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Monday, July 18, 2016

Enjoy your Privileges. You have no Rights.

With a growing sense of angst in the world, and more and more people feeling like they have been lied to their entire lives, to have put in laborious work and be given next to nothing in return, we are currently facing some kind of crisis of acknowledgement. On the most general level, much of this acknowledgement has to do with being willing to both recognize and finally accept that doing whatever was already being done in the hopes that the world would become a better place have all but disappeared. Continuing the status quo, as observed, learned and in the case of human beings, indoctrinated by those who came before us, we have come a lot less further than may have been imagined by us. And now, we are stopping to a standstill, in a world so connectedly disconnected, you would think this was an example of dichotomous, dark humor being presented to you on your favorite network television channel. 

The more we watch unholy dramas unfold on the news, the more reports we hear about death due to differences, the usual suspects like faith, nationality, ideology, and sometimes preferences like choices of food or clothes, the more we realize that we continue down a path of steady and inevitable decline. We do not understand much of what happens in the world around us, and I am not even referring to the “natural world” and all the beautiful flora and fauna on offer. We do not even understand the world that we continue to progressively create, praising the latest version of it, until a newer one arrives, wondering why our views of history are so fleeting, when we do not manage to observe what is slapping us in the face. In my lifetime, or since 1980 to put it more precisely, and arguably before this time as well for which I will not be able to offer any convincing testimony because it is all “before my time”, the world has been bamboozling its hapless citizenry with things that are newer, louder, faster, better, and any other adjectives that will drive sales, never once looking back to see the benefits that things have brought us in the past. From things, came the need for a common medium of exchange. Once that gap was bridged, the sky was the limit as far as accumulating things, or money, or both went. 

Trouble with this scenario was the accumulation. As a manifestation of greed, it was allowed to grow through its own justification as a means to an end, and before long, it was ennobled and turned into a positive cliché, variations of which exist, but the message is one of not too much greed, but just enough; a sort of playing-it-safe tenet to live by perhaps, but easily misinterpreted and used to justify gross excesses. In fact, the juxtaposition of greed and having enough is enough to create a sort of permanent uncertainty, a grey area where people will forever argue its exact shade of grayness. I believe this is because we have given up our ability to be comfortable with “enough”. The concept is becoming more and more alien to us, even disappearing from normal and regular use in many languages. We are thrown into outdoing each other by using a bigger, better adjective to wish people well, to let them know that we care, verbally, even to hope for them to get more than they deserve, in a most positively glorious sense of such a hope, of course. The bigger, better sentiment, overall, seems to be totally averse to the notion of enough, and this has a huge impact on the way we live on this Earth. With no bearing of what too much looks like, or perhaps being convinced that what would normally have signified excess, is treated as a temporary anomaly, soon to right itself. But, this is never the case, is it. No. Before anyone knows it, too much is the new status quo, and the only risk it runs is to push itself further, higher and beyond the point of no return. And that, I am afraid, is rather where we are at the moment.

Our technologies have taken us to the brink of a strange sort of superiority. We have traveled around the entire planet, ventured into outer space, continue to explore the furthest depths of our oceans, and observe and study both stars and galaxies millions of miles away, as well as the minutest building blocks of life that make up everything we see. What our technology has not managed to do is to improve upon Nature, simply because it is only equipped with the abilities of human beings and their creations, which is different from having the abilities that the creator of human beings would be able to exercise. We keep mimicking Nature poorly, but we seem hell-bent on doing so until we no longer can. From attempting to improve the genomes of agricultural food sources, to those of animals and human beings, we play God without hesitation, and worship deities we ascribe human qualities to. In this frame of mind, what we see we can do what we wish to, or with, and in spite of the obvious signs of trouble, like death and decay, we believe that the answer to this will magically appear to us as a boon, to be used wisely, lest it corrupt us further. What we do not seem to be able to accept is, that for generations, we have attempted to implement an “improved theory of how to be”, and not only have we ignored its failures repeatedly, but we continue the narrative in much the same way. This is not too painful surely; however, what we are running out of is the opportunity to continue living in disharmonious, but surprisingly earnest apathy of the fate of everything around us, and that of ourselves as well. 

In all of this anguished confusion, but we decided that somehow, as founding members among all species, of a new style of existence, as fashioned and whose benefits were targeted at us and us alone, we had to enforce the inequality. We created “rights”, a somewhat inalienable, all-inclusive concept that was supposed to herald a world of no-person-left-behind sort of proportions. Our popular historical accounts attribute much of the active origins of this sort of democracy to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. What we do not focus on all that much with these civilizations is the fact that they had slaves. Now, to me, as the paragons of what will eventually become the form of civilization that the entire World is now a part of, how did they not understand the duplicity of their ways; to proclaim the rights of citizens, but to do so alongside slave, a group who had no rights whatsoever, not even as to what their ultimate fate would be. 

