Monday, January 4, 2010

Urgent case study: rights definitions

I'm signed on and writing this before doing anything else because I just heard something on a talk show that helped me to realize a huge confusion that I can clear up right here and now. Hi young people, because this is especially for you, you'll see why in a moment. The previous two generations have become so mentally illiterate and sloppy that they no longer understand the definitions of the words they use in everyday speech but, most alarmingly, in politics and the search for social justice. It is no wonder that people are arguing over the correct way to solve huge problems because not only are they not discussing the same thing, defined the same way, they don't even understand what they are arguing for, on behalf of.

The first word I want to clarify, since that is what the talk show mentioned, is "rights." The talk show hosts played a sound byte from a politician where the politician claimed that they (politicians) "create" or "give" rights to people. No, that is incorrect, and the talk show hosts were quick to point this out. Yet I know that many of you would think that rights are created. They are not created; rights are in existence, continual existence. It is the depriving of rights that is the problem in society, so that is the first part of what I want to explain.

Every human being, just by virtue of existing, has certain absolute rights. They are not "rights" conferred by other human beings. To calm those social justice people (and believe me, I am on your side, I am coaching you though in a grave error) let me start with an obvious example. When you are born, no one had to give you a piece of paper saying you had the right to breathe the air. I mean, duh. If someone smothers you, though, they have deprived you of your rights. Do you understand that? When a human being is born they have rights already in existence, the complete set of rights all humans need and are born into, not given to them. Now you can understand the wording of the Founding Fathers better, where they recognize these inherent pre-existing eternal rights, not confer them. Believers understand that these rights are given by God when humans were created in the first place. Ethical non-believers understand that even if they deny a God, those rights are already in place, and don't have to be spelled out by a set of human beings, because it it "natural law" (believers use that term too), or "the right thing to do," or the "ethics of human rights" or other God-neutral but ethic phrases and philosophies. Both believers and non-believers who are ethical understand that genuine rights are eternal, inborn, and already in existence.

That is the first part of what the past two generations have warped and misunderstood. They have taken the eternal and inborn existence of rights and forgotten what that really means. When did this happen? Pretty much in the 1960's when people started saying "I want my rights." Yes, they were correct to perceive that those who suffered injustice were being deprived of rights. But "rights" became shorthand for remedies. Rights are not remedies. Rights cannot be created. They are already in existence. Rights exist and every thinking human, whether a believer or not, needs to protect the language in order to maintain clarity that all people have certainty of the rights that are inborn of being human.

So whether you believe in God or not you must understand that in the USA the Founding Fathers recognized that certain rights are in pre-existence. Go back to the example of the baby being born having the right to breathe air, even though no one wrote a piece of paper saying that that this baby has a license or permit under the law to breathe air upon birth. Anyone who is not insane or an idiot understands that. Thus it is really easy to understand that the right to be alive (including being able to breathe) is automatic upon coming alive (being born), duh. If someone takes a pillow and smothers the baby on birth, two things have happened. The baby's right to life was violated and so the baby was, to use the correct language "deprived of his or her rights." So you have "rights" and their opposite, which is not the "lack of rights" but the "deprivation of rights." And here is where it had become naturally confusing: not only was the smothered baby deprived of his or her rights (to life), but a civil crime was committed, assault, battery and murder. This is where the thinking became blurry during the 1960's and got worse and worse until now when it seems no one understands simple basic concepts and definitions anymore.

Just a pause, this is not going to turn into an abortion argument, so put that aside and let us work together for clarity about human rights. I am using the baby, full term, born in a wanted situation (presumably) for its universal ease in understanding, not for agenda. Keep that in mind when I start to also discuss in this case study civil (racial) deprivation of rights.

The Founding Fathers recognized every human being already has three basic "rights:" life (the right to be alive and not to have life truncated, such as in the smothering), liberty (the right to be free and not in bondage to another human being) and the pursuit of happiness (the right to lead one's life in search of sustaining and satisfaction). If you think about this, this is such a profound insight. In a pithy way the Founding Fathers summarized, using three simple words and phrases, these universal God given (or natural law/ethics) rights and pre-exist.

