Claiming rights are popular lately in the US. Maybe because it’s a campaign year. Or maybe there are other reasons. It’s probably due to a multitude of reasons, as is usually the case.
Does it have to do with what seems to be a victim culture that has been nurtured and growing in the country? Do people have the right to be a victim? I hear plenty of people writing about trigger warnings and microagressions. Does claiming to be a victim come with privileges? Are are these just claims of people who see the world differently?
Do we see more people claiming rights because talk about rights gets people’s attention – a sort of short term fame for talking about a controversial topic.
Maybe the understanding of rights has changed. Maybe it’s no longer about rights, but getting free stuff. I hear plenty of political candidates talk about all the wonderful stuff people can get for free if they get elected. Often, the candidates use terminology that either blatantly uses the word “rights” or hints toward it.
But what are rights?
Yesterday I saw a tweet that read – “Healthcare, clean water, electricity, food and network connectivity should be rights.” It made me think – should they? Are they? What does this person mean by rights? I don’t know, it’s just a tweet. Is this person defining rights differently than other people? Some who are critical of the tweet might respond by saying that the tweet should read a bit differently to be more accurate and say “Healthcare, clean water, electricity, food and network connectivity should be paid for by someone else.”
Is the person who supports these things actually giving up their right to make decisions over these things in exchange for someone else taking the responsibility to pay for them? Or are they rights?
Do most people even know what a right is?
Do rights come with responsibilities? Or is there license with rights? I would argue that rights come with responsibilities. Rights are not totally free. You have a right to vote, but you also have a responsibility to do your homework and learn about the candidates before you go into the voting booth.
Should the list from the tweet be rights? I don’t know. I do know that agreeing with the idea will be popular and quite easy to stand with – to say otherwise makes it look like you are stingy and mean.
I do know this much – we should be really careful in determining what our rights are.
We should understand what rights are, where they come from and what responsibilities go with them. We should understand exactly what having a right means – what does it mean we give up, what are we adding, what is changing as a result? What about the people who work in those fields? How does making their field a right change their working relationship? Will they now be treated like slaves that people can demand certain things because what they work in is now a right – that’s an extreme of course, but I hope you get the idea of what I’m saying.
What is a right? A right is not free. When we make something a right, there are consequences for that action. Are we prepared for those consequences or are we just excited to have some nice rhetoric to chant or tweet out? And if we can create a right, what’s to stop that right from being taken away in the future? What’s going to ensure that a right is protected? By whom?
What is a right? It’s complicated.