The other day I ended up in a discussion with someone on Twitter. We were talking about wearing masks during a pandemic and when that interferes with personal choice. It ended up in a discussion about when your rights aren’t right.
Let me explain.
Naked Woodsmen and Angry Neighbors
You have rights. However those rights aren’t for all situations. Why? Because other people have rights too. The best way to explain this is to think of being naked.
See, if you live all alone in the woods, you can run around naked all day long. Who would care? Who are you affecting? Your right to throw caution to the wind, as well as your undies, is completely unaffected.
However, when you live with other people in a community, you forfeit some of those rights to gain the benefits of living in that community. You can still run around in the buff through your house to your heart’s content, but when you head outdoors you throw on some clothes because your neighbors also have rights including the right not to see their neighbors strutting their goods at all hours of the day.
If you want to know when your rights aren’t right, you have to consider this: your rights should not trample on other’s rights. When you live in a community, you must respect the rights of others and not just expect your rights to always trump anyone else’s.
Let’s talk about a few other examples.
Schools, Fire Departments, and Chemical Spills
You may recall a few years ago I talked about how taxes for schools are everyone’s responsibility whether you have kids or not. Why? Because schools are not just about educating individuals. They are about training the workforce.
That grocery clerk who counts out your change or that police officer who writes out that report or that fire fighter who engineers the saving of your house along with scores and scores of others in your community who help you all the time were trained at those schools.
Speaking of fire fighters, think about this: let’s say you’re not pleased that you have to pay for a fire department. Perhaps you want to either take care of a fire yourself or take the chance rather than pay those taxes.
But when you live in a community, you are not just putting your house at risk, but your neighbors as well. If your house is on fire and not put out, chances are it will spread and do a huge amount of damage to your neighbors and your community.
It’s the same reason you can’t pour out toxic chemicals in your own yard. You may think it’s your property, but that can leech into communal water. These are times when your rights aren’t right: when they trump the rights of others.
Individual Rights vs. Collective Rights
Here’s the thing: we all have rights. They are all equal. That means when you’re alone, your rights are pretty expansive, but when you’re in a group, they become less. Why? Because other people have rights too.
If you want to live alone in a cabin in the woods, there are a lot of things you can do that you can’t do when you live in a community. There are a lot of benefits to living in a community. That also comes with doing things that take others’ rights into account and being flexible with your own rights so they don’t trample the rights of others.
It’s why we don’t just think of ourselves, but our fellow humans. We’re all in this together, and the more we realize that, the better our choices can be.