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Passions in Poetry

Rights and Responsibilities

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hush
Senior Member
since 05-27-2001
Posts 1693
Ohio, USA


25 posted 12-22-2001 12:43 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

"Somewhere along the line, 'rights' came to be seen as a form or protection and/or empowerment but that is a myth. They don't protect you from someone who doesn't recognize them and they don't empower you to do anything -- you still have to have the ability to do something in order to do something."

I disagree. The freedom of speech, the constitutional right to speak our minds, gives us the ability to fight censorship.

Now, saying you have the freedom of speech doesn't protect you from someone with a gun who doesn't like what you have to say- but there are rules that protect us from people with guns.

Which I guess leads to this- a rule saying we have the right to do something (freedom of speech) protects an active right. A rule that forbids someone harming us is protecting a passive right- the right to live, or pursue life.

Does one take more importance over the other? Is my right to not be shot more important than my ability to shoot? I mean, if we all exercise our right not to be shot (as most of us do every day), our race stays alive a hell of a lot longer than if we all exercise our ability (right? is an ability a right, or vice-versa?) to shoot. Maybe it's just a common sense thing, or even a concern for the welfare of others thing.

I think that somewhere along the line, logic gives way (or simply becomes intwined with) human feelings. I have the physical ability to buy a gun and shoot someone with it- but I seriously doubt that I have the emotional ability to go through something that needlessly cruel.

"I'm thinking about leaving tomorrow
I'm thinking about being on my own
I think I been wasting my time
I'm thinking about getting out"

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


26 posted 12-23-2001 05:24 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Does it really?

--If we just look at the texts:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

and

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish
Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do
ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

--and compare the similar points in the Soviet constitution:

"Article 50. In accordance with the interests of the people and in order to strengthen
and develop the socialist system, citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of
speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations.

Exercise of these political freedoms is ensured by putting public buildings, streets and
squares at the disposal of the working people and their organisations, by broad
dissemination of information, and by the opportunity to use the press, television, and
radio.
Article 51. In accordance with the aims of building communism, citizens of the USSR
have the right to associate in public organisations that promote their political activity
and initiative and satisfaction of their various interests.

Public organisations are guaranteed conditions for successfully performing the functions
defined in their rules.

Article 52. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right
to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic
propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.

In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church."

--As well as the one from the PRC:


"Article 35 Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the
press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.

Article 36 Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or
not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in,
or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one
may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the
health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies
and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."

--and since I'm quoting, I thought I'd give a quick one from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of
achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every
organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching
and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive
measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition
and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the
peoples of territories under their jurisdiction."

This is already long enough, I'll try to get back with more stuff later.

Brad
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


27 posted 12-23-2001 05:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Also, for anyone interested, this is a great thread to read the constitutions of different countries.
http://confinder.richmond.edu/

I found the Iranian and Iraqi constitutions quite interesting in their take on 'rights.'

Thanks,
Brad
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


28 posted 12-24-2001 03:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Hmmmmm, got a little time before my daughter wakes up.

Hush said:

"I disagree. The freedom of speech, the constitutional right to speak our minds, gives us the ability to fight censorship."

--But that's not what the first amendment says. The constitution says that the government shall not make laws to prohibit your speech except in certain cases (those certain cases are defined in the preamble).

--The ability to fight censorhip is inherent in speaking a language, you already have that ability. The American government has decided not to interfere with that ability, but because you can fight censorship doesn't always mean you are free from it.

"Now, saying you have the freedom of speech doesn't protect you from someone with a gun who doesn't like what you have to say"

--I agree, but isn't that how people seem to interpret it? Perhaps few would put it like that but how many times have you heard, say in the poetry forums (and not just here), someone argue that they have the right to free speech, you can't say what you said? People, not all of course, interpret it as protection, not as freedom.

"but there are rules that protect us from people with guns."

--There are rules that punish the use of violence or the threat of violence, but that doesn't protect us.

"Which I guess leads to this- a rule saying we have the right to do something (freedom of speech) protects an active right."

--I would say that a right is the ability to do what you can do without interference without due process of law -- without a procedure.

