Human Rights Part Five

I think this series only has two more posts.  Thanks for bearing with me.

From my previous post…

There is another human wrong that poisons the well of human rights.  That is the fact that we believe that rights come to us for free, and independent of human responsibility.. Decoupling rights from responsibilities makes it almost impossible to talk about either with any clarity.

The High Cost of Rights

We speak of rights in a fantasy, almost religious kind of way.  For many non-religious people, human rights has become the new religion.  It is the idea greater than humanity that we all but worship.  We cannot define them, but we a certain they must exist.  Human rights have become a faith-based dogma.  No wonder we can find little agreement on the subject.

We act as if people were not born in different circumstances to different people in different parts of the world.  Rather, we were delivered by storks with a canon of rights tattooed to our butts.  The only problem is that we cannot read the writing on our own rear end, so, we need someone to read them to us.  Unfortunately, the rights are not written in our native tongue, so we also need someone to interpret them on our behalf.  Of course this is pure rubbish!  With the rare exception of a Dr. Stork working in a pediatric clinic, babies are not delivered by storks.  If the aphorism is to be believed, babies’ bottoms are quite smooth and free of writing of any kind.  Contrary to popular opinion, we do not come with a bundle of rights, prepackaged with us at birth along with our certificate of humanity, never to be lost, misunderstood, taken away, or disrespected by others.  If that is your understanding of human rights, you should know, there is simply no such thing, nor will there ever be.

No one has ever had a right for which they did not greatly suffer, or someone else die.  The right to life has caused more death than all the pestilence of the world, combined.  There is no liberty not purchased by equal measures of slavery and imprisonment.  And pleas do not forget the misery that pursued your fore-bearers which enables you to pursue your happiness.  If it had to be earned, bought, or taken, if it can be given by someone else, lost, or taken away, it is not a right, but a privilege.

I’m afraid those of us who bend the knee at the alter of human rights have been taken in by another false god.  I believe the best we can ever hope for is a more balanced allotment of human privilege, at least, until I become Hegemon.

Human Responsibility

There is this other R word, rarely recited in the religion of the Rightests:  Responsibility! In the beginning of human consciousness, responsibility was the only word.  Rights had not been invented, yet.  There was no word or euphemism for “entitlement”.  There was kill or bee killed.  There was hunt and gather.  Society building required us to expand our vocabulary, but not by much.  We had to think long-term about things like marriage, raising children, and housing.  As villages grew, we had to think about healthy ecosystems and community policing.  In other words, responsibility became more important, not less.

This movement to replace responsibility that we intrinsically have with privilege that we don’t, is relatively modern.  Just a couple of generations ago, we could get things done as a nation by appealing to people’s sense of responsibility.  I do not believe that the New Deal was ever intended to replace responsibility with entitlement.  It can only be properly understood in the context of a generation of responsible people.  There is nothing wrong with a safety net.  But a safety net is only ever meant to be used by acrobats and aerialists.  No one was ever intended to be born and to live out their lives on a safety net.  That is neither right nor privilege; it is a travesty against the human spirit that brought us to this evolutionary point in the first place.  May the other false god have useless mercy on our non-existent souls.  What a fine mess we have gotten ourselves into.  The good news is that any mess we can get ourselves into, we can get ourselves out of.

We start by recasting human responsibility as a good thing rather than a bad thing.  We must remove responsibility from the list of four-letter words that must not be uttered in polite society.  We must change the way we think about human responsibility.  I find that responsibility is the greatest privilege we have.  It is the only, true, human right.  It is intrinsic to the human animal: to all animals.  At a base level, it can not be given or taken by others.  And when we fulfill it, we earn a pride of place on the same level as heads of state.

What makes one a man is not his accident of biology, but his utilization of it.  I became a man the day I decided to left my father’s home, stopped eating my mother’s cooking, and started living by my own wits.  The moments of my greatest pride are marked by the same moments of my greatest responsibility.  Leaving home, extending my education, earning an income, convincing someone to marry me, signing a thirty year mortgage, deciding to raise a child: these are the greatest responsibilities that any human, at any time, anywhere in the world can take on: must take on in some form.  These are the responsibilities that define how well we did as a mature being.  These responsibilities that we look forward to with eager anticipation are a sort of rite of passage.  They take us from childhood to adulthood to maturity.  Pursuing these basic responsibilities is the purest expression of human rights I know.

Human Privilege

Having said all that, I do believe there is good reason to have a baseline of human privilege freely available to all people.  I believe it is a fundamentally bad thing for 1% of the population to control 99% of the resources.  I do not believe in creating artificial equity as all people are not equal.  Flip back a few posts for more on that.  If equity was the natural state of humanity, we would all be equal without the need to fight for equality.  Nature provides feast to some and famine to others.  It is indifferent to whether your particular tribe lives or dies.  Nature is a harsh mistress.  Sorry.

Though nature cares nothing for our sense of equality, it does seem to have a sense of balance, at least when viewed on a large enough scale.  At close range, you can’t detect it.  But when you train your telescopes to the depths of space, you will find a certain uniformity.  One part of space is much the same as another in just about every measurement when measured on a big enough scale.  When it comes to humanity, we need a bigger, more realistic scale.  Individual equality is much too granular and unrealistic.  Nature scoffs at such a notion.  But there is no reason why humanity, as a whole, should not be doing well, and that “doing well” should not translate to all people.

There will always be the relatively rich, and because it is relative, the relatively poor.  But that does not rule out a baseline of what we consider to be poor.  I believe that baseline can be quite a bit higher than what it is, today.  I further believe that society, as a whole, would greatly benefit if it was.

In my final post on the matter, which I hope to get out later today, I will give a brief overview on my thoughts about the baseline of human privilege that benefits society as a whole.

David Johnson