Our Inalienable Natural Rights

Natural and legal rights are two types of rights. Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system. (i.e., rights that can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws). Natural rights are those not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable (i.e., rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws)              Wikipedia

The confusion between these two types of rights, and the propensity of states, religious institutions, employers, philosophers and a host of other social and political entities to deliberately impose their own system of rights, makes it necessary for me to reclaim what could never be taken from me in the first place, and which I can never even give away: my Natural Rights.

Then, to consider the picture in full, I must accept the responsibilities which come with those rights, if I want to live my life with purpose.

There's an implicit irony in any declaration of Universal Natural Rights. For what is a right accept the liberty to choose one thing or course of action over another? And what is a Universal Natural Right accept one that is inalienable and applicable in any circumstance? The irony in those two statements is the conclusion that the only thing I cannot choose is to give up is my Natural Rights. They can be bludgeoned senseless, starved to death, choked to the point of unconsciousness, or – more often – forgotten in the grind of daily routine, but they cannot be given or taken away.

As for the responsibilities that make Natural Rights cohesive, directed and – if we so choose – contributory, they can and often are shunned, a failure of will that more-often-than-not renders proclamations of Natural Rights mere bravado.

Society at large – any social grouping – abhors any assertion of Natural Rights. Social groupings always have tyrannical underpinnings: you either obey the rules of the group, or you are punished, even outcast for your transgressions. This insistence on obedience is necessary, otherwise collective cohesion and action become impossible. Where we go too far is insisting that the rules must be obeyed without question – that the group has the 'moral' or 'religious' or other authority to impose its will not only on our actions, but on our very thoughts.

It is time, I believe, to moderate those demands for obedience. There will be many occasions when I have to moderate my expression of Natural Rights in order to work for the common good. In fact, most of my waking hours will be spent adapting to a collective purpose. But I am not surrendering my Natural Rights in those instances; I am setting them aside because I believe my own interests can best be advanced by adapting to a common set of rules designed to achieve a social or collective end.

Of course the group can impose its will if my expression of Natural Rights is perceived to be a threat to them or myself. No-one passes through life without having the will of a social group imposed upon him or her. Indeed, so immersed are we in the impositions of bodily function, family and community from the day we are born, that we rarely even arrive at the point where we are conscious of our Natural Rights. More likely we quickly come to consider our expressions of Natural Rights to be outbursts and tantrums or thick-headedness at best; hardened criminal activity or treason at worst.

I would hazard to guess that before the 19th Century the vast majority would have considered any inkling of Natural Rights an absurd fantasy to be atoned for rather than embraced. None of that diminishes the importance of Natural Rights at this point in our historical evolution. My belief is that Natural Rights have been an underlying possibility we are only now in a position to experience and express – that we are at that place in time where consciousness must consider the full expression of Natural Rights as necessary for humanity, for living spirit, to advance in the world.

Dangerous and frivolous as the expression of Natural Rights seems to the status quo, it will be the jostling and harmonizing of billions of individual wills that unleashes the full human potential. We may not get a chance to realize that level of freedom. The technological and social revolutions that have made the full expression of Natural Rights a possibility rather than a hopelessly abstract theory are also capable of clamping down and stifling free expression, and there are tyrants ever-ready to turn those powers against us.

That is why the Humanist movement is important to me. There are many unconnected strands in this essay, the most important being: How is 'moral' or 'collective' action possible in a world where Natural Rights are enshrined? That will have to be a topic for another entry.

Upcoming Ideas: Who am I? / Nothing out of Nothing – so every thing’s always been / The four aspects of living spirit: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual / Morality, Ethics and Natural Rights / Ego: The necessary illusion / Just because or jest because / I think, therefore I spam / Who do I pray to (Take 2) / Killing gods is no laughing matter.

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