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Right Is Another Word For Privilege

There is no such thing as a universal right, in any inherent sense. There is no right to anything in the workings of the universe. It is simply cause and effect. Every right we have is a mutually agreed upon (I use that loosely) privilege. We define rights. We define a right as a contrast against a wrong which we seek to prevent by establishing tenets. While Thomas Jefferson was well-intentioned in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” he was inherently incorrect on one point: people are not endowed by any natural force (which I think is a rather good secular interpretation of a loaded religious term like “Creator” in a public document) with any unalienable rights. We, the people, bestow those privileges which we have decided are ethically affordable to each person.

In our western society, we progress toward a certain set of rights. Despite regressive opposition, the direction in which these established rights progress is clear. Throughout recorded history, the questions over each right have been debated and discussed as ethical points.

To me, the key seems to be in limited individualism. Each person should have afforded them a basic set of individual freedoms, but not to stretch so far as to cause harm or significant hindrance to the whole. Through this, an objective end of advancing our societies and species can be facilitated. Rights are deeply subjective, but I think this is the closest we can bring an objective standard into play.

I do not think that cultural traditions, while in many respects are beautiful and key to necessary identity diversity, can trump a logical basic set of individual freedom. Any cultural protocol, tenet, or tradition which oppresses an individual (with exception to where the individual is seeking freedom which would harm or significantly hinder the whole, as in a freedom to discriminate on basis of ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and/or identification, &c.) cannot stand on its own and must be cast aside. I’ve said it many times before, and it is distinctly relevant now, that ideas neither have nor should receive rights. Ideas are to be challenged and questioned. Cultural traditions are analogous to ideas in this regard. When Abraham Lincoln spoke his Gettysburg Address, and he said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure,” he was directly referencing the clash of these very cultural harms against an ideal of human rights that the US Civil War represented. On the flip side of this, if a cultural tradition does not intrude on the basic individual rights of anyone, then there is no reason to hinder or do away with it. Those benign traditions are healthy for humanity to preserve.

 

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