What is a right?

Human beings give themselves rights. They say they exist as part of the natural order of things but that is untrue. All rights have a history both in thinking and legal terms and all rights have been fought for and many given birth as new thinking emerges.

It is a mark of the progress of society and how we interact with each other that we create rights. The challenge today is animal rights, something no one in farming or politics would have even thought of a hundred years ago but today they have to think about in advanced societies.

But as we create them so we can annul them.

Play It Backwards

Most of history would make more sense if we went backwards. generally peaking back is a direction that has more constants in it than forwards. But even without those the general tenure of going back takes us into a place where we can accept ignorance because people did not have access to knowledge and the battles seemed to be well defined: women’s rights, end to slavery, children’s rights, animal rights… none of these are arguable.

Today we have the spectacle of human rights that are not human rights, they are citizen’s rights. Today the metropolis comes with a series of demands we have never seen before. For in the city and with modern medicine people live who years ago would have died before they ever found a voice.

And when one voice is found, every voice is found. And every voice must be heard. The cacophony is too much for people who still have to understand how knowledge works. So they look backwards. To simple demands.

And become fascist.

The Weakest Make Us Strong

I have always subscribed to the belief that had I been young in 1916 I would have been a Communist eager to free the serfs and build a just society in Russia and I would have been one of the first to be shot when Lenin destroyed the ideal by creating a dictatorship. I am actually sure that I wouldn’t have survived very long in any of the fascist states that have existed since the beginning of human society for any of a number of reasons, but certainly amongst them would be my adherence to the belief that life itself is the only sacred thing there is.

So much of our education is designed to teach us how to get on, make good, have fulfilled lives by being ‘successful’, and successful always means having ‘enough’ money, when actually it should be about how we empower those with no power. Because we are powerful enough to kill anything and anyone, ethics must exist in our allowing things to live. It is not ethical to keep slaves, it is not ethical to build wealth upon the backs of slaughter, it is not ethical to lie to ourselves that society is inherently good because it keeps us alive at the expense of everything else that lives.

Either we are not ethical animals we just pretend to be, or the way we are living is wrong.

Natural Motivations

People ask about motivation, and indeed look for motives, in all human activity. As if our desire to follow the rules of cause and effect must in some way contribute to why we think what we think, and how our thoughts contributes to our actions. It does after all make sense for a rational animal. Which is why, I suspect, when a human being does something so foul it makes us sick to our stomachs we find it so difficult to accept they actually ‘think’ rationally at all.

Many years ago when my father cut off all our money and we were homeless, my mother joked that she would start a health farm and market it under the banner ‘Come Starve With Me’.  Pointing out that circumstances often drive us, as well as proving the best diet for simply staying thin, is poverty. But one of the finest drivers of human activity I know, and one many thinkers have suggested is far more naturally human than any other, is selflessness. And I don’t mean inverted selfishness in doing things for one’s family or local community which always reflects upon oneself, but the true acts of selflessness like Shaftesbury fighting for the rights of children – things where you may or may not make a difference but you know you cannot turn away.

When so much motivation is for financial gain and therefore backward, it is refreshing to know some people can hold the whole of existence in their minds – and see their travel plans clearly.

Coping With Success

You have seen the headlines. So many celebrities die young or fall from fame and end up penniless and you read their stories to find out if it was a character fault, corrupt agents, disinterested promoters or bad luck. Success and fame, and success without fame, brings with it challenges just like any other path in life and you look at those who manage to stay successful and you see they have all given up something; if not many things.

From partial marriages, broken relationships with children, dysfunctional lifestyles,  every successful person compromises on some parts of their lives to remain successful – to keep that business going, to keep that name in lights because all success comes at a price.

We are the most successful animal the planet has seen. As successful as the dinosaurs in the extent to which we rule the Earth and more successful than any others at understanding the universe and changing our environments to suit our needs. Yet we do not believe our success means we lose anything, but we do. We lose the right not to care, we lose the right to be indifferent, we lose the right to turn away from the insalubrious results of our success.

If we continue to be so successful without addressing the imbalance we represent to nature, we will be as dysfunctional as any celebrity and we will suffer in like degree. Even to losing all that we have.

Human Rights

We give them to ourselves. We decide what we consider helps us get along with each other, and then we make it a right. This also keeps us all aiming for similar things and working in a more or less culturally linear fashion. Then, when someone upsets us, we can loudly proclaim that we have ‘given’ them something and that with ‘rights’ comes ‘responsibilities’.

But at root rights are just a series of wants. We want happiness, we want food and fresh water, we want peace. So many people never get these things because of the rest of us, we can no longer truly say they are rights. International commerce thrives on depriving others of what we consider ‘our rights’ in order to make them work for slave remuneration. You cannot accord yourself a ‘right’ whilst wearing clothes made by those denied them, and still call them human rights.

Equally if responsibilities come with rights, and rights are accorded, then you must give rights to those who cannot ask for them. You give them, you don’t wait for them to be given by others. And you don’t give arbitrarily. And you don’t deprive people and animals of rights because it suits you not to. If rights are not absolutes, they are only expedient, legal instruments.

Useless for ethicists.

Site Footer

Sliding Sidebar


February 2019
« Aug