The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,, Dr. Stephen Covey writes: "The first construction is in the mind."
Absolutely- if you can't imagine it, you can't build it.
It's taking some time, but I may be on my way to agreeing with you... Must ponder this further...
>Attempting to intercept terrorist
>communications is "illegal domestic
>wiretapping" - a violation of the
>right to privacy.
I think you make a straw man here. While there are certainly people on the Left who do think this way, the general complaint (on both the Left AND the Right) is not that the wiretapping is wrong in and of itself, but that there is not sufficient oversight to assure that it is in fact being targeted toward the enemy.
I'm talking about the fringes. The ones who don't see any problem with CNN showing American soldiers getting shot by terrorist snipers, but who object to showing people jumping to their deaths from the WTC.
Excellent, well-written essay. A few points to ponder:
This all depends upon your interpretation of what constitutes a right. Is a "Right" simply something that society agrees that you can do? Do we have the "right" to do anything that will not get you arrested, thrown in jail or executed? Or is a "right" simply that which we can do and support on our own?
I personally believe that we have the "right" to do anything or own anything that we can provide for ourselves. We have the right to food if we can grow it or buy it. We have the right to defend ourselves if we can effect that defense ourselves. We don't have the right to arms insofar as we can "demand" that someone else provide them for us. We cannot force anyone to become a gun manufacturer...but if there are manufacturers and we can reach a mutual agreement to effect a trade, we have the right to purchase said gun manufacturers product. Basically, a "basic human right" consists solely of those things that we can provide for ourselves through our own efforts or through freely exercised trade under mutually agreeable terms.
"There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."
In other words: I can kill you if I feel justified. I have the natural right to take that action because it is physically possible for me to do so. But I have to weigh the possible consequences of that action. You have the right to attempt to defend yourself and you may kill me instead. We may both die, or one or both of us may be maimed for life. Society may arrest me, may put me in jail for life or may execute me. These are all possible consequences, and may play into my decision as to whether the benefits of exercising my right to kill you outweigh the consequences of same.
Your definition of rights, on the other hand, seems to be actions for which their are no society-imposed consequences. Society gets to choose which actions will result in consequences and which will not. It may be true that society can impose penalties for certain actions but that does not remove our natural right to perform those actions if we are capable; society simply imposes consequences which we must consider when deciding whether to take the action or not.
To say that we have the right to "...abolish...and...institute new Government..." does not imply that there will or should be no consequences for such action. There were consequences for the revolutionaries that formed our country. They had to go to war to effect their right to institute new Government. All actions, whether "natural rights" or not will result in consequences. In other words, "Rights" are NOT defined as those actions that are free from societal consequences. Sometimes the consequences for exercising rights can be severe. Does the imposition of consequences by society make them any less "rights"?
I think not.
What is decidedly NOT an individual right is demanding, as a right, something that requires action from, or must be provided by, someone else. That is tantamount to slavery. Does a medical doctor have a "right" to his own labor and knowledge? If so, then how can someone claim his labor and knowledge for themselves as a right unless he is a slave to them? The doctor has a right (because he is capable of doing so) to refuse to share his labor or service with anyone he so chooses. He may have to suffer societal consequences as a result of exercising this right, but it is his right nonetheless. The patient has NO right to force the doctor to treat them because they are incapable of doing so. The patient may threaten consequences, up to and including death; but if the doctor is willing to accept those consequences, there is absolutely nothing that the patient can do to force the doctor to treat him. Eventually, if the ultimate consequence is realized, the doctor is dead and the patient is still untreated.
Likewise Dr. Cornell's "right" to be free from the fear of citizens with guns. This is actually a valid right insofar as Dr. Cornell can take steps to rid himself of the fear; but if those steps involve requiring action from others (such as attepting to prevent them from carrying arms) it is NOT a right. The disarming of others is not something that Dr. Cornell can realize for himself. He can impose (or convince society to impose) consequences on others for carrying arms, but the threat of consequences does not remove a right: it only adds a consideration in the decision making process of one inclined to exercise that right. Are the possible consequences of exercising the right outweighed by the benefits of doing so?
