Blaer is the chosen name of a 15 year old
girl in Iceland. It is the name her mother chose for her. Yet, in Iceland, this
name has been forbidden because it is not on the official list of permissible
names. Young Blaer is now having to sue her own government for the right to be
called by her own name.
This might seem like a minor matter, but I
find this case very unsettling. It seems to me that a government has no place
interfering in the expressive choices of parents and children alike, when it
comes to their own names. In Iceland, not even grown adults are allowed to
choose names for themselves outside of the official list. This smacks of a kind
of repression George Orwell would have remarked upon, had he known about it.
The right to self-expression, as long as it
does not harm others, should be basic to all peoples everywhere – without exception.
A government attempting to curtail and control the expressive choices of its
people, is a government that has gotten out of control. If I were Blaer I would
do something very direct to protest this matter, when I grew up: I would
emigrate and make the reason for emigration into a news story, internationally –
for that would assuredly embarrass this daft little government.
Apparently, Germany and Denmark also
restrict name choices. Again, I see no justification for doing this. The reason
given is that it prevents parents naming children with embarrassing names. That
seems a rather slight justification since if a child has been given a silly
name – that child should then be able to change it, later in life, to something
more acceptable to them. At no point, is there any justification for the
curtailment of expression, by these arguments.
When my wife and I came to choose the names
of our children, we chose each with great care. Though others will not know it
and we are not going to inform them, each of our children’s names has a
personal and a universal meaning. They are literally little stories or descriptive
phrases that we have related to each of our children, for personal reasons.
They follow a unique schema and consist of a mixture of Gaelic, Arabic, and
Latinate names, that has no duplicates, anywhere, on Earth. The names are
absolutely unique (though many people now insist on pretending to be one of our
children, online...they are not him). Had we been Icelandic, German or Danish,
we would not have been granted this freedom. We would have had to select a name
common to many others, one without the unique meaning we have written into the
names of our children. That strikes me as wrong. The right to express oneself,
one’s views, one’s beliefs, ones thoughts, and feelings is absolutely
fundamental to the basic freedoms all humans should enjoy everywhere. Those
three countries are disallowing those freedoms to their citizens. This is a
denial of what I view to be a basic human right.
I do not know if we shall have any more
children – but if we do, the names of those children shall tell a tale like no
other. They will bear a name that no-one before them has ever borne. Those
names shall be created just for them – and that is how it should be. All
parents should have the right to name their children, in whatever way they
please. If some names cause others offence, then that is an acceptable price to
pay for the preservation of a basic freedom of expression.
It seems to me that Iceland, Germany and
Denmark have something to learn about the value of self-expression for society.
I wonder what other freedoms of expression they control, by means direct and
indirect? If you know, please write below.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: Blaer, creativity, dictatorial governing styles, freedom of expression, Iceland, Icelandic naming, reasons to emigrate, restrictions of personal freedoms, suing the government