So you say, well, why was slavery and so forth legal when one has the right to liberty? Now you are getting it. Notice to ask me that question you said slavery was "legal?" It was not, correctly speaking, a right; many laws and social customs are violation of and deprivation of inherent rights. The civil rights movement started out using the verbiage correctly, but society started eroding their understanding of the fact that it happens every day throughout human society, this problem:

1. All humans have inherent rights not created by humans but eternal and already in place.
2. Some humans deprive other human beings of those rights.
3. Some deprivation of rights are actually legal under human made laws, but they are always wrong as they are deprivation of rights.
4. Human rights must always trump laws that deprive of human rights, but in reality we see that often the opposite takes place.
5. Rights cannot be created; rights already exist. What humans can do is restore those who have been deprived of their rights to no longer be deprived.

So now let me tackle the second core area of confusion about rights and the law. We now understand that rights already exist, totally without human creation or control. We also recognize that the problem is humans who deprive other humans of their rights. Thus slavery, while legal, was not "a right," (even if in the lingo people used that word) but slavery was, instead, a legal but unrighteous deprivation of human rights. Remember there is worldwide slavery still going on, both of servitude and sexual, and thus we must urgently understand that there is no "right," either legal or for "free market" reasons, for slavery in any form at all. Period. When slaves are freed they have not "gained" a right; their inherent rights have been restored.

So the second area of confusion exists around the terms "entitlement" and "reparation." Let's roll up sleeves and clear that up so we can actually get something done in this world before it is too late.

Remember that no one has a right to tax; taxing is a law, a mechanism, not a right. An entitlement is an expenditure of money gained by taxes, but it is a specific form of expenditure as a group is designated by "title" to receive funds. Thus that group is "entitled" because the name of the group segregates them from others so they receive special tax money. Let's use an obvious example.

The baby has been born and was not smothered, and so mother and father now have a person with a new title in their family "a child." Under USA tax law anyone who has the title "child" is entitled to being a tax deduction on the government tax forms. The baby was born with rights, but not with an entitlement. Entitlements are political, social, monarch or other human based decisions to confer or not, and has nothing to do with "rights." Too many people, both conservatives and liberals, think that they have a "right" to "entitlements." They may have a legal right, but we are speaking of human rights here. Human rights have become blurred by those who most advocate them by mixing them up with the concept of legal remedies and legal rights such as entitlements. Humans pass and enact entitlements for their own perceived fairness or merit agendas; humans do not create "rights" because human rights already exist.

So one must maintain clarity of thought and language, when one is debating or problem solving the giving of human laws/legal entitlements versus the problem of restoring deprived human rights. Too many well meaning people have ferocious arguments that are bull crap because they are not even speaking about either rights or entitlements/remedies/deprivation of rights (three different things). Do not "look" to law for "your rights," unless you mean "legal rights". In other words, no law states that a baby has the obvious human right to breathe the air. A law does say you can't smother a baby. If you look to human law for God given (natural, ethical) rights, you are lost from the very beginning, as human rights are in pre-existence, not conferred by law.

Human rights are like gold in a mine that is as yet undiscovered. The gold is already there and it's not there because some human "created gold" and then "injected it into a mountain," duh. Yet people can pass laws about who can own or explore the land. Those laws have nothing to do with the fact that the gold already exists, without the will or workings of mere human hands. Human rights exist and are eternal, no matter what a human being says or does. The problem is that many people deprive others of their human rights. It would be as if people told each other, "Well, the unmined gold in that mountain only exists if you have brown eyes, while if you have blue eyes that gold does not exist." We are not even speaking of the legality of pursuing the mining, we are speaking of a lack of reality of people who deprive others of their human rights, saying those human rights do not exist when they do, obviously, just as the gold exists whether you have brown eyes or blue.

This, young people, is one reason why faith in God gives, not takes away, strength, logic and clarity to human actions. Those who believe in God have a better comprehension of God given human rights. This is not because they necessarily "do better" or "behave better" or are "more moral" or "more ethical" than a well meaning atheist, for example. I'm not saying that at all. Rather, what I am saying is that non-believing human rights advocates live entirely within the framework of human created laws, and often they are caught and limited by the snares of human nature and laws. They say "you don't need to believe in God to be good," and that is true, but if they do not believe in God, then they believe only in the goodness of man, and that can only be understood, as a consequence, via deeds and laws. They inadvertently take their eyes off of the inherent truth of eternal inborn human rights (since they don't believe it is God given and inborn) and thus they think of rights as good behavior and laws. They put their own well meaning aim too low and too limited.