I'm going to stop now, I could go on and on with examples but I think I've beat this dead horse long enough. I hope I have clearly stated my point.
We as Americans have become soft and lazy. We demand things of others and insist that it is our right. We desire and expect the exercise of rights to be without consequences yet refuse to expend the effort and make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that it becomes or remains so.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."
-- Thomas Paine
"how does Rev. Sensing reconcile the universal sanctity of life with the need to kill in its defense? Some Christian sects other than his reject the idea and embrace pacifism. (I assume he does not.) Why are they wrong?"
Because they are misinterpreting the Word of God based upon a dated and decidedly inaccurate translation. They adhere to the King James version of the 6th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and interpret that to mean that it is always a mortal sin to take human life under any circumstances. Subsequent translations have virtually universally agreed that this is a poor translation, that the original hebrew word (ratsach) should have been more properly translated in this context as "You shall not murder" (NIV). There is further justification for this position in other scriptural text.
There is also New Testament support for the concept of justifiable killing and self-defense but I don't want to turn this into a theological dissertation. This is a very mimimalist answer to your question and was not intended to be all-encompassing, there are other aspects to the pacifist point of view and this issue could become a multi-thousand word essay in and of itself. It was not the main thrust of your essay and so I'll leave it at that.
Since we are on the subject of religion, one of the basic concepts of religion is that, even though we have the RIGHT to do anything of which we are capable, there are certain things that are MORALLY wrong and should be avoided. As such, there is a higher power to whom we should defer in considering consequences for acts.
Secular society believes that consequences should be determined by majority vote (or representative majority). This is how we end up with infringements on personal liberty like smoking bans, gun restrictions, and the war on drugs (for which, by the way, there is no Biblical basis as well as no Constitutional basis). Religions believe that consequences should be determined solely by the higher power, regardless of societal norms or majority votes.
In that regard, Constitutional rule is similar to religion in that the Supreme Law of the Land (the Constitution) is the Higher Power and no simple majority may over-rule it. Unfortunately, despite best intentions, just like religion, Constitutional law is practiced by imperfect humans and is always subject, therefore, to misinterpretation and human frailties of logic and reason (and, sometimes, flat-out evil intent).
Thank you for the excellent essay as usual.
I'll just take one point out of that comment, Sailorcurt:
"Because they are misinterpreting the Word of God based upon a dated and decidedly inaccurate translation. They adhere to the King James version of the 6th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and interpret that to mean that it is always a mortal sin to take human life under any circumstances. Subsequent translations have virtually universally agreed that this is a poor translation, that the original hebrew word (ratsach) should have been more properly translated in this context as 'You shall not murder' (NIV)."
We dropped two 500lb precision guided bombs on a house to kill Zarqawi. Those bombs also apparently killed a woman and a child. How were those two deaths not murder - at least negligent homicide - and how do we justify the taking of their lives if we believe that all life is sacred, and everyone has an equal right to life?
Next, how do we justify the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden?
You should make that clear. When you write something like 'The political Left has embraced that fear' it sounds like you're talking about the Left as a whole, not just the extreme fringe.
I concede your point, but I would like to take as an excuse SayUncle's observation: 6,720 Words.
I'm not trying to justify any specific act...especially the acts of a secular government (read society). I was simply answering your question regarding the taking of life in an effort to defend it and stating my sincere belief that pacifists are wrong. By the way, I'm not sure that this is pertinent at all other than to say that I have a fair to middling understanding of the theology of pacifists: my Mother was raised a Quaker, she and my maternal grandparents were pacifists so I have been directly exposed to that theology. Luckily (in my mind) my father was raised a Baptist and was not a pacifist so I was exposed to both schools of thought and was encouraged to find my own path.
Was the bombing of a house to Kill a terrorist and the resultant death of innocents a justifiable killing in an effort to protect life?
