2 minute read

The Other European Views of

Legal Perspectives

The modern, post-Reformation world witnessed at least some attempts to establish principles of coexistence, toleration, and, especially, since the age of Enlightenment, tolerance. Nevertheless intolerance, xenophobia, religious tensions, and subsequent military conflicts have continued to torture humankind, and the contentious relationship between self and other, both in its philosophical and political contexts, remains highly fragile and subject to manipulation and distortion. Racism, sexual intolerance, marginalization of minority groups, misogyny, and numerous forms of violence against weaker members of society are results of this binary opposition in which the self sometimes desperately struggles against the Other in order to establish its identity.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791, clearly specifies a modern, tolerant attitude toward the Other: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Athough the meaning of this statement and its practical application have remained contested, the amendment continues to serve as the basis for intensive discussions about the relationship between the individual citizen and the state for the United States and many other Western societies in the early twenty-first century (Mittal and Rosset, Amar).

One of the most far-reaching and pragmatic expressions of the ideals of the Enlightenment was the legal code established under Napoléon, the Code Napoléon (1804), that stipulated the following: (a) equality of all in the eyes of the law; (b) no recognition of privileges due to the happenstance of birth; (c) freedom of religion; (d) separation of church and state; and (e) freedom to work in an occupation of one's own choosing (Martin). Many of the principles in the Code decisively influenced legal systems developed in other countries in the Western world and continue to be cornerstones of modern societies.

Religious differences, even in the early-twenty-first-century West, are a major source of conflict and may always exist, as documented by numerous expressions of anti-Semitism, manifested most virulently in the Holocaust committed by the German Nazis. Each generation struggles with problems of cultural identity and differentiation from the Other, which is the basis for the exploration of the self. However when weakness on one's own part or ideological manipulation by authority figures are involved in the epistemological process, the Other can easily be abused for a wide range of political purposes. People are vulnerable to brainwashing, which relies on an underdeveloped sense of individuality and a high degree of insecurity in the face of ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, and political otherness. Fear, intolerance, and dogmatic thinking have always acted to strengthen the group identity and denounce the Others. This is evident in the centuries-old rejection of Sinti and Roma (formerly known as Gypsies), the persecution of Jews since late antiquity, the expulsion of the French Huguenots and the Amish and Mennonites in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the abuse of blacks by colonialists and slaveholders worldwide, the genocide of North and South American Indians, the massive purge of alleged enemies of the Russian, Chinese, and Cambodian communist regimes, and the genocides in Armenia, Burundi, Kosovo, and elsewhere in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsThe Other European Views of - Perspectives In The Ancient World, Medieval Perspectives, Religious Perspectives, Legal Perspectives, Mysticism, Demons, And The Other