"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
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February 11, 2009
I'd like to describe my hypocrisy.
I firmly believe that there are no "rights." I've gone into this belief in detail elsewhere so there is no need to revisit it here. Let me point out, however, that the recent publication of the Boldrin and Levine book on I.P., Against Intellectual Monopoly, supports my contention and I'm very pleased to see it being taken so seriously by some.
I'll also point out that I've been an on-again, off-again student of Eckhart Tolle and must credit him, along with Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, Ram Dass, and the drugs I took in the '60s, with an ability and a willingness, perhaps even eagerness, to explore thought and the various ways of experiencing this life I have the pleasure and the pain of journeying through. In fact, since I've cracked open the door on the issue, let me openly proclaim, in the face of the current anti-drug hysteria, that responsible use of mind-expanding drugs and entheogens are a profoundly beneficial gift to gaining appreciation for the human experience and should be treasured, nay revered, not censored. But that is not my topic here and I mention it only because it should be said.
What I want to explore is the current quandary I find myself in, and perhaps others of you do as well, the utter contradictions in my worldview. The phrase cognitive dissonance certainly applies, and I sure would like clear a path through it, if that is possible, which I seriously doubt.
As libertarians, or anarchists, or voluntaryists, or whatever current view we have of ourselves, we tend towards the opinion that life would be much better if none but voluntary actions were taken between ourselves and our fellow humans, and I personally will extend that idea to encompass animals as well. I don't believe in Jesus, have serious doubts as to whether or not one specific person with his attributes ever even existed, yet cannot fail to recognize that an awful lot of what has been attributed to "him" can be extremely informative. Many take some of the things "he's said" and use them as bludgeons to try and force others into being loving, caring, and generous. I don't do this particular sin, but I'm probably just as guilty in my own way. You see, while I don't believe that we, any of us, has rights, I similarly am highly offended when another interferes with 'my right' to live my life as I choose (and of course I always assume that peaceable and voluntary interactions are an understood qualification on this and similar statements I make on such subjects).
In lengthy and heated debates with a friend (someone I think very highly of), he has made the claim that if I don't own myself (his natural conclusion from my idea that there are no rights), then anyone has the right to eat me or enslave me or . . . whatever--you get the picture. Yet this misses the point entirely. If there are no rights, then just as I don't have a right to my freedom and my body, neither does he or anyone else. How can he claim the right to stew me up for dinner if rights don't exist? We come back to that cognitive dissonance thing.
So neither has the right. I don't have a right to life; he doesn't have a right to take mine. Okay? We each have abilities, and each of our choices and actions will have consequences, but there are no rights. (If you vehemently disagree with me on this as many of you will no doubt do, please at least try to suspend disbelief for the sake of my story, and see if I may have something to say even if we disagree on the particular wording. Especially since, as I've said, this is an inquiry into my hypocrisy.)
I said I wasn't going to talk about rights, didn't I? Well, that didn't last very long! We could say that it's the confusion between "positive" rights and "negative" rights, but that isn't it either, for my "negative" right to be left in peace is simultaneously a "positive" right or demand upon you to not be curious, to not make inquiries of me, to know what it is that I seek and to respect my wishes in that regard. So positive shmositive, it's all the same can of worms.
The bottom line is that even the voluntaryist's view of human interaction is (or can be, I can only speak to my own understanding, so feel free to set me straight) based upon the idea that one has the right to place demands upon the choices of others. "I demand that you treat me with respect." . . . . Say WHAT?
Let me ask you, all of you, you statists, you voluntaryists, you religionists, you pagans, Howzat workin' for ya? (to paraquote Dr. Phil)
But surely, I can hear you proclaim that, "I certainly have a right to defend myself!!!" Well (and here we get to the heart of my hypocrisy), of course you do. (And here I note that I recognize that all of this is my ego speaking, or at least it is part of what may be a psychotic conversation I'm having with some of my selves.)
I must say that while you certainly have a right to defend yourself, you don't have a right to defend yourself. Instead, what you have is the ability to make that choice, to take that course of action. There will be consequences. There are consequences to all actions, perhaps even to all thoughts.
Let me examine this view: If I can set aside the idea that there are rights, and simply recognize that each choice will have its own cascading series of consequences, how does that change the world I live in (herein making the assumption that we create our own realities)? What I think I may find (note that I am not yet living in this world, I'm just checking out the neighborhood to see if it has good schools and shopping and so on) is that the underlying sense of entitlement must be relinquished as a condition of transfer of title. That, my friends, is the biggie! I feel entitled to be treated fairly. I feel entitled to respect. I feel entitled to warmth and maybe even love. How childish is that? I mean . . . really! Is a lizard entitled to fairness? A lion? If you say no to these then how is it that you feel, if you feel as I do, that you, being a human being and all, are somehow above? Where is it written in the rules of the universe that we humans are special and can step on bugs and eat hamburgers, yet expect to be magically spared these indignities where our own precious lives are concerned? What a crock!
I think that I see that my ego has been running the show and has made me look as foolish as it can, perhaps in the hopes that it might humble me, but probably not. Probably just out of the childish self-interest of all egos everywhere. Grow up, kid.
Maybe what I am learning here is that it is all up to me. It starts and ends with me. As Galambos pointed out in regards to freedom: it is not a natural state of affairs. So it is with those things we sometimes expect from life--freedom, respect, and so on. They are not out there to be claimed, to be demanded. Nope. If I want there to be respect and love and fairness and consideration in my world, it is totally up to me to be the change I want to see (was it Gandhi who said that?). I have no rights. Not even the right to life itself. I'm here. That is the gift, or the curse, perhaps, but whatever it is that I want from this life it is totally up to me to set that series of consequences in motion.
Let me start here by saying thank you to all who seek love. And also thank you to the guy who set that plane down in the Hudson . Your humble professionalism has moved me beyond words. I wish you peace.
We are facing dangerous and tumultuous times ahead. It will be natural for us to let our egos do the thinking and speaking for us and to demand this and that treatment and respect and so on. If you can find it in you to do so, try to be like Gandhi and Sully Sullenberger and be the world you want to live in. It starts with me, and with you. There will be fear. There will be hate. That only makes it harder for each of us to keep the focus on keeping the wings level, watching the air speed, and holding the proper attitude. I know I fail much of the time, but there is only one time, and that is now. 'There will never be a time when it is not now. '
I bid you love. (Or maybe it's that I bid me love and figure I'd best be the love I want manifested. Whatever. I find it hard to imagine that it is not the most important thing of all. Without love, does anything else have any meaning at all?)
Try to be conscious. I'll try as well.