THERE is much talk these days of the individual’s right to – well almost everything.
And a lot of that talk is becoming increasingly shrill, as if by being bombastic, rudezzz and offensive makes the assertion of ”my rights” even more certain.
Objectively assessed however, there are no “rights” in play; it is usually an expression of a particular personal viewpoint.
There is certainly little, often no, consideration of the view of the other, let alone any consideration of the complementary “rights” of the other.
Such narrowly focused and individualistic expressions of interest are unworthy of a liberal democracy in which we live where there are “rights” under law but there are also substantial obligations, a fact often overlooked in any discussion these days about a range of issues from “marriage equality” to “the right to life”.
My “rights” are often asserted as more important than any “others”; a reflection of the cult of individualism which pervades our society.
I think or feel “x”, so “x” becomes all important and dominate without any consideration of how “x’ may impact the lives of others.
In asserting “my rights” above all others, I do a great injustice.
I fail to listen and learn from the other.
In asserting “my rights” above all others, I ignore the legitimate claim of the other.
In asserting “my rights” above all others, I trample all over the others; which in its extreme, denies the core of humanness, the “right to life, the right to love”.
The most recent example of this I have observed was a report in The Courier Mail Online of May 10, reporting on a bill introduced into the Queensland parliament to extend the right to obtain an abortion.
The claim was that a “woman’s right to choose” was a right over all others.
No mention of the “rights of others” including the child that she nurtures and sustains both before and after birth.
No mention of the community good associated with enhancing and protecting all human life in a sustainable way.
Pope Francis has decried the “throw away culture’ that western societies have been particularly good at developing.
In the encyclical, Laudato Si the Pope asked us to recognise the need to care for our human, cultural and natural environments.
Put another way, the Pope asks us to recognise our obligations to others and our environment.
These are, according to the Pope, rights and obligations we all have based in divine and natural law.
In the context of the federal election, the consideration of our “rights” needs to be tempered by an equal consideration of our “obligations”.
In the consideration of who is best to govern we should keep in mind that Australia is a Federation where the “common wealth” of its citizens should be at the forefront of our minds.
In the political debates we should keep in mind the “others”, particularly those whose voices we will not hear; the unborn, the old, the displaced.
By Michael Sinclair
Michael Sinclair is the special projects officer to the Archbishop of Brisbane.