by Kyla De Silva

Have you ever thought about what our society would be like if we followed the same laws we abided by several hundred years ago?

People would be divided by a caste system—with the nobility at the peak of the hierarchy and the slaves at the very bottom.  We’d be paying by goods or services to our chieftains instead of having a proper system of taxation. The fundamental rights we enjoy now—like being able to criticize the government or being free to express our opinions on social and political matters—would be luxuries to people who weren’t fortunate enough to be born as nobility in the past. The slaves, who were at the very end of the social food chain, weren’t even granted their own freedom, and were born to serve the royals. And everyone followed this system, regardless of whether they benefited or suffered from it, because they thought that this was how the world was supposed to operate.

How did we manage to transition from a caste system to a democratic system of government? Where did the laws that we’re fortunate enough to enjoy today—which, ideally, grants every citizen the right to life, liberty, and property—come from?

In every land we set foot in, there are rules we are expected to follow. These rules are known as laws. Laws are made to govern a certain group of people sharing the same nation or community. It varies from one nation to another in accordance to the norms they uphold and the culture or traditions they intend to preserve. Laws are also made to prevent deviance and implement corresponding punishment for crimes in order to maintain each human’s need for security and to uphold a sense of unity, peace, order, and justice in the society.

Historically, the oldest laws were developed during the Sumerian civilization under Hammurabi. As he is known to be the first king to create and finish a law code called the Code of Hammurabi, they were the first to practice Lex talionis or the infamous law of retribution: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The laws all over the world may have had different roots and reasons for being made, but, undeniably, all of them revolve around a common theme—giving remedy for the victim and punishment to the perpetrator. However, these laws were much more brutal before than today. Even if they followed the due process—meaning a person is found to be innocent until proven guilty—their laws still entailed heavy consequences such as death. Practicing lex talionis in present times would be perceived as inhumane and barbaric—but the people who believed in this law in the past believed that it was just and fair, just as we believe our laws today are made to be just and fair.

You may be wondering, can a law of one nation be the law of the world?

The different, past civilizations had various ways of implementing laws and pursuing justice as they had different beliefs, customs, and traditions. Laws of different places are tailor-fit to better serve the needs of its citizens. Its effectivity and efficiency can only be measured within the place where it was implemented. This still applies to contemporary times, which is precisely why a law of one land cannot be the law of the world. Take Middle Eastern and Western countries, for example. The needs of the former are drastically different from the latter. Their differing topography and geographic location gives them different needs and priorities. Middle Eastern countries prioritize their need for water, while Western countries focus more on heating technologies. If the laws shared around the globe are one, then there’s a greater chance that it would not resolute a problem specifically.

In addition to this, leaders from manifold regions have become more sensitive to the needs of the people. They realized that the purpose of laws isn’t just to punish and restrain their citizens from committing crimes, but also to serve their needs. Over time, laws became more democratic and the punishment for crimes less barbaric. Leaders have learned that the people’s obedience, faith, and loyalty were not gained merely through fear but also through good leadership.

After the continuous wars and the end of colonization, we started to understand more the collective meaning of freedom. Laws carried out a more important purpose, which is to ensure freedom and security to every human. It had regained its most basic purpose—to control and manage a place in the pursuit of peace, order and justice to its citizens.

Finally, we learned the concept of human rights and equality eventually all throughout the years as a result of continuous disputes which are believed to be the peak of the law’s continuous evolution. Laws are no longer used to oppress, but instead it is now used for unity and deeper connections and understanding of the human race as one unit inhabiting the world.

Every country now has a Constitution which serves as the foundation of all the other laws to be implemented. Constitutions were established during the post-colonial period all throughout the world. Sometimes, law amendments are created to better serve the needs of the people. These law amendments tend to be more specific and beneficial in terms of protection and punishment for promoting a better society.

What happens if the laws are not amended?

It is significant and immensely necessary for every citizen to understand that the amendments made comprise their everyday lives. The amendments could widen privileges and emphasize the rights of the people it fosters. It doesn’t only tackle the freedom of each individual but also the corresponding responsibilities every citizen must contribute in building a stronger nation. It helps to shape the society into a more focused and intensive view. The Constitution is our core and the amendments or supplementary laws define our citizenship.

We are governed by flawed leaders but extraordinarily to the best of their capabilities and expertise. We have coped up with vast challenges as a nation. We are shaped by laws that we abide in order to be deemed a relevant citizen in our society. Truly, the laws that govern our daily lives have evolved in the same pace as we did.

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