"A rule that forbids someone harming us is protecting a passive right- the right to live, or pursue life."

--But life isn't always dependent on another individual, natural disasters or what have you. I think it's simpler to say that agents cannot murder without punishment.

"Does one take more importance over the other? Is my right to not be shot more important than my ability to shoot? I mean, if we all exercise our right not to be shot (as most of us do every day), our race stays alive a hell of a lot longer than if we all exercise our ability (right? is an ability a right, or vice-versa?) to shoot."

--Yep. An ability is not a right by the way, it is, I think, a presupposition of having a right, but a right without an ability is no right at all.

"Maybe it's just a common sense thing, or even a concern for the welfare of others thing."

--Yep. I think that's exactly what it is. Somewhere along the line, we've lost this idea that in order to exist in any society, you must maintain a moral/ethical responsibility to others.

--It doesn't work without it.  

"I think that somewhere along the line, logic gives way (or simply becomes intwined with) human feelings. I have the physical ability to buy a gun and shoot someone with it- but I seriously doubt that I have the emotional ability to go through something that needlessly cruel."

--I don't think the two are separable. No logic without human feelings, no specifically human feeling without logic (that is, only instinct).

Thanks,
Brad

PS Anybody notice the interesting difference placed on freedoms in the old USSR, the PRC, and the USA? I don't mean to say that this is why the systems are different but I thought it was interesting.  
serenity blaze
Member Empyrean
since 02-02-2000
Posts 28839


29 posted 12-25-2001 03:48 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Hmmm...Oh, hey, I'm back! And yet something is still not clicking in my head regarding this relationship between rights and responsibilities. But it's Christmas eve...oops, actually early morn! Yikes...and I feel I have the right to get some sleep, but alas seem to be lacking the ability, and as the kids will be up before the sun today, I would certainly consider it a privelage!


(Brad, is this stuff SUPPOSED to keep ya up nights? )

Have a happy holiday!
Tim
Senior Member
since 06-08-99
Posts 1801


30 posted 12-25-2001 09:24 AM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

Constitutions (when listing rights) of most countries are similar because as humans we recognise certain basic human rights.  The difference in the constitutions may well represent the differences in our views on rights.  The United States Constitution recognises the inherent, or inalienable rights of a people.  We as a people accept we have the rights and empower a government, preventing it from interfering with those rights.  Russia and Chinese constitutions do not comprehend a people empowering a government, the government is the power which allows rights to the people.  
"A right without an ability is no right at all."
That is the heart of the discussion.  Did the women of Afghanistan, those locked in the Gulags, or individuals in any number of hypotheticals not have rights, because they could not exercize them?  I say yes.
You say no.  Again, I suspect it is somewhat a matter of semantics.  We fight for our rights.  Do they not become rights until we have the power, or ability to exercise them?
I hope not.
Opeth
Member Elite
since 12-13-2001
Posts 2224
The Ravines


31 posted 12-26-2001 12:54 PM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

I agree with the originator of this thread 100%

Rights & Responsibilities go hand-in-hand.

I have taught the Navy Rights & Responsibilites seminar for over 10 years now.

However, I should say that rights and responsibilites SHOULD go hand-in-hand, because in many cases they do not.

I have read recently that certain criminals who are serving life terms are suing the state/federal goverment because they want the RIGHT to procreate. I say they lost that right among many others because they weren't RESPONSIBLE.

Also, there are double standards in the military, where higher ranking officials are not held RESPONSIBLE as junior members are held and the RIGHTS of the junior members are taken away, yet the RIGHTS of these senior members are not.
hush
Senior Member
since 05-27-2001
Posts 1693
Ohio, USA


32 posted 12-27-2001 12:38 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Brad:

quote:
"I disagree. The freedom of speech, the constitutional right to speak our minds, gives us the ability to fight censorship."

--But that's not what the first amendment says. The constitution says that the government shall not make laws to prohibit your speech except in certain cases (those certain cases are defined in the preamble).

--The ability to fight censorhip is inherent in speaking a language, you already have that ability. The American government has decided not to interfere with that ability, but because you can fight censorship doesn't always mean you are free from it.