Now, these two civilizations were not the only ones who resorted to a system of slavery to subjugate those whom they managed to vanquish in battle, or abduct for profit from trade. Slavery has existed in parallel with civilization for as long as the two have been around.  This makes sense when one considers what can be referred to as a general mindset of an uncivilized human, where living in groups, while natural, is restrictive in that allowing new entrants into the group has to serve some purpose that is immediate to the welfare of the group as a whole. That is to say, if taking on a stranger to be part of the group, whether vanquished foe, shipwreck survivor, or some otherwise less aggressive mode of disassociation from his earlier comrades and/or environs as experienced by said stranger, identifying such an individual as a necessary tool to be harnessed and used, perhaps as part of a contingent of bonded labourers, would never really cross the uncivilized mind, I don’t think. Thinking like an animal, a stranger that resembles me is a serious threat to me and others of my kind, because as a member of my species, he competes for the same resources as I do, which means we are in direct competition with each other for our very survival. Therefore, there must be a very good reason to have this stranger tag along, otherwise it would be jeopardizing the lives of all members of the group, or worse, setting up for an eventual coup of the existing leadership. However, when you look at this through the lens of civilization, it is far more apparent that the civilized mind tends to look at the stranger as a potential resource, even before it begins to consider the potential threats that the stranger may bring to the mix. The civilized mind, with its penchant for subjugation, seeks to render the stranger not a threat, and this could take the usual forms of loyalty purchase, such as starvation, physical and mental trauma, psychological conditioning, and even the farfetched but often used tactic of finding the stranger a non-threatening niche within the operant framework of the civilization. Thereafter, any progress in this arrangement that benefits the group and the stranger will be considered a positive development, and anything that still does not create the uneven harmony will be considered work-in-progress, in need of improvement before the next version can be rolled out.

The world we live in views us not as individuals, but as items, resources, something that, while helping the world go round, is doing so by carrying its own weight, while contributing to the system that supports its existence. This is precisely how Nature is set up as well, however, without the obvious imperfections that its human mimics are unable to iron out. They created a dream that they had to work hardest to sell to themselves. They called it a state, a kingdom, an empire, a territory, or whatever they wanted to, glorified its excesses, and vilified its deficiencies in the face of obvious progress. They could not leave the state of the world as they had found it, imperfectly perfect as it already was, and went about carving it up to match their monstrous designs. As the system they had outlined began to flesh itself out, the changing face of a species in direct conflict with its environment and itself began to seek ways to ensure its survival under its current mode of existing to escape the Natural inevitability of the end, as “death”, and to live on to carry on the purpose that it had taken upon itself to carry out. As the cracks began to appear, particularly in a model of culture that was physically demanding an always-alert state of being that did not result in an even remuneration of efforts of this nature, it became necessary to ensure that conflict, while very much a part of the interactions of living things on the planet Earth, was treated as a sort of fire hose behind glass, to be used only in the event of extreme unrest or emergency. So, instead of baring teeth and making snarling noises, basic rights were assigned to different groups of people, some inalienable, others to be immediately disqualified from, and in spite of the imbalance built into this framework, it seemed that this would be the best way to govern the group. So, arbitrary rules and regulated understanding paved the way for an always-unsure conversation about the rights that we as human beings have, or perhaps, those that we have seen fit to grant ourselves and our fellow living creatures, albeit after providing for ourselves. This self-proclaimed bestowing of rights, to me, is the main reason why we cannot call them anything more than “privileges”. We are only as powerful as the acts that we are permitted to commit. Therefore, if our power lies in running ourselves around the wheel like hamsters, then, well, we may as well get used to the privileges we do not allow ourselves to experience, because these are ways of the world that we allow to dictate the way in which we live. Each and every living thing has rights that cannot be bestowed upon it by other living things, and in the absence of any one creator, we must come to remove ourselves from understanding and looking at the privileges we enjoy as rights. Privileges are those things that we can experience and enjoy because we find ourselves in a special time and place, but rights are the restrictions that claim to show us freedom, but keep us in the hunt for more of these that we may be able to avail of for our own personal glory. Rights are the chains that have been carefully defined, for should this definition change, or should the individual change to be unsuited to this definition, she or he will not have the right to protest their very exclusion, arbitrary though their inclusion has always been.
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