Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gifts that are neither Rights nor Duties

A couple of years ago, I wrote a "Declaration of Duties".  I'm not yet sure what to with this document, but I explained that, in addition to having certain rights, we also have duties that we must perform, for otherwise we lose our freedoms.  I also explained that certain people, in an attempt to take away our freedoms, have called certain duties "rights", and then proceeded to erode our true rights.

Take, for example, education.  We don't have a right to education--we have a duty to learn what we can, in order to benefit ourselves and others; and our parents have a duty to teach us those things we need to know to have productive, fulfilling lives.  By turning this into a "right", we have been forced into public schools, and have been put at the mercy of teachers, who may or may not care when we "slip through the cracks", and we are forced to learn what the Government says we should learn.

Yesterday, I started reading a debate at the Smallest Minority, challenging the viewpoint of one James Kelly.  In this debate, James takes the position that the only freedom he understands is "Freedom from Fear".  This, along with "Freedom of Speech", "Freedom of Worship", and "Freedom from Want", are the four "freedoms" that Franklin Roosevelt advocated.

Besides arguing that "Speech" and "Worship" are probably the same freedom--or at least closely related--these other two "freedoms" aren't freedoms at all...but neither are they Duties.  As I thought about them, I have come to realize that they can be described as Gifts, and, being emotions, they can become Curses, if they are not bridled, and channelled correctly.

And, like Duties, if they are declared Rights, they can be used to destroy the true Rights we have.

How can I make the claim that Fear and Want are Gifts?  They are emotions, and if they are checked by Reason, they can push us to do new things, that make our life better.  In the case of Fear, it can warn us of disaster or danger, and help us to prepare for the future.  If I fear losing my job, for example, I could push myself to work hard, I could save food and money, and I could keep an eye for other positions around me, so that I'd have an "action plan" in case my fear becomes reality.

Similarly, if I have Wants, I could push myself to fulfill those Wants, and look for new ways to make sure that my family is provided for, and to try to provide things for my family beyond the "necessities of life" as well.

Both Fear and Want can be Curses, too, because they could push us to do things we ought not to do, or to prevent us from doing what we ought.  That is, Fear can become Panic, or Paralysis, and Want can become Envy, or Greed.

Because Fear and Want are Gifts, we cannot be totally free from them--and I, for one, don't want to be!  I really want to be aware of that dark, scary alley, so that I'd be ready for that mugger that's going to try to stab me for my money; I really want to remember that my job--for whatever reason--can disappear overnight.  I really want to be aware that, suddenly, without much warning, we can find ourselves having to ward off societal collapse, or an invasion, or a civil war.

With regards to Want, I really want to experiment with new ideas for computer interfaces.  I really want to personally visit Mars and Venus, using anti-gravity devices designed for that purpose.  By remembering these, and other, desires, I can push myself, and encourage others, to explore new ideas.  Admittedly, some of these desires (e.g. antigravity) may lead to dead ends, but that's the risk we take when we desire the (seemingly) impossible.  And it's a risk I'm willing to put up with!

Now, how does "Freedom from Fear" and "Freedom from Want" destroy our freedoms?  By declaring these as Rights, they become something that need to be preserved.  Since each of us fear different things, and want different things, however, this means that we have to decide which fears we squish, and which wants we support.

In the case of Fear, if someone--such as James Kelly--fears guns, this means we have to ban all guns.  (For some reason, the alternative--to try to educate James Kelly about guns, and put his fears to rest--is never discussed.)  We have to require seatbelts, 55 MPH speed limits, and breathalyzers in all cars, so that no one has to fear car accidents.  And we have to ban fatty foods, so that no one has to fear being overweight and getting diabetes and heart attacks.

And, in the case of Wants, because I want to go to Mars, we have to take money from my neighbor, who doesn't care about Mars--or worse, does not want to go to Mars--and we have to use solid rockets, because NASA wants to, and Senator Hatch wants to make sure that Thiakol will continue to provide jobs--even though I would like to use polywell fusion for space travel instead.

We cannot be free from these Wants, or even simple Wants--like my desire to be debt free, and to provide for my family--because our Wants are the things that push us to sustain ourselves, and to try out new things.  And we shouldn't be free from them, either, because then we become children--and worse than that--we become spoiled brats!

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