Dying Daily #117: Know Your Rights

This one is a little muddled right now, we’ll see if it clears up or not. It’s a conversation I’ve been having quite a bit lately, so maybe it will.
I’ll just ramble about The Jungle Book if it doesn’t.

I am really fascinated with how there is all this stuff that only exist in relation to humans and human culture and human society.

Things like ideologies and abstract concepts and a bunch of other stuff, all only exist because humans have developed a way to share ideas. At some point, we tend to forget these things are created and think they have an inherent foundation or Truth to them.

I tend to be pretty utilitarian in my beliefs and ideas.

I struggle to understand the notion of arguing against or sticking with something based on some sense of inherent rightness or wrongness. I don’t have a problem with people doing otherwise, but I often have a hard time seeing the usefulness of what they are fighting for or against. I tell people that my litmus test for the reality of something is whether or not it would keep a bear (or Shere Khan!) from eating me.
The notion of rights is one of these abstractions, and it is one we have come to believe has some inherent Truth in it. We base this either on a deity that bestowed them or by giving society some kind of cosmic power, or by simply not examining the idea that they exist on their own. I see where this belief causes people a lot of distress and suffering as they insist on asserting their right to something – happiness or to be treated fairly or to get their turn – rather than simply doing what needs to be done to improve the situation.

Rights aren’t real in any concrete sense.

Think of it this way: students have the “right of way” on Texas Tech’s campus, which they often exercise indiscriminately, walking out in front of buses and cars. Can they do this? Yes. But the right of way loses to the law of physics. Another example that comes to mind is when Murtaugh revokes that guy’s diplomatic immunity with a bullet to the head.
That was awesome.

Maybe the thing here is that rights are dependent on other people, so we are putting ourselves at their mercy when we assert them instead of doing what we need to do to take care of ourselves or fix things.

I think we’d like to say to we are doing this because we are sticking up for ourselves or defending what is right, but really we may just be acting out of pride or letting our ego pop up and run the show.
Let’s be clear. I like the idea of rights, I think the idea that people have some inherent protections and dignity is one of the better things society has created and enforced. I’m not arguing against rights, but I am questioning whether asserting them out of principle instead of making things better for yourself is always wise, especially in close relationships with others. I watch a lot of marriages fall apart as two people fight for their rights instead of caring about the other person or fixing things.

One of the rights we assert most vehemently is fairness.

I also like the idea of fairness, but find that getting too deep into it often ends up causing me trouble. It’s amazing how quickly the mind can take the idea of fairness and turn everyone around me into freeloaders who are taking advantage of me. I rarely arrive at the notion that I am treating others unfairly very quickly, but my mind is very quick to jump to the idea that I am being taken advantage of.
Maybe it’s not my turn to wash the dishes, and fairness states that I shouldn’t have to. The problem is that this keeps me from doing more because I love my family or condemns me to live in a nasty house if my partner also digs their heels in.
Fairness dictates when it is my turn to go at a 4 way stop, but if someone else is behaving unfairly asserting this right leaves me with a wrecked vehicle.
In fairness, I am entitled to my opinion whenever and however I want to, but how often is this going to turn out well?

I consistently find that much of my happiness comes from not looking at the fairness of situations or asking what my rights are, but in doing for others first. I find a lot of peace when I do not even consider what I am entitled to, but take care of what needs to be taken care of.

Where are you letting getting what you deserve or asserting your rights keep you from creating peace in your life?
Where are you allowing these things to cause tension and discord between you and the people you love?
What does fairness actually mean?
Who gets to decide what is fair and what is not?
Feedback on this one might be helpful, either public or private as always.
Thanks for reading.