Like abortion, I am not making this about black/white slavery (notice I am speaking much of modern slavery, which is commercial/sexual and labor servitude) so do not try to discern agenda: I'm on everyone's side here. But I will now deliberately discuss the black/white slavery legacy in order to build upon the clarity of definitions by now tackling "remedy" and "reparations." I'm not using USA Native Americans in the case study because I need to keep this a global example.

First, to recap:
1. Human rights are inborn and pre-exist.
2. Human rights can be deprived, and often are, but are not created by humans.
3. Deprived human rights must be addressed and restored. In other words the depriving of rights must cease.
4. Entitlements are a special legal monetary consideration given to a designated group, which reflects the priorities of society.
5. Remedies are the means by which an injustice is corrected and rights restored, not "given."

Let's start with an easy example. Someone breaks into your house and steals your television. The police catch the person and give you back your television. The police "restore" your goods, your television, they do not need to write a law "giving you a right to own a television." You already had the right to the television.

Human rights are the same thing. The rights already exist, but some humans deprive others. Those humans need to be stopped from depriving others. When someone is stopped from depriving a person of their rights, all is automatically good again. The rights were always there, but someone blocked you from them. Now the rights are restored when the person stops depriving you of them.

But hold on, you say, damage is done when rights were deprived. I agree. But you must be clear in your mind what you are working on in a given moment: 1) restoring access to deprived rights and/or 2) compensating for the damage.

Let's say the thief smashed a window to get into your house to take the TV. If, in our silly but usefully clear example, TV represents a human right you already had, when the police remove the deprivation of your right as a problem (someone else had your TV) that concludes their role in this matter. Part of society must focus on ensuring that no one's rights are deprived. That is not the same as the part of society that now helps you to inventory the damage and get you back on your feet. The police do not fix your window, or give you money to have it fixed. They also do not take a window out of the thief's house and give it to you. Human rights campaigners must focus, like the TV recovering police, on removing obstacles to other people's access to their pre-existing human rights. Human rights should not at all complicate their essential first priority with issues of remedy and reparations, since those require human created processes, rules, law, procedures and logic. For example the homeowner may have an insurance policy and pursues remedy based not on human rights but the commercial agreement he or she has in place for insurance reimbursement.

Now, here's where we need to clear up the whole "slavery reparations" language. You might, being an attentive reader, now put two and two together and say, "Well, suppose the culture gives an entitlement that all people who had TV's stolen from them gets a $100 tax credit or payment to remedy that their rights were violated." Now you are talking! See? Now you are getting somewhere. You have separated the restoration of deprived human rights from the "picking up the mess left behind" process. That would be a logical use of the entitlement human made process, not right to address lingering damage from a now corrected deprivation of human rights. An entitlement is the creating of a group of people based on their title (titles such as senior citizens, social security recipients, children, people who had their TV's stolen) who now receive goods, services or usually monatary special consideration. Remember, a human baby has the pre-existing universal inborn right to be born and to breathe the air, a crime is committed (and that right was deprived) if the baby is smothered, but the decision to give a tax deduction to the successfully born baby is an entitlement based on the title "child."

Suppose someone tried to smother the baby in the hospital and while they did not succeed they did some real damage to the baby. This is now the area of remedy and it is entirely dealt with by human laws and processes. This is where morality must be one's compass and this is what the Bible means about being "righteous" and "just." Here's what I mean.

Righteousness and justice must be immediate and focused on the actual people involved in the problem. You go after the guy who stole the TV for remedy and damages, not anyone who ever stole a TV. You go after whoever tried to smother your baby (and perhaps the bad procedures of where this crime took place), but you don't sue every hospital and every person who ever wronged a child. In other words, remedy is targeted and immediate. Too many in society have drifted away from that understanding in their attempts to "recover" what is they are "entitled to." See? That's wrong language. No one is "entitled" to "remedy" unless an entitlement law exists that all people who had stolen TV sets (title) receive $100. Remedy is the attempt to provide justice and righteousness after a wrong has been committed, and there is a wide range of possible valid avenues for remedy, all based on human law, process and free will regarding goodness, charity and virtue.

Two people each had a TV stolen via smashed windows. One gets reimbursement from their insurance company. The other does not have insurance, but has a friend who owns a window business and the friend, through charity, rebuilds and replaces the window for free.

