Rights without Responsibilities


imageSome years ago, an adolescent I know well returned home from high school with a rather thick little book that prompted to me to ask if the people from Gideons had been visiting to hand out Bibles. A stupid question on multiple levels, of course, as the Word of God is banned from most state schools, and the deity’s clergy likewise banished; whilst the cultural Marxists who rule the classrooms are busy deconstructing the socio-political system bequeathed by Christianity and writing the religion out of the history books, except, of course, in those parts of the narrative wherein the odd God-botherer can be happily portrayed as the villain of the piece.

But I digress… the thick little book the adolescent known to me came home with was one bearing the attractive title “Your Rights.” Flicking through the fine print, one was provided with page after page of all the things the police could not, and should not do; of which “community lawyer” to call if the coppers spoke to you without wearing their hat (“incorrect uniform”); and of the variety of ways in which one could frustrate and hinder an investigation into some crime, including crimes you may have committed yourself, so as to ensure the offender got off, or got the lightest possible sentence (and bugger the victim). Subsequent chapters went on to detail the myriad of rights available to just about every group of people one could possibly conceive of, with the glaring exception of those from a white Anglo-Saxon background, especially those of this group who were adherents to the Christian faith. There were rights to welfare and to other government handouts; rights for prisoners, asylum seekers, refugees and those who had overstayed their visas; as well as rights to have things printed in every language other than English, and to have your charge sheet and your lawyer translated (at the expense of the taxpayer of course).

Perusing this discourse was a bit like being trapped in a meeting of some United Nations committee, wherein well dressed middle aged delegates with Scandinavian accents invent ever more intricate rights for more and more groups or categories of people, with the single exception of the aforementioned persons of white Anglo-Saxon ethnic origin. Nearing the end of the volume, and having been alerted to the existence of “non-gendered” persons and their attendant rights to toilets not marked male or female, it occurred to me that something obvious was missing. Here was a rather thick little book, with small type and wafer thin pages, intended for young people of high school age, spilling forth thousands of words on rights, but which had not a single word to say about one’s responsibilities. Entirely absent from this book on “your rights”, and no doubt from the classroom discussion too, was the second volume on “your responsibilities.”

This is alarming, for an essential function of a liberal democracy, such as that which has flourished in the past in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, relies on the concept of the social contract, whereby the citizens willingly handover as few of their personal rights and freedoms to the State as may be necessary for the ordering of society and the common good; whilst at the same time, and as part of the same contract, accept certain responsibilities to both the State and to their fellow citizens. The antithesis of this is precisely what the adolescent I know well came home with in his hand that day – the State handing down a “little red book” or a “manifesto” filled with small print outlining one’s rights, with no consequent social contract and no acceptance of resulting responsibilities, and the complete absence of the notion of the common good, it being replaced by a rampant individualism bequeathed and controlled by a maternal State.

Whilst I’m not by any means into book burning, Nanny State’s “little book of rights” is one that I would happily toss on the bonfire – before the unrestrained wildfire of the rights industry, fueled by global organisations, institutions of do-gooders, UN committees, and rooms full of lawyers, burns away completely what is left of the infrastructure of the liberal democracies of the west, and sends the Enlightenment itself up in smoke.