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May 27, 2011

Postulates on Rights: Etsko Schuitema

Paying attention to one’s rights in a situation means emphasising what the other owes the self. The focus on rights is therefore similar to the focus on expectation and needs; it cultivates the psychology of a victim in the self and breeds a worldview of entitlement. By contrast the focus on duties places a person’s attention on what they should be giving and it therefore cultivates the psychology of freedom.

To construct one’s intention on expectations, needs and rights is to become the slave and the victim of the other. To pay attention to one’s contribution, values and duties is to cultivate freedom. Freedom is concerned with basing one’s intention and attention on one’s duties, on what one should contribute.

55.  The liberal understanding of human rights fundamentally undermines the individual’s accountability and therefore entrenches his disablement. This establishes the conditions where people are permitted to pursue and remain equal to the worst in themselves. This destroys the individual and the social order at the same time.

Both the views that see the intent of the individual as here to take or here to give have elements of narrowness and elements of broadness. They both tolerate and they both judge. However, what they tolerate and judge are mirror opposites. When the self is seen to be here to get something there is a tolerance of licentiousness. Any intolerance of licentiousness will only be expressed if the behaviour brazenly affects the wellbeing of others. Because the licentiousness of the individual is accepted as a given, the fundamental approach to keeping order is that it is imposed from outside. Hence the ‘nanny state.’

When the view of appropriate intent is that one is here to give, then it is acceptable that one cannot does as one likes, even if it does not affect those immediately around one. One is accountable for one’s actions. However, one is allowed to act. You are allowed to own weapons, defend yourself in the street and spank your child. You are not wrapped in legislative cotton wool. You are accountable.

Some time in 2007, I remember seeing a BBC newscast lamenting the flogging by Islamic law of a woman in Nigeria for promiscuous behaviour and the staggering AIDS statistics of Africa in the same bulletin. Whether it is legitimate to flog someone for adultery is quite beside the point. What this account demonstrates is the cultural chauvinism of the current western liberal view. This view also judges, it does not tolerate. What is not tolerated is someone being flogged for licentious behaviour. However, the implications of that licentiousness, an unmanageable epidemic of fatal sexually transmitted disease, are kind of accepted as a sad fact.

 56.  The perpetuation of the current order requires the licentiousness of the individual. It therefore follows that the suppression of fundamentally destructive phenomena such as promiscuity, pornography, gambling and prostitution will be construed to be contrary to basic human rights.

57.   A disabled parent will not be trusted to spank her child. A disabled teacher will not be permitted to exercise corporal punishment on the pupil. A disabled employer will not be permitted to dismiss an employee. A disabled citizen will not be allowed to defend himself when attacked by a criminal. All of this suggests that the individual is not allowed to hold someone else accountable for their actions. The individual is not accountable nor can they call someone else to account without the intercession of a super-ordinate control function. The system rules. It is super-ordinate to the individual.

This suggests that the meaning of the worldview that articulates human rights is hidden in its opposite. Under the guise of promoting the freedom of the individual, the licentiousness that it advocates actually necessitates the imposition of state sponsored control. The more licentiousness that is tolerated the more control is required. The view of the individual therefore becomes one of being increasingly bound and disabled.

If one views the fundamental intent of people to be the pursuit of their self interest, any expression of perversity will be seen to be a manifestation of a dysfunction buried in the way things are. It will be seen to be an expression rather than a rule. The key issue would therefore not be to hold the perverted accountable, it would be to impose some sort of control so that this will never happen again.