It seems like a whole lot of people lack a basic understanding of what is meant by a right. Take healthcare, for example. If I say healthcare is a basic human right, this is often met with the retort that healthcare is not a right. These people are clearly not in possession of a basic understanding of the concept of rights. I am not asking permission for my rights, I am demanding them – even the ones that are already established. That’s what rights are – they are demands. It’s really as simple as that. Well, not quite that simple, as I will show here by describing the 3 stages in the life of a right.
1. The right is demanded – Sometimes it comes with a spark in the mind of one or a few people, and other times it’s a slow burn. Through history countless people have turned their eyes toward their societies and decided enough was enough, and that some manner of being within that society was not adequate to their liking. These people would often form groups of some kind and start demanding changes that they saw as essential to the functioning of a great and just society.These fights have not always been easy, but on just about every occasion they started with a lot of people saying they were impossible and not worth the time to fight for. There were also plenty of people on each and every occasion actively looking to stop the demanders of these rights from gaining power and influence, because the new right or rights being demanded would award them negative consequences, typically removing them of their ill-gotten wealth, power, and prestige.
2. The right is enacted into law – At this stage, the governing body in question has bowed to intense pressure from the groups demanding their rights, who have managed to gather a sizable portion of the population to support the cause. This stage, often viewed in terms of being a victory, is a fragile stage in the right’s life, as the malevolent forces trying to stop the right will act in desperation to make sure it is overturned.
3. The right is accepted as central to the functioning of a just and great society – At this point, opposition to the right is seen as a fringe idea and assumed to be ridiculous by most reasonable people. Philosophy 101 classes may discuss the right as an intellectual exercise, with a few people playing devil’s advocate to stir things up, but no one seriously believes the right will be removed or the decision to establish the right be reversed.
Looks can be deceiving, however, and even in stage 3, those of us who consider ourselves defenders of the rights of humanity must remain vigilant.
And that has been the 3 stages in the life of a right.