I guess what I said wasn't exactly what I meant to say here. Of course we all have the ability to protest censorship (or anything, for that matter.) I could protest an "F" in a class with the argument of "but I have to pass, this isn't fair" etc. However, when faced with a series of "F"s in the gradebook, I have no leverage.

Leverage is the word I should have used instead of ability. It gives us power- when Americans protest something on the grounds that it threatens their constitutional rights (and especially when those are first amendment rights) people are more inclined to listen than when you just whine and say "Yeah, well, yelling 'fire' seemed fun at the time..."

and yeah, sometimes the violation of rights argument is stupid, like a frivolous lawsuit ("It's my freedom to tell the officer he's a fat pig and he can F-off if he wants to tell me I've had too much to drink...") and that's where responsibility is a factor. So-and-so chose to ignore his right to remain silent, in light of the warning that anythihng he says can be used against him.

But we're not talking about a fetus' (or invalid's) right to cuss somebody out. We're talking about a right to life. Let's look back at the beginning of this thread.

"If someone has rights, they can lose them. If they can't lose them, they don't have rights. How can a foetus, through its own action, lose its rights?"

You are saying that we can only have rights if we can willfully lose them. How do we gain them in the first place then? By virtue of being an American? By being born? We've been through this already- and nobody's going to agree.

Fetuses lose their right to life through abortion. They don't violate anybody else's rights. You say rights and responsibilities are connected:

"I don't see how we can separate rights and responsibilites for that would mean that when someone abrogates their responsibilites we can't infringe upon their rights."

If a fetus doesn't have any responsibilities, it can't fail to live up to them. If it doesn't break any responsibilities, what gives us the right to infringe upon their rights? The rationalization that they are not yet born?

"I'm thinking about leaving tomorrow
I'm thinking about being on my own
I think I been wasting my time
I'm thinking about getting out"

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


33 posted 12-27-2001 10:55 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Hush said:

"You are saying that we can only have rights if we can willfully lose them. How do we gain them in the first place then? By virtue of being an American? By being born? We've been through this already- and nobody's going to agree."

--We gain them by being recognized as a member of a society. This is generally seen as being a human being but 'human' and 'personhood' are too malleable. Dave talks about a scientific explanation but we're not talking about science, we're using our ability to recognize another person as a person, as 'one of us' and that can mean anything to anyone. Your earlier point about slavery is right on the money. Want to have slaves but believe in human rights, presto, an African man or woman becomes a sub-man or sub-woman. You don't like Jews? You do the same thing. Don't like Bin Laden, he's no longer human.

--So, you're right we won't agree on what is human, but is there another way that makes it extremely difficult to make these arbitrary disctinctions? I think the ability to speak a language, the ability to talk back, to disagree, to engage in conversation is a factor that we recognize even if we don't want to recognize them as human.

--In "Silence of the Lambs" there's a scene where the wannabe transexual talks to his victim as if it were a thing, but he loses it, and talks to his victim as if she were a human. At that moment, it is a recognition of a common factor, he's not crazy, as Hanibal Lector pointed out, he's trying to be crazy. Intuitively, he knows that what he does is something he's doing to someone like him.

--It is extremely difficult, I think, to maintain the mirage of a non-language user when they can talk back to you. Not impossible but extremely hard to do. As you point out, a slave has responsibilities but no rights; in order to deny rights, you also have to deny the ability to speak and understand to a slave and that, by definition, severely limits his responsibilities.

--If you do talk to a slave as a member of a language community, it becomes a self-performative contradiction. He can't be a slave by this approach. The same goes for women and/or any other ethnic group. Opeth is correct, however, that this rights/responsibilites coin if you will is not currently abided by. I think it should.

"Fetuses lose their right to life through abortion. They don't violate anybody else's rights. You say rights and responsibilities are connected:"

--But I think Serenity's point, "as long as there are coat hangers" is extremely poignant. A woman has the ability to terminate a fetus, the question is should she have the right? It's not a case of conflicting rights but a case between a woman's ability and society's acceptance. If abortion were illegal, what do we do to the woman if she breaks the law. That is the issue. As a member of a language community she can make the case for a right, but it's the society of language users that ultimately determine whether she should have that right (and she's a member of that society). I agree that the 'rights' of a fetus have a tremendous 'leverage' ability; but I suggest that that 'leverage' is based on an untenable thesis. It falls apart when looked at closely.

