Thursday, September 21, 2017

Enough About Rights, Let's Talk About Duties

As liberals, we're fond of focusing on 'human rights', 'fundamental liberties', 'legitimate expectations', and all that snazzy jazz. Nothing wrong with that. It's natural to feel that we should be gifted certain basic needs in life. It's what we're entitled to. It's what we deserve. It's what justice requires.

Yes, everyone has needs. Physical needs, mental needs, emotional needs, social needs, cultural/religious needs, and so on. You and me, we all have needs.

So many needs, so little time

But someone, somewhere, somehow, has to fulfil those needs, right? Things don't just drop from the sky. Even if you're the religious sort, there's someone in charge up there who gave the all-clear signal to release the manna (Gods, angels, whatever you call them), right? Right?

And that someone has to be listening. Deciding on whether to help (or not). Assessing the claims if they're legit (or total BS). Setting down a list of criteria of what can be considered 'needs', and the process on how to apply for those 'needs'.

And then, regardless of how great your 'need' is, you have to do something. That someone up there doesn't just give out freebies automatically. Even if you're the religious sort,you have to put some degree of effort into getting what you want... um, I mean, need... like, you know, praying, being nice to neighbours, not doing unto others what you wouldn't want others doing unto you, and all that mumbo-jumbo.

Work It - Or No Bread For You!

The point is, you can't get what you 'need' if you don't work for it.

And essentially, when you come right down to it, the world only works when people help each other fulfil their needs. We all depend on each other.

As the legal jurist Bentham once said: "hunger is not bread, want is not supply".

Need something? Want something? Then you bloody have to make sure you've done all you can on what you're required to do to get that something.

As some religious dude once said: "God help those who help themselves".

The point is, you can't speak of rights, without also speaking about duties.

Want bread? Either be nice to the baker, or make your own damn bread. The choice is yours.

(Sure, you can wait, hope and pray for bread to fall down from the sky. But in my experience, it's not an option that works with enough reliable regularity that keeps you from starving to death.)

"Freedom of expression, association, assembly... Nope, no mention of food... Sorry, no bread for you!"

My Duty To Serve

Everyone owes duties to someone else. The list differs from individual to individual. If you're a baker, you bake bread for people who want it (and can pay for it). If you're a doctor, you heal people (and do no harm). If you're a lawyer, you fight for truth, justice...

Look, don't laugh! It's what they're meant to do, I'm not saying they all do it...

Anyway, what I'm getting is that you and I, we each have our set of duties. Not sure about yours, but here's some of mine:

1. Empathise with the feelings and opinions of others

2. Help friends and strangers alike, regardless of their gratitude and returning of favour

3. Take the time to understand someone

4. Cherish the good side of people

5. Give people a second chance - and a third, and more - to mend their errors and flaws

6. Do not impose your moral code on others

7. Do not hold grudges

8. Do not be quick to judge people based on first - or even second, third and more - impression

9. Do not characterise people based on their bad side

10. Do not write people off, whatever the reason

Look, don't laugh! It's what I've set myself to do, I'm not saying I've done it all yet...

It's not a complete list, but a good one to start with. In time, it'll grow. I wouldn't dream of asking anyone to adopt them (that would breach Rule #6), but it's a nice guideline if you're ever looking for one.

How may I serve thee?

Giving Is Better Than Receiving

And if everyone just do their 'duties' right, they'll be no longer any need to talk about 'rights'.

To talk about 'rights' rather than 'duties' is being selfish. To make up rules that rewards you gifts by simply existing, rather than rules that require you work for it and earn it. To expect others to live for you, rather than to live for others.

Instead, what makes us human is our drive, rather than our desire. Our acts of giving, rather than receiving. Our capacity to love, rather than to be loved.

So focus not on what rights we want. Let's get down to doing what's right for others.

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