Wrong About Rights

Human rights are nothing more than a figment of our collective imagination. I really hope you don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling or devaluing them in any way. In fact, I think there isn’t anything in the world more important than human rights. I am simply voicing my opinion on the fact that there are a whole lot of people talking about rights and liberties and entitlements these days who really have no idea what they’re talking about.

A long time ago, in a city hall far, far away, a group of people deliberated, debated and discussed governance and government. They went to great pains to iron out all the kinks, in an attempt to ensure that their community would live long and strong, and in the best possible way. Many of the details discussed were superfluous or mundane, but at the very core of their endeavor was the issue of human rights.

Rights are liberties and entitlements allowed, afforded and provided to a group and, at least nominally, protected by whoever is in charge of that group. Since the dawn of humankind we have existed as a social organism, separate individuals cooperatively working together to form a more perfect whole. A fortunate consequence of this arrangement is that we are granted the opportunity to utilize our intellect and agency to affect the lives of those around us. As multifaceted societies emerge, comprised of many individuals with their own needs and desires, norms and rules develop. The only way to ensure the enduring success of the group is to have a system of accountability for actions.

This raises the issue of morality, and that’s a topic for another day, but it is impossible to discuss human rights without addressing morality. Human rights simply are morality, ethical standards for governance made necessary by the properties of government itself. A government’s only purpose is the protection and propagation of its people, governments are their people. They often fail to serve this purpose, and those that do always fail in time, but the successful ones acknowledge and honor this.

Societies and governments always reach the point of enacting sets of rules that are agreed upon by, at least some of, those whose lives those rules affect. It isn’t always fair or inclusive or rational, but it is always a contractual arrangement. We do A, B and C, you do X, Y and Z; we all live happily ever after. Human societies would not be around today were it not for the social contract. Most of our contracts are informal, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

Our governments enter a contract with us, they will provide and protect certain rights, and we enter the contract with them that we’ll do or not do certain things. We enter a contract with our fellow citizens that they’ll respect certain of our rights as long as we do the same for them. I hate to sound crotchety or out-of-touch or insert favorite insult here, but I think it is absolutely absurd that there are people who get up in arms with regard to their rights, while paying no mind at all to their responsibilities.

We created rights, in the most awesome example of imagination and cooperation, as the counterpoint to our responsibilities. We can see them in action everywhere we look, cause and effect relationships abound. I don’t think it’s right for us to toil away in Stalinesque dystopian communes, but I assert that it is in no way right or even feasible to expect society at large to give anybody anything for absolutely free. We reap what we sow, get what we put in, harvest the fruits of our labors, yatta yatta and all the other platitudes. I prefer to think of my rights as positive consequences of my own carrying out of my responsibilities.

I’m not the type of guy to get all accusatory and blame-shifty and insensitive, and I have come across uncountable examples of absolutely incorrect right/responsibility relationships, but it seems to me that people too often fail to appreciate how important responsibility is. I understand how factors outside of a person’s control can hinder their access to rights, but that means they should strive hard enough to get to a point where they can affect the broken social systems we have, rather than just give up and act like a fool. I have endured quite a few things that are simply not fair, lost a lot of hard-earned things due to someone else’s irresponsible actions, been accused of and punished for things that never happened, generally got the smelly end of the stick, but my response is not to give up and act out; the only viable course of action is to continue to strive for excellence and be the best version of me that I can be, and maybe be an agent of positive change.

This is a very complex subject and I’m sure you all have emotions just as strong as my own, but if you take anything at all from the last eight hundred words, I hope it is an appreciation for the relationship between rights and responsibilities. I hope you all can move forward being not focused on your circumstances or some coincidences, but on your own actions and the consequences thereof. I challenge every single one of you to stand up for not just your own, but your fellow human’s rights if ever they are imperiled. We all depend on each other to do the right thing, treat each other the right way, love each other as ourselves. Your responsibilities are another person’s rights, and vice versa.

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you all are well. I’ve been working quite hard on a project that just keeps growing in scale, but I’m looking forward to sharing some of it with you sometime in the coming week. Have a good one.

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Disclaimer: I’m not adding this photo to glorify warfighting or to perpetuate the idea that military force is essential to a happy and peaceful life, I just think it’s rather pertinent to the issue. Service comes in many forms, it can be as simple as providing a smile to the right person at the right time, or as grave as what the men whom this memorial honors did.


“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.”
― Frank Herbert

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