Posts Tagged ‘rights’

7 surprising freedoms we enjoy in Britain

Monday, February 20th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

In an age when Theresa May seems determined to read every email you write, abolish human rights and arrest everyone on terror charges, it can feel like our freedoms are under threat (they are). However, on a more positive note, we British people enjoy some freedoms that a lot of the world does not.

Nothing on this list will be a surprise to you. However, what I think will be a surprise, is that the rest of the world does not have these freedoms. These are things we take for granted but are not always the norm.

Naming your child

In Britain, you can name a baby anything as long as the powers that be do not label it as offensive or rude. People take liberal advantage of this, regularly naming their babies after TV characters, inanimate objects or obviously incorrect spellings of real names.

This is not a freedom most of Europe enjoys: many countries have set lists of accepted names. You have to pick from the list and you cannot change the spelling.


Only wacky religious people tend to homeschool. However, you do have the option if you so wish. If you are tired of the school forcing facts down your child’s throat, you can pretend to be a teacher and give them an education yourself. You will seriously damage the child’s intellectual and social skills, but at least you will feel better.

We and around half the countries in the world enjoy this freedom. Each country has different levels of restrictions. For the rest of the world, homeschooling is illegal.


At some point in the history of the United States, the government and the people had the following conversation:

Government: “Can we take away some of the really big guns so that children stop getting massacred?”
People: “No! Keep your hands off our second amendment!”
Government: “Okay. Can we make it illegal to cross the street wherever you want?”
People: “Sure, that’s fine.”

It seems a bizarre way round to me. I like living in a culture where assault rifles are not allowed, but crossing an empty street when it is safe to do so is. But what do I know as a humble British person?

Germany also criminalises jaywalking. There is something odd about watching clearly inebriated Germans stumbling home, yet stopping at every crossing to wait for the green man.

Moving house without telling everyone

Do you find junk mail annoying? I do. When I move house, I do not want everyone to know that I have moved. I will tell the people I think are worthy of knowing: banks, utility companies, etc. For everyone else, I do not want your nuisance mail.

In Finland, when you move house, you tell the state. The state then tells everyone else. This is convenient because it means all of your banks know that you have moved house. However, what if you do not want to tell a bunch of for-profit companies about your new address?

Free healthcare, including birth control

We tend to think of free healthcare as something that all civilised countries have, with the notable exception of the United States. However, this is not always the case. Take Finland again, for example.

When you go into hospital, there is a charge per day. It is not the full cost of your hospital stay, but it is not insignificant. You also pay to visit your GP and pay higher prescription charges. For birth control, for example, you will be paying around €15 per month.

In the UK, we pay for prescriptions (not in Scotland or Wales) and dental, but these are both capped at relatively low amounts. Hospital treatment is without cost entirely (unless you want to watch the TV).

ID cards

Compulsory ID cards are overwhelmingly the norm. Britain is one of only nine countries[ref] in the world that does not have any ID cards.

Flag burning

Flag desecration varies by countries. In many, it is illegal. In some, it is prosecuted under wider laws.

In the UK, we are pretty relaxed about it. If you want to burn the Union Jack, feel free. There is no law against it. There have been some moves to tighten up on it, but none have come to fruition.

Of course, you may struggle if it is made of fire-resistant material. As this EU flag was, for example:

Not a Chimp

Sunday, November 21st, 2010 | Events, Humanism

On Saturday, Leeds Skeptics in the Pub hosted Jeremy Taylor, author of “Not a Chimp: The Hunt to find the Genes that Make Us Human” as well as a popular science television producer for many years.

Jeremy delivered a fascinating talk arguing that actually there was a good case for claiming humans really are special. He made the points that chimps are not as clever as we often think they are – tool usage for example is something that can also be observed in crows so it not on it’s own a sign of higher intelligence and went on to say that crows demonstrate signs of problem solving and abstraction that chimps to do.

He suggested that many people, Richard Dawkins being a good example, may be worried that if we don’t push the view that humans and chimps are almost identical and very close together in the spectrum it could open the door for the religious – something which none of us want but to avoid it at the expense of the truth is surely unacceptable.

Finally he put forward the case that it makes no sense to grant chimps human rights because they are incapable of understanding it or nor does it have any real meaning – even if you sign them onto the declaration of human rights that doesn’t mean anything because you still have to protect them. Much like we don’t grant a child rights until it has reached maturity and can understand those rights, it makes far more sense to take the view that we must decide to protect them because they are unable to assert any rights we could award them.

It was a fascinating talk and one that I really enjoyed. I think the real gem of this month’s topic was that many people at the meeting probably didn’t subscribe to Jeremy’s side of the argument, at least beforehand. It is easy for us to preach to the converted on clearly nonsense topics such as homeopathy but I think there is far more to be gained from talks such as this which really challenge our thinking.