Rights and Responsibilities: Discussion, soundbites, pronouncements… too much comes from places where a snapshot in time is treated as if it were there for the duration. From black and white views to more nuanced gray, from individualism, (just my rights) or societal perspectives (my responsibilities). What mine? What yours?
The Chinese language has two words for “WE/ US” that are not distinguished grammatically as subject and object. If my not great awareness of the use of “women 我们 and “zanmen 咱们 “ is correct, zanmen means “we or us, including both the speaker and the person(s) spoken to”, and women means “we or us”, as in “my group”. When we talk of rights, or of responsibilities, we are NOT individuals in our own groups, silos walled off from others. [Even planets in the depths of space are affected by others, space is not empty, it is really just a word for distance between.] We are zanmen.
If I uphold a Right, then I think this means that I have a right to this, AND so does everyone else. This is not the same as “defend to the death your right to say it: It is instead: I will try to understand what effect exercising my right has on you, therefore I can choose now, whether or not I now exercise my right. I still have my right. You still have yours. We have not been denied the right. I choose, which is another right that needs to be given some prominence. I cannot claim a right to say how you should choose the way you exercise your rights, just that we/us can choose, but I can say how your choice affects me, so maybe you will choose with that knowledge. With my understanding of each of us together, comes my responsibility. This is not the same as I HAVE a responsibility, that is more like a statement of duty arising from ideology, it is more: I am responsible: I am interested in you, as well as in myself, I acknowledge our effects on each other.
I am not going to discuss what the Charlie Hebdo group should or should not have done regarding publication of a picture of Mohammed, nor will I discuss what others should or should not have done when they chose a violent response. [Though I was informed when reading this article, and a much more general TED talk called the Danger of a Single Story.]
I simply post this, to say I hope that however one agrees or disagrees, however one sees discrimination and powerlessness, however one wants to have a right to speak, however one thinks that satire, peaceful protest or violence are effective ways to create change, please remember and think that each of us can choose, at each and every moment, what to say, what to leave silent.
And I also say: I am an atheist, but I am aware that two major religions each hold tenets something like: Thou shalt have no other gods, No graven images or likenesses. One has images all over the place, some incredibly beautiful, the other has no images, only some incredibly beautiful patterns.
Why would each, or those acting from secular persuasions, not know that the choice they make has an effect?
Is the effect likely to be empowering, or dis-empowering? Is it compassionate or cruel?