Here I consider human rights in general, using specific rights only as examples. Although some of the conclusions that follow are my own, the topic’s scope has allow for there having been a prior airing of much. This overview helps me wade through. May it do so for you.
I have found or have come to believe that:
- Rights only exist paired with their corresponding obligations. As we glow with the respect that they offer us, we must focus ourselves (and others) on the fine print of their companion obligations.
- An obligation falling upon a governing body expresses a desired rapport between those so governed. They who appreciate its associated right should bring the obligatory spirit into their interpersonal relations.
- The appropriateness of an obligation to a particular right may not be clear. For instance, there is a right to speak but no obligation to listen. To become law an obligation needs a level of clarity which would set it off from actions not infringing upon the original right. This is important for obedience, adjudication and trust in the very body of laws. Lacking it or the space (whether prison or docket), a different law protecting a lesser right needs to be and often is enacted; nonetheless, sight of and respect for enforceability must not be lost. However, recognition of such rights is not blemished by an inability to deliver.
- There is no general right to choose, only a marketing ploy called the right-to-choose. The word decide by its origins hints at the killing off of some future choice which is unrecoverable along with its lost future. Each right approves an implicit choice, but some choices are clearly not covered, and the hint of such is grossly irresponsible.
- We are responsible to what we believe, for beliefs mediate between our intentions and what we do about them. That is, they can guide our intent forward into action and our actions backward to the intent implicit in them. An obligation may be adhered to in fear or ignored without malice by somebody totally disconnected from its correspondent right. By contrast, getting to the spirit of those who first noticed that this part of a person’s life needed to be safeguarded is a journey of the heart; arriving is inimitable; still, tracing the course falls to those able to unravel their implicit intent.
- Although an obligation may be imposed, a right must never be imposed: that is, we should always be allowed to waive a right, but only for ourselves. For example: one may waive one’s right to speak by remaining silent even for the rest of one’s life; or one’s right to life by inviting an exculpatory medicide. In this last case, anyone showing up to see how it went had better not be the one whose right had been waived.
The nature of a right requires this, be we sympathetic to the waiver or not. There is no and can never be a right to die, for such would be a callous trivialization of the body of human rights. Since a person cannot waive a right whose essence he or she has not grasped, nor a judge grant relief from the corresponding obligation without evidence that the waiver is both informed and an act of free will, we wait upon a time of trust in such discernment. Nevertheless the prerogative itself waits upon nothing more than a grasp of the spirit of its underlying right and an unraveling of the intent implicit in the waiver. We attain it (or imagine that we have) beyond any juridical process. (7/6/2008)
If someone rebels against or otherwise works to subvert a particular right in toto, then he or she should be taken as having implicitly waived that right. Again juridical review is needed. In noticing this waiver, we do not face such an assault by lavishing contempt either upon or against the obligation; but rather defer to our deep love of that right in agreeing that it may step aside in defense of its promise. This differs from the First Amendment as interpreted by the American Civil Liberties Union which would have us get beyond our distaste for the message, only to fall into the bondage of consistency and a private disdain. I prefer extending to those that would overturn a right the respect of taking them at their word.
Here I have abstracted human rights into charts of passage through them. I have put before you vantage points each to be stood upon or taken as a counterpoint. Have I resolved these nuances towards a just society? Of course I believe so, but this resolution has gone on since before the written word and will continue long after any word of mine.