Were the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo or the Nuclear destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima justified in the name of protecting life?
If you accidentally kill an innocent (or do so intentionally) in the course of defending your family from a violent predator, is that a justified killing?
None of those are my call. I wasn't there in the situation, I don't have all the information, nor am I privy to the internal and/or external moral debates that led to those actions; as such, I'm not qualified to play armchair quarterback now. As the Priest in the movie Rudy said (paraphrased, not a direct quote): "In all my study of theology I have come to two inescapable conclusions: There is a God, and I'm not him."
Looking at specific examples and coming to an arbitrary conclusion as to whether that SPECIFIC instance was justifiable or not is irrelavent to the overall question of: Is there such a thing as a justifiable, moral taking of life? The answer is yes regardless of whether I personally agree with or can justify any particular instance.
Life is NOT sacred. Only our immortal souls are sacred. If life were sacred, we would not be CAPABLE of taking it. And, back to my earlier point: we only have a right to life insofar as we can provide for and protect that life ourselves.
I need to throw a disclaimer in here: I'm not speaking for any particular denomination, sect, cult or entity other than myself. My opinions are strictly my own and only reflect my own personal interpretation of scriptures and applicable theology.
I've always marched to the beat of a different drummer. I feel that one's belief's are a very personal matter between oneself and one's higher power. I subscribe primarily to the beliefs of the religion in which I was raised (after much rebellion and soul searching) but my personal beliefs fit perfectly into the mold of no established denomination or sect of which I am aware.
I just wanted to clear that up before someone started screaming for me to be burned at the stake as a heretic.
I think I said this before somewhere but I think we really only have one unalienable right and that is the right to choose. This ultimately means that your choices lead to consequences which may restrict your "rights" even leading to death. You have reason and a brain to make the determination whether you make a choice a certain way or not and pay the consequences of that choice. Just as Sailorcurt said, life is not sacred nor is it a right because it can be easily taken away even before it has "officially" begun outside the womb. Now you can debate when the right to choose starts since instinct to live probably overrides a baby's choice but at some point, choice is all you have.
There truly is no such thing as "Rights."
Only Power - those who possess it and are willing to use it versus those who do not.
Pick one, or one will pick you.
In a manner of speaking, Ronin, you are correct. But when a large number of people believe in "Rights" - that's a power unto itself, far greater than any individual.
"In a manner of speaking, Ronin, you are correct. But when a large number of people believe in "Rights" - that's a power unto itself, far greater than any individual."
Pragmatically speaking, that is absolutely correct. When enough people in a given society begin to believe that something is a "right" that should be protected, that society institutes consequences for violating said "right". But that is still nothing more than a system of societally imposed consequences. I can still violate the "right" as long as I am willing to accept the consequences imposed by society.
Again, a true "right" is not defined by the presence or lack of consequences when exercised.
"There truly is no such thing as 'Rights.'" ???
If you believe that rights are legal constructs, then true, there really are no such things as rights.
Because anything granted by law can be taken away again.
Rights aren't legal constructs, they are meta-legal constructs.
They aren't part of the law, they're part of the motivation for the law.
They're what inspires the law, or inspires resistance to it.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
- Thomas Jefferson
"They aren't part of the law, they're part of the motivation for the law."
They're supposed to be the reason for law, and lack of protection of them is supposed to be sufficient grounds for overthrow of government; also according to Jefferson.
But how accurate that assertion is depends on whether the society you live in is Lockean or not.
How do we justify the firebombing of Dresden, and the nuclear attack on Hiroshima?
With the lives of the Germans and Japanese living in other cities and parts of those nations.
Hundreds of thousands died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the Japanese defense plan for the home islands was *based* on millions dying. The Japanese wanted schoogirls with bamboo spears to charge Marines. The actions of the United States saved millions of enemies from the will of their *own* government.
