were written in stone in 1789 in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citzen - principles  that are the cornerstone of the French Nation. During the ceremony, we were all given a document which listed the 17 articles of the declaration. For me, there is not a single word in those 17 articles that are not absolutely vital even today.

The original texts are here. But here is a translation into English:

  1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
  5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
  10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be entrusted.
  13. A general tax is indispensable for the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses of administration; it ought to be equally apportioned among all citizens according to their means.
  14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  17. Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of it, unless demanded by public necessity, legally constituted, explicitly demands it, and under the condition of a just and prior indemnity.
I'm proud to be a citizen of the country that established this list. Is there one word in that Declaration that any reasonable person could contest?

And I was proud yesterday, to have been among the 120,000 people in Toulouse who marched together to say "Je suis Charlie".  I have posted a video that I took from the very centre of the Place Jean Jaurés - I was truly moved to be part of such a collective demonstration of support for the very principles of our society.

Today, we expect to see more than a million people marching in Paris in defense of our basic shared principles. And the fact that so many heads of state will be there as well gives me a real sense that people have realized that there are some basic principles that we have to defend. Those principles are in the foundations of the French Nation.

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour Pr Thorpe,

    Je ne savais pas que vous aviez acquis la nationalité française. Je suis très heureux et honoré que nous soyons concitoyens.

    une 15aine d'années, j'ai travaillé principalement dans le domaine de
    la reconnaissance d'écriture manuscrite et dans l'analyse d'image à
    l'aide de réseaux de neurones convolutionnels et de réseaux de neurones
    Je pense que vos spikenets ont un potentiel
    considérable, en particulier dans les problématiques pour lesquelles le
    temps de réponse est une composante très importante. Mais pour l'instant
    je n'ai pas encore d'expérience pratique avec ces modèles, je n'ai pas
    encore pris le temps de m'y frotter. C'est pour 2015, j'y passerai des
    nuits s'il le faut :)

    Depuis quelques temps, je suis également avec beaucoup d'intérêt vos idées sur l'économie.

    je m'égare, je ne vous écrivais pas du tout à ce sujet. Je partage
    votre sentiment au sujet de la déclaration des droits de l'homme et du
    citoyen. Mais en tant que citoyen Britannique, n'hésitez pas à faire
    également la promotion de l'Habeas Corpus. Nous en avons grand besoin
    par les temps qui courent, si nous voulons éviter que ceux qui ont pris
    la tête des défilés de dimanche dernier ne se transforment en joueurs de
    flute de Hamelin de nos libertés individuelles.

    Professeur, je suis convaincu que vous n'êtes pas Charlie, et
    heureusement. Pas plus, je l'espère, que l'écrasante majorité des
    120'000 personnes aux cotés desquelles vous étiez samedi, ni des
    millions d'autres qui ont pourtant elles aussi défilé en France et
    ailleurs en disant : "Je suis Charlie". Heureusement que c'est faux, car
    si réellement vous étiez tous Charlie et pensiez tous Charlie, la
    situation serait terrifiante.

    Je ne suis pas Charlie. J'ai écrit un texte pour tenter de m'en expliquer. J'espère que vous prendrez le temps de le lire :