Human Rights Imply Limits on Behavior

I’d like to look at a matter that has come up repeatedly in the discussion group and seems clear to me but sometimes perhaps not to others. Please let me know if you see something amiss in my argument.

Every human right or freedom implies a limit on human behavior.

If I argue that I have the right, as a student at University of California Davis, to peacefully protest, peacefully speak, etc. (notice the limit implied immediately in the word “peacefully”), and the police do not have the right to pepper-spray me for it, for me to have that human right and freedom, does it not mean that the freedom of the police to pepper-spray has to be curtailed?

For me to assert a human right or freedom means for another to limit their behavior, does it not? Philosophically speaking, we’re discussing the situation where person A interacts with person B and the granting of the right or freedom to person A means the curtailing of the behavior of person B.

It may vary somewhat from society to society what people regard as human rights and as a violation of them. But below those variations will be some standard of a “universal” human right, such as the right to speak, assemble, choose whom we wish to marry, etc.

In our societies, neither are freedoms absolute nor are limits on behavior absolute. I cannot argue that my freedom is absolute and therefore I have the right to torture and kill you. That’s what Gaddhafi did and was overthrown. That’s what al-Assad does and his people will probably also overthrow him.

It seems to me that we prefer to shy away from the notion that the provision of human rights entails curtailing behavior. We don’t like to think of ourselves as constraining the behavior of others. Until those others threaten us and then we look around for those who would enforce the law against the violation of human rights. The question is not as black and white as it seems.

At the very basis of the notion of a human right lies the necessity that, in its name, some are called upon to restrict their behavior. To me that notion seems self-evident. Why else would we have human rights or discuss them if what is also not being discussed is the restriction that is implied on some other form of behavior that threatens them? If no restriction were needed, then no right would need to be articulated.

Freedom of religion curtails people who are not of that religion to discriminate against its followers. Freedom of assembly curtails the police from breaking up peaceful demonstrations. Freedom of speech restricts one group from preventing another from speaking under normal circumstances and within limits.

In my view, the notion of human rights and freedoms is meant to provide a guide that will allow people to interact peacefully when living together in society. If I lived on a desert island, where no one else lived, I would have complete freedom, as far as I can see. But when other people enter the picture, then we may need some guidelines and agreements on how to be and interact with each other.

I would think that any society, with the best interests of its citizens at heart, would want to ensure to them the maximum freedom possible. But where the society would limit behavior would be where the actions of one person promise to inflict serious harm or injury on another.

I believe we’ve often watched those who would like to inflict serious harm or injury, such as a skinhead, fall back on the argument that when they say that Jews and blacks should be killed, they are exercising their freedom of speech. But typically that argument does not hold up in a court where law prevails, only in a setting where violence prevails.

The same person who doesn’t want the police to harm them for speaking freely would also like, I’d imagine, the police to protect them from others who intend to harm them for speaking freely. So it isn’t the case that the idea of “police” is totally irrelevant to a society that values human rights. It’s that we wish them to behave “properly”; i.e., in defence of human rights by limiting the free actions of others who would bring serious harm or injury to those practicing that right.

A second concept: what constitutes a human right or freedom may vary from setting to setting. Human rights and freedoms are in some respects malleable and negotiable and may vary, depending on circumstance. In a general assembly of people, where the general interest is what is sought, rather than a special interest, the right of freedom of speech may be valued above all else.

But in a special assembly, where people gather because they have a special interest (a Christian church, Muslim mosque, or Jewish synagogue, for instance), the assembly agrees to more restriction of speech in order to pursue the special interest that the assembled citizens share. Is that not so?

So, for instance it would be inappropriate to come into a Christian church and say that Jesus was a fraud; the people there have assembled to worship him. Or to come into a Muslim temple and berate Mohammed, or Buddha in a Buddhist temple, and so on. At least not in a society that valued the freedom of assembly.

So the freedom of assembly may put further constraints upon freedom of speech, by common consent. The resort of a person who believes Jesus is a fraud is to start their own group or church, which is based on that belief, and invoke freedom of speech and assembly to keep out others who wish to change their point of view. Again their freedom of speech may be curtailed if what they advocate in that special assembly is harm to people who consider Jesus not to be a fraud.

To reframe Newton, for every right, there is an equal and opposite constraint.

The subjects we pursue here – the existence of extraterrestrials, NESARA, Ascension, for example – have cost many of us the good regard of our friends and families. Can it not be seen that we would then like to limit discussion in our discussion groups to those who are friendly to those things and events and not have people ridicule us in the special assembly we’ve formed to permit our discussing them without being ridiculed? It seems evident to me.

When people who criticize us for discussing those matters freely in the group are reminded of the focus of the group, they typically say that their freedom of speech is being limited or curtailed. But the charter for the group says that all who congregate here have done so exactly for that purpose – to focus discussion on those subjects and to allow a space where advocates of them can gather without being molested. Where are grounds for grievance?

Very soon we’re promised a return to individual sovereignty, by people whose very existence most members of society deny (angels and extraterrestrials). But that return to individual sovereignty does not mean that I can torture, maim, or kill you. I have not complete independence to do whatever I please.

Even if we had no courts of law, we would still have the natural law of karma which would say that I cannot kill another. When God gave Moses divine laws, one of the chief of them was “Thou shalt not murder,” was it not? So among the first things God did was to constrain behavior.

And did not Moses speak of “living in accordance with the law”? And did that not involve a voluntary constraint of certain lines of behavior – taking the Lord’s name in vain, failing to observe the Sabbath, etc.? The fact that we no longer observe those “laws” very much does not make them any less desirable to those who do. People have a right to agree on how they shall live, in general and special assembly, as long as it does not bring serious harm or injury to another.

For every protester, there is someone who hopes that the person they protest against will limit or curtail their behavior. I don’t think we can escape, probably ever, wedding the two concepts: freedom and limits on behavior. If there is somewhere where this conception of human rights and freedoms falls down, I’d welcome hearing about it.

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