Freedom of Thought

November 26, 2014 8:07 pm

Cogito ergo sum

This week we have chosen freedom of thought from our IATE database. The Free Dictionary gives quite a straightforward explanation of this concept – “the right to hold unpopular ideas”. Some may say that this rather concise definition does not even begin to describe the term, but it seems to be pretty accurate to me. I would say that, if the political system allows us the right to enjoy the freedom of thought, it is one of those privileges we tend to take for granted. And like with all things considered to be natural in our lives, we usually don`t give too much thought about it and miss it only when it`s taken from us.

History gives us plenty of examples when freedom of thought was restricted. At this very moment you might be thinking of the Soviet Union. Fair enough. There is a solid ground for this association. The Sakharov Prize which was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and freedom of expression does not bear a Slavic twist in its name by accident.

Even though Andrei Sakharov was the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, he was deeply concerned about the consequences his work had for the future of humankind and sought to raise awareness of the dangers of the nuclear arms race. He also criticised Soviet policies, opposed political discrimination and fought for human rights in the Soviet Union. Obviously, it was not exactly the most popular ideas to hold at those times in his environment. As a result, Sakharov was not allowed by the Soviet authorities to travel to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize and, as usual, was also sentenced to internal exile in Gorki for almost 7 years to rethink his deeds. Nevertheless, he was a man of a brave heart and after his release he continued to fight for human rights for the rest of his life.

This year the Sakharov prize is awarded to a gynaecologist Denis Mukwege for his fight for the protection of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even though the conflict in DR Congo is officially over, gang rapes are still used as one of the weapons of war in the country. As a response to it, Denis Mukwege founded a hospital where he treats victims of sexual violence and performs surgeries. He also regularly travels abroad to advocate women’s rights (click here for the interview).

More information on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Press conference with Martin Schulz and Denis Mukwege

freedom

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References:

By Julija Televičiūtė

Graduate from Vilnius University, English Philology (BA)

Translation trainee at Lithuanian Unit

 

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