Original Thought · Self Improvement

Rights and Responsibilities

“I have a right to my privacy” were the first words I heard on the radio this morning as someone who had been accused of possession of child pornography complained that his private life was being upturned and police and media were prying into his personal life.

The next story was about a group in Quebec challenging the governments plan to block Internet gambling sites in order to protect citizens from evil and preserve their gaming revenue. The group contends that their freedom of expression is reduced if they can’t access whatever they want on the Internet.

I was at a registry this week renewing my driver’s license when an angry man in his 40’s started shouting ” I couldn’t get on my flight because my license had expired and you didn’t send me a reminder notice.”

At yoga last night, there was a complaint that “the school didn’t tell me that my 5 year old would need to go into the gym for assembly, with all the other kids from his school. ” I have a right to know everything that could effect him”.

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It is difficult for me to not be judgmental. Generally I have strong personal opinions that often don’t align with what I hear in my world. I believe that our rights should be defended at every turn. I should defend, you should defend, we should all defend. But with every right there is an associated and often unspoken responsibility. In fact in every situation, we bear personal responsibility for out actions and consequences. Rights can’t and shouldn’t absolve us of those responsibilities, they should encourage us to take both rights and responsibilities seriously.

Often the most vitriolic defense of ‘my rights’ is when someone feels that the treatment or service they received didn’t meet what they felt they needed. On examination, we might realize that we have been coddled by authorities in whose interest we have been absolved rather than involved in decisions and actions that impact us. I was aware, because I pay attention, that the government wasn’t sending out reminder notices to renew and marked a date in my calendar (well ahead of expiry) to visit the office and get it done. When incidents occur in my life where I am unhappy with the consequences, I ask ” should I/ could I have known? Could I/should I have done something else? Was I speeding? is my health condition a result of lifestyle choices?” Often I can’t change the consequences but I can accept that if “I did the crime, I should do the time”. Rather than being quick to shift blame to a scapegoat, it is more productive to accept evaluate my culpability and accept my role in the results. If atonement is needed – I like to get it over with quickly.

I don’t have any advise for those that see the world differently other than to suggest that sacred texts have been offering thoughts like “why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” for thousands of years. Maybe it is time to pay attention to the words and the log.

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