The term "reparations" is best understood as the financial punishment levied onto the combatant who is defeated in a war. So now, build on the foundation I have given to you about entitlements and remedy. If one country is attacked unjustly by another, yet defeats the aggressor at great cost, the aggrieved victorious country may well indeed impose reparations onto the aggressor losing nation. The most obvious example of that is World War I when huge, back breaking reparations were placed upon Germany, the aggressor and loser of the war. (And put aside all the nuance around who did what to whom and stick to the basic facts). In reparations you clobber the entire country because they are the unit by which the injustice occurred. So even the peace movement in the aggressor country would get clobbered by reparations, as no distinction is made. That's not entirely bad because we all understand enablers, whether willing or against their will. It's the theory that a country could not war if people such as farmers did not keep growing food and thus enable the war machine, even if the farmers themselves were against the war in the first place.

That is the slippery slope of reparations. They are strictly speaking logical but in reality there is a huge problem. The first problem is that it must be immediate. In other words, the second generation should not pay for the war of the first generation. The second problem is, as I stated, reparations are the largest and broadest of all entitlements. The title thus becomes "an entire country."

Those are the problems in logic and justice that even well meaning black/white slave reparations face, which is why it is a waste of time to discuss it, really. I am not at all marganizing what has been done, but I am trying to be your friend and your coach and teach you how to be alive and have your rights today. So bear with me as we use this sensitive subject in this case study.

You no doubt agree with me that reparations must be 1) immediate and 2) appropriately targeted. I bet you think I'm going to say it's "too late" for reparations, since legal slavery ended over one hundred years ago. Nope, I'm not going to say that. I'm going to help you get reparations. Here is what you need to do. You need to determine who took your TV or, rather, your ancestors' TV, and you have suffered as a result. Thus you need to research in Africa which tribes first captured your ancestors and name them as the first liable group for reparations. In general many Africans were captured and sold into slavery by rival African tribes. So you need to identify which ones were involved and proportion responsibility. Then you need to identify the European countries/monarchies that funded the slave capturing and transport. Your rights were first deprived by those who captured your ancestors, those who stole your TV, and by those who provided the capturing and transportation facilities. Your rights were then secondly in time sequence deprived by the slave owners who purchased and kept the slaves. Thus you must outline the shape of your "war reparations country" in order to appropriately target them. But in your case it is a virtual country, to use the computer term, who owe you reparations. Not to be political I will make up names, except for the USA.

Virtual reparations country: 30% the African tribes X, Y, Z who captured and sold slaves, 30% the European countries O, P, Q who seized slaves, provided men and ships to transport them, 40% the actual white people in the USA who sold, owned and profited from slaves.

You see the problem? Genuine reparations have one of two possiblities: 1) designate a country as being "guilty" such as was done in WWI or 2) identify those who actually conducted the wrong and apportion blame according to their actual participation.

So without taking sides, dear friends, I am simply teaching you the difference between genuine reparations and entitlements. A society could take the stance that every person who had an almost smothered child, or a stolen TV (and I'm not trivializing, but using the case study materials) gets an entitlement based on that title as a remedy. A society could try to designate that those who descended from an almost smothered child also receives an entitlement. The problem is that entitlement comes from your own participatory tax dollars, by definition. Reparations comes from "the other guy" the one who "actually did it." In order to do just reparations you have to research and apportion (wow, would that keep lawyers busy!) guilt and blame and then trace the descendants and apportion the cost of the reparations aka entitlement to them. You know that makes very little sense because the rule of reparations is that if done against a group you are indeed charging those who were innocent and against the war in the first place, and also their subsequent generations.

I don't want to get too far into transforming this into a slavery reparations case study since this is a case study about rights, and how rights are inborn and eternal, compared to human devices such as deprivation of rights, entitlements, remedy, crime and reparations.

But you see that many in public office, and privately, have their definitions all backwards and blurry and ultimately ineffective. As a result humans are farther from understanding their inherent God (or natural/ethical) given rights, rather than closer. So when I listen to political or legal debate I really find it so pointless because people are not even sure what they are arguing about factually and clearly, in truth. This is a problem of rights, entitlement and remedy policy in all parts of life in all societies and governments, where people have lost actual understanding of the ultimate motivation which is inborn rights of all humans and the removal of the means of depriving rights in the here and now. Without that first everything else is futile and even counterproductive fail. What good will it be if two hundred years from now people are arguing how to remedy the legacy of child sexual slavery and abuse, for example, if they allowed it to happen in the here and now? People, it's only one lived human life apiece, and one earth, and the consequences (and thus remedies) must happen in the here and now, based on universal recognition of authentic inborn human rights and removal of real deprivations of those human rights.

I hope that you have understood this and find it helpful.