A Response to “Freedom and the Need for Social Responsibility”

Here is a response I recently received regarding one of my recent posts “Freedom and the Need for Social Responsibility.” (quotations are from my post)

“A man asked, “so does that mean that I would have the freedom to start singing during your lecture?””

No, because there are property rights involved that trump a right to free speech on someone else’s property.

“In countries that enjoy as much freedom as we do in America, are required to exercise a greater amount of social responsibility—a greater amount of self control and empathy for others.”

It is not a requirement if individuals rights are fully understood. A person doesn’t have to have empathy for my private property rights but he does need to understand that his freedom of speech does not give him a right to put his soapbox up on my property in order to shout out the virtues of Communism to all who pass by.

The Chinese guy’s question is not hard to answer if you fully understand the concept of individual rights that America started out with.

The real difficulty with evaluating your point is that, well there is no point actually – just be nice to each other? Why can’t we just all get along or something.

There are a few things that bother me about this response.  1:  The idea that “a greater amount of self control and empathy for others” is not necessary “if individuals rights are fully understood” This statement alone bothers me, but he doesn’t stop there.  He continues: “A person doesn’t have to have empathy for my private property rights but he does need to understand that his freedom of speech does not give him a right to put his soapbox up on my property in order to shout out the virtues of Communism to all who pass by.”  To be clear, I never said anything about Communism.  But more importantly, is he really saying that an understanding of “individual rights” is more important – more necessary – than empathy for another person?  Also, I’m not sure if it is possible to “have empathy for my private property rights.”  You don’t have empathy for things or ideas, but for people.  This is what I meant by the need for social responsibility.  

Finally, and the real kicker is the man’s conclusion that my post didn’t really have any point – “just be nice to each other? Why can’t we just all get along or something.”  No point?  Really?  I mean he throws out these two possibilities as if they carry little weight, as if they are too naive to even consider.  Look, I realize it’s not that simple to “just” get along, or to “just” be nice to each other.  I’m not an idiot. 

Here’s my point, whittled down.  I’m fed up with people caring more about legal rights than they do about actual people.  When I say social responsibility I don’t mean open up the law book and see what it says.  I mean be concerned about other people.  Not this “just be nice to each other” three year-old philosophy.  I’m talking about real caring.  And why not ask the question “why can’t we all get along?”  Yes it’s a naive question – or rather it’s a naive question if you think it has an easy answer, or a relatively practical solution.  But why not ask the question?  Ask it like an adult.  What is it about humans that makes it so hard for us to get along?  Why do we need to talk about property rights and copyright infringement and on and on.  “My right this!”  “My right that!”  Why do we have to beat our way through the legal system, through the Bible, through whatever “sacred” text to force people to live together as a whole society?  Goddamn it why?  Why do we care so little for each other?  I want to know.  Why the fuck don’t we care about people?

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