Dresden is a bit trickier. Some argue that is was only done to scare the Soviets who were approaching the city. I find this arguement a bit flimsy, considering the heat Patton took for suggesting the Soviets were as dangerous, or more, as the Nazis. More likely is the Allied belief that such a devastating attack would weaken the German will to fight. Did it? I suspect so, but was not there at the time.
As bad as that action might have been, ponder this: In the closing weeks of the war, the Germans were pulling almost ever male refugee out of the columns fleeing the Red army. These men were forced, at gun point, to fight and die beside the Wehrmacht. Why would the Germans, knowing the war was lost, strip their women and children of protectors and providers, to fight forlorn hopes?
Because the Wehrmacht was trying to get as many women and children as possible into the American and British controlled portions of Germany, and away from the Soviets. The Germans knew, *knew*, that their women and children would be safer among the Brits and Yanks than they would be with their own husbands, brothers and sons, under the Soviets.
Sorry, Eric, but that doesn't fly.
If we believe that everyone has an absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," then - by definition - willfully killing the innocent, particularly children, is an utter, unjustifiable wrong.
Killing some so that others may live? Nice rationalization, but I'm not buying it.
"Killing some so that others may live? Nice rationalization, but I'm not buying it."
Then don't, Mr. Baker. I was not attempting to convince you of the virtue of the actions of America in the past. Indeed, I would suspect that the men who made the decisions that led to the actions would agree that they were not virtuous. Those men did what they felt was necessary, both to save the Republic they had sworn their lives and honor to maintain, and the lives of as many of its citizens as they could.
I was simply pointing out the facts that surround those events. Fact: Had the United States *not* used nuclear weapons on Japan, Japan would not have surrendered before a ground invasion. Fact: After the casualties suffered by American forces on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the United States had begun stockpiling chemical weapons to use in Japan. Fact: By 1945, most children over the age of 9 had been pulled from their schools and put to work, either in small shops or factories, producing war material. They had also begun recieving "training" on how to attack US Troops with melee weapons. Fact: Many Japanese civilans committed suicide before allowing US troops to take control of the area they lived in.
So given those facts, Mr. Baker, what would the results of *not* using the bombs have been? Gassing of japanese cities? Starvation of the Home Islands as America tried to force Japan to concede? Bloody street to street fighting with waves of children attack US troops with spears? Thousands of women and children killing themselves, rather than fall into US hands?
You do not agree with the choices made by Americans in the past, Mr. Baker? Fine. There are plenty that I don't like either. But what was the "good" choice facing Truman over using the bomb? Let 200,000 chinese a month be killed Japanese troops? Let thousands of women be raped, and children killed?
If you want to say that the decision to drop the atomic bomb was less than holy, you get no argument from me. But if you want to say it was not the best out of a bad lot, then you had better present the better choice. And due to the inherently flawed nature of man and his creations, both physical and sociological, there are times when all you can do is pick the best of a bad lot.
No, Eric, I DO agree with the choices made by Americans in the past. I merely point out that they conflict with a belief in "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights."
If you look at the interaction between societies as much like the "state of nature," then societies acting in their own defense can do anything necessary to survive. But if a society truly believes in "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights," and extends those rights (by definition) to everyone, everywhere, then it cannot (ethically) violate the rights of others - and thus, it will die - because other cultures won't reciprocate.
We've built a society on the belief in "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights." The Left is attempting to extend those rights even unto terrorists who wish us dead. We need to wake up to the fact that those rights are ideals - things worth believing in - but are not, in fact REAL. Else we're going to go the way of the Moriori.
Interesting, to say the least.
I am reminded of a saying about something near and dear to my heart: "You can make good barbeque or you can follow the health code, but you can't do both at the same time".
Living according to one's stated ideals is much like that. You can respect all the rights of others, or you can remain alive. Make your choice.
So, in essence, Mr. Baker, you are saying that America should extend "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights" in a Jacksonian manner. Extend those rights in a trial manner to members of other societes, until such time as they either prove worthy, or unworthy of them.