"If a fetus doesn't have any responsibilities, it can't fail to live up to them. If it doesn't break any responsibilities, what gives us the right to infringe upon their rights?"

--But a fetus doesn't have any rights because it can't do anything with them. 'A right to life' is the responsibility of others not to kill (Tim would argue that this is semantics and it is but it shifts, I think, the debate in a clearer direction). A society can certainly restrain the ability of it's members but it can't control a 'right to life' because a society can't control the world: a hurricane, an earthquake, lightning, a wild bear etc. What is a right to life mean except in a social context?

The rationalization that they are not yet born?

--birth, in this approach, does not confer rights. Rights are given to members of a language community.

--This is where Interloper's point about age comes in. By this approach, a four year old can have rights but an infant cannot. But can you have meaningful debate on rights with a four year old? Should we? In order to be a recognized member of a language community, it has to take time. How much time is arbitrary, society decides by making a rough guess as to where someone has had enough training to be recognized as a member of a community (passing or failing is dependent on your ability to participate and training is based on age or length of time agreed upon). But that can be 21, 18, 16, 13 -- any age is possible.

If, for example, we could have a conversation with dolphins, with elephants, AI or ET, then all these, by definition, would be let into the community. But of course this would have to be a community recognized conversation. We already have people who have imaginary conversations with soccer balls.

But soccer balls don't talk back.

Brad
serenity blaze
Member Empyrean
since 02-02-2000
Posts 28839


34 posted 12-28-2001 02:57 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

"But soccer balls don't talk back."

Brad, maybe you're just not kicking them hard enough!

Okay, okay, I'm SORRY...last joke, and I have been reading, and I think I'm finally getting it! So...thank you for your patience, and will be reading of course, and I will pop in when I feel another tangent coming on! But for now, all of this THINKING is interfering with my writing...but I did want to thank you for putting up with my confusion! Ta Ta for now!
hush
Senior Member
since 05-27-2001
Posts 1693
Ohio, USA


35 posted 12-29-2001 12:45 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Brad-

"But a fetus doesn't have any rights because it can't do anything with them."

I guess I agree with Tim's earlier comment that people who are unable to exercise their rights still have them.

"'A right to life' is the responsibility of others not to kill (Tim would argue that this is semantics and it is but it shifts, I think, the debate in a clearer direction). A society can certainly restrain the ability of it's members but it can't control a 'right to life' because a society can't control the world: a hurricane, an earthquake, lightning, a wild bear etc. What is a right to life mean except in a social context?"

This is a very good point... I guess I should clarify again. By "right to life" I guess I meant a right to not be aborted intentionally by the mother. Right to life was just more concise.

Still- you call it the responsibility of others not to kill... the real center of this is how do we decide what responsibilities we assign in order to ensure our citizens their rights? Which all leads back to determining exactly who is a "recognized member" of society.

I guess I see it in terms of the age problem. If language really is the determinate factor, how is killing a 2-month-old any different than aborting a fetus. I think that the potential for future communication from the form of life should be considered. No... soccer balls don't talk back... neither do newborns. The difference is, in ten years, the soccer ball still won't talk. The child will.

I'm not arguing for illegalization of abortion here. I personally agree with Serenity's "As long as there are coat hangers" point. But someone (it might have been Serentiy) made a point in the abortion thread- someone can be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. I am pro-life because I feel that terminating a human life (or potential for human life) is wrong under any circumstance. However, just because it is wrong doesn't mean it can't be justified. I also feel that a lot of women get abortions because society makes it inconvenient for them to have children... but I'm not blind to the fact that even if women dominated in society, some would still not want to have their babies. When we take away the freedom of choice in our society, we a) impose a certain morality or ideaology on everyone, which is very anti-American b) show that we have no compassion for the plights of unfortunate women who may have been taken advantage of or honestly see no other way out and c) eliminate the ability for our citizens to set their own standards of right and wrong... which I guess is just me repeating a)... lol.

"I'm thinking about leaving tomorrow
I'm thinking about being on my own
I think I been wasting my time
I'm thinking about getting out"

Tim
Senior Member
since 06-08-99
Posts 1801


36 posted 12-30-2001 12:15 PM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

I think hush makes some good points but loses me in her last paragraph.  I want to make it clear, I am not criticizing anyone's position, but trying to comprehend.  I find her thoughts interesting, because it explains how an individual who is morally pro-life can also morally accept the pro-choice position.  I would suspect a significant number of people in that position just don't let their morals get in the way.  The one sentence I have the most difficulty is the sentence that it is very anti-American to impose a certain morality or ideology on everyone.  Realizing that I am not the brightest bulb in the string, that seems to me to be getting pretty close to anarchy when you include morality.  What is the moral difference between a seventeen year old girl getting an abortion on a Sunday while the fetus is still in utero, or waiting til Monday, immediately following birth, and terminating the life of the baby? Society and government impose vastly different moral values and consequences on that decision. We do not want to go back to coat hangers, but sadly, infanticide is still present in far greater numbers than most would want to believe.
Does an individual have a right to protest against capital punishment?  Certainly. Does a person have a right to protest against abortion?  Certainly.  It has always been interesting to me, that the underlying issue in both is the taking of a life.  In one situation, the question is the forfeiting of life, and the other, does life exist? In both instances, a significant number of people feel it is proper to protest against one and not the other, depending on their moral views.  Should not those on each side of both issues, abortion and capital punishment, not only be allowed to protest, but be morally expected to protest?  Whether you want to call it a right, or responsibility, does not a person have a moral obligation?

[This message has been edited by Tim (12-30-2001 12:20 PM).]

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


37 posted 12-30-2001 11:01 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Tim and Hush,

Everything seems to revolve around the 'right to life' for a fetus but I think what we actually do is quite different when we compare this with other rights. I think we're confusing (yes, we, it's easy to fall back on these terms) the idea of protection and/or entitlement with rights. If we accept this, I think we follow down a dangerous path.

We confuse the difference between 'freedom to' and 'freedom from'. I still think it helps to say that I have a right to speak my mind, a right to assemble, to protest, to participate in a society partially because others in that society can make the choice to listen or not to, to join or not to join, to agree or disagree. But once we move to freedom from poverty, from danger, from the intent of others, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to more irresolvable conflicts between passive and active rights.

Who wins?

As I said before, a fetus and a two month old infant do not have rights but does that mean they shouldn't be protected? Not at all, we who can participate in the discussion determine whether they should be protected or not. Social services can take away a newborn from a woman hooked on heroin without her consent, she fails in her responsibility to be a mother she loses that right to be one (not arbitrarily but procedurally).

At what point can a fetus be successfully transferred to another womb (artificial or natural), how much would that cost, and are we as a society and as individuals willing to pay for that?

I don't hear many people discussing this because I think the issue of rights has muddied the issue.

Is it really about the life of the fetus or is it a belief that one should live with the consquences of his or her actions? The abortion debate is often amended to 'except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother' but this exception seems to indicate that the life of the fetus is less important then the mother taking responsibility for her actions (and one would think the father but that seems to be an issue, if not completely ignored,  less touched upon).          

Let's not call protection a right, but decide as those people who can protect, how best we should or shouldn't protect. What are we going to do about it?

And what do we do to the mother and the doctor when they break the rules we decide upon?

If you call abortion murder, shouldn't the price be the same as murder?

----------------------------
Tim,
You mentioned capital punishment and it seems that's always in the background as well. But I don't think the issue is the right to live but what we should do to prisoners. Prisoners, by my way of thinking, have no more a right to life than a fetus (they've lost them), but does that mean we should kill them?

I don't think so. I don't think so because the government can make mistakes and should hold off on final solutions whenever possible. It's not the prisoner who has rights, it's our responsibility to get it right.

Brad

[This message has been edited by Brad (12-31-2001 12:04 AM).]

 
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