RIGHTS: socially approved and supported freedoms

A right is a legally established freedom that is upheld in practice by the administration and enforcement systems of a society. Whatever rights are specified will depend upon the inclinations of the local political control group and more recently on the acceptance or not of an internationally declared list. If a society can manage to minimize the denial of rights to its citizens, then the accumulation of resentments will be attenuated, and as a consequence the prospects of revolution will be reduced. Establishing a core legal position... that all citizens have a right to life and to be free of all forms of oppression and subjugation... is a very positive foundation, but ensuring that such an aspiration is realized can be difficult for many reasons. Some forms of oppression... like slavery and sexual mutilation... are blatant and easily identifiable. Given the will, legislating a right that is able to protect all citizens from such abuses is relatively straightforward. Recognizing the existence of various forms of employment abuse is a much more difficult situation to appreciate and prevent. Many of the abuses... like child-labour, mining, prostitution, sweat-shops, long hours of duty, etc... are underground, out of sight and thus out of mind. The citizens must guard themselves against those of their members who accumulate wealth by exploiting others.

Whereas the core rights are universal and essentially without exception, those rights that involve social behaviours and actions have a range of limitations. The rights to freedom of speech, movement, religious practice, social services, voting and so on, all have limitations that reflect the current concerns of the controlling authority. No social right concerned with the behaviour of an individual is ever without restrictions.

There are no rights, derived from 'god' or 'logic'. Neither god nor logic can enforce anything... no matter how loud their proponents shout or attempt to do the enforcing themselves.

A 'right' is not a 'compulsion' nor vice versa. Where a society demands some action from a member... like military service, education, taxation, or voting... such participations should be unequivocally called 'compulsions' when they are obligatory and 'rights' when they are freedoms. A 'right' is a freedom with minimal constraints. A 'compulsion' is a demanded action with total absence of choice.

As well as the individuals, a sub-group of a society is often given rights. The overarching authority of the 'nation' could approve and support the right of one of its sub-groups to exercise a specific freedom. Thus the army is given the right to shoot a soldier for desertion, the police are given the right to various levels of surveillance and arrest, and certain medical practitioners are given the right to perform specified operations on various individuals. These individual and group rights will often be in serious conflict.

Life, existence and human society is so complex that some rights cannot sensibly be universally conferred. In complex situations, rights should only be granted by a specialist commission set up for the purpose. A particularly intransigent dilemma is always present in situations concerned with suicide. The 'right to life', as one of the core individual freedoms, mutates into the somewhat absurd 'compulsion to life' if ever a society tries to legislate against suicide. And yet making suicide a legal right seems such an unpleasant nettle to grasp. The granting of a right to an individual to suicide or assist in a suicide could only ever be considered by a commission capable of weighing up all the different factors present in each and every specific case.

Incrementally, generation after generation, humans try to assume legislative control over more and more of the environment and the rights of solitary individual humans with respect to that environment. As well as issuing and/or denying rights of individuals to hunt, farm and explore natural ecosystems, they also attempt to control the rights of an individual in a survival, self-defence, or suicide situation. It is still arguable, that actions which are a consequence of a primordial 'survival-instinct' or the ultimate solution to existential anguish are the solitary domain of the individual. Solitary expressions of existential egoism or anguish are residual 'natural' freedoms of an individual awareness. The solitary individual may experience the inclination to defend itself in one set of circumstances or commit suicide in another, and no amount of legislation is going to have much influence on the source of that motivation.