Sunday, 30 November 2014

For Discussion - Ten Preliminary Propositions for Living Decently

I have never liked commandments, never accepted the claims of authority but only those of evidence-based persuasion or my own assessment of the situation but, given that we are unconsciously fixed in our social condition by commandments created in the Iron Age for an Iron Age order, what alternative suggestions might we have.

These ten suggestions are here for discussion only - not provided on high by a charismatic man with horns on his head but simply as attempts at creating codes of common decency to challenge those of inherited traditionalist oppression whether by Popes or Kings.

1. Your rights exist only to the degree that you respect the rights of others. Rights are for all or for none. Otherwise, a demand for rights is no more than a tool or a weapon in a struggle for power. The primary right is always the right to autonomy and self-determination. The good society merely attempts to give meaning to the equalisation for all of that primary right.

2. Live beyond inherited or socially given constructions of identity based on gender, sexual orientation, claimed ethnicity, social status or class. It is not that all are equal or can be made equal within the commonwealth but the first choice of who you are should be yours and not others. To accept a fixed identity that was not freely chosen by yourself with full information to hand is to oppress oneself.

3. A child is your responsibility if you make one. This means their health, their education and their happiness. If you bring a child into your household by whatever means or join a household with children, you take on this duty for them as if they were your own. This duty extends to the maintenance of the household with others with the same duty of care but it does not mean submission to them.You have not abandoned the primary right and can withdraw if your good will is abused.

4. No-one is a burden to society. Everyone is society whether they like it or not. This does not mean society cannot have some practical expectations - that it does not pay for the free rider or expect that each person does his or her utmost to be a strong and free agent - but the starting point is that a person cannot be bullied into freedom but only encouraged or even, in hard cases, managed into freedom.

5. No belief justifies violating the rights of others and if it does, then you are an enemy of the commonwealth. This applies to every organised religion, ideology or personal opinion. Since the primary right is the right to autonomy and self determination, all authoritarians are enemies of the people. This is not an argument against freely chosen traditionalism within a free society but it is an argument against imposing traditionalism on others - including and especially children.

6. Live life to the full on this earth but with sincerity in words, deeds and love against the unwarranted claims of others so that heaven is made potential, if rarely actual, in each day of a life lived fully. Expect nothing after death.

7. Try and avoid becoming part of the mass unless for brief communal pleasures. The theatre, the football match and the orgy are one thing, immersion into movements, belief systems and