Fair enough. That seems to be a workable basis for a discussion. I apologize for misunderstanding your point.
But what should America do to those that fundamentally fear or hate extending "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights" to others? We tried ignoring them, and it did not work so well. Containing them has worked in past, though with a horrible butcher's bill. As bloody and imperfect as it was, direct confrontation has proved the cleanest method of the past.
But we seem loathe to accept the idea of confronting Islam, either with its current batch of sins, or the sins of its "ideal man", Mohammed.
And what of our own apostates? Those in our society who seek to strip the rest of us of our "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate individual rights"? How do we resolve the growing chasm between them, and the rest of us?
In all honesty, I no longer can find value in communicating with most of the Leftists I see on any regular basis. It appears that they do not live on the world I do.
Eric, how long have you been reading TSM?
Go back and read the True Believers trilogy and Tough History Coming.
Your observations seem, to me, to be correct.
First of all, thanks for the cite. I'm glad my piece was helpful to you.
Second, you are correct that I believe killing can be reconciled, philosophically, with the sanctity of life. Perhaps I was mistaken in ascribing such a philosophy to the West as a whole.
I am launching from Jewish law here. There are a strictly limited set of circumstances in Jewish law in which one man may legally kill another. First, when a legal court or the civil government has condemned the victim to death. (I consider the Avenger of the Blood to be a subset of this, which was discontinued when societal attitudes permitted it.)
Second, in war. (I have not studied the law enough to say when wars themselves are moral.)
Third, to immediately prevent a murder. This is the principle of the "pursuer." Note that you cannot avenge a murder without court sanction.
Zeroing in on the last example, I believe that it can be reconciled as follows: by deciding to commit murder, you are perpetrating such a profane act that at that moment, you have forfeited your own sanctity. You may then be stopped, and killed if need be, to protect your victim.
Once your action is past, your life becomes sacred again. But you have guilt on your soul, which can be expiated by a legal execution. Which is a whole 'nuther thing.
But in general, I think your discussion is spot on.
My comment ended up being a post that consumed a couple hours.
I love being inspiring!
I love being inspiring!
Consider yourself successful because inspiring you are.
I don't always agree with you and I have no illusions about whether you have all the answers or not, but you bring a unique perspective that always makes me look at things from a different point of view. You inspire me to think just a little bit deeper and analyze just a little more thoroughly and for that, I thank you.
Hell, Curt, I know I don't have all the answers. I just like considering and discussing the questions.
My thanks to you for being willing to join the discussion.
I expanded my earlier comment here. I'm not quite sure that the presentation is entirely lucid, but it hinges on the importance of sanctity as the driving concept, rather than natural rightsa distinction I don't think you picked up on in my writing.
Title: Truth and Religion
Excerpt: I have to thank Kevin of The Smallest Minority. This entry is in response to his post on Atheist, Anti-Theists and such, which was a follow up to The Uber-Post. His thought provoking pieces are what prompted me to finally fulfill my threats and reope...
Blog name: Captain of a Crew of One
It has been said that rights are only meaningful to those with no power. (Unfortunately I cannot remember the source.)
I don't believe that you have ever read Hobbes. His book the Leviathan was the first time anyone ever discussed natural rights and their origin. His argument is as follows:
Basically in the state of nature, you have the right to take any action that you deem necessary to ensure your survival. It is not about specific rights so much as the fact that you cannot be expected to do otherwise.
In society we surrender our rights to take certain actions in exchange for not having these things done to us. Then we set up the state to enforce our social contract.
In society we surrender our rights to take certain actions in exchange for not having these things done to us. Then we set up the state to enforce our social contract.
It was Hobbes's argument that such a society must be a dictatorship - a benevolent dictatorship, but a dictatorship nonetheless. One HMFIC. Said HMFIC can violate anyone's or any group's rights as he deems necessary in order to maintain social order. Hobbes was justifying monarchy.
Locke's argument differed. His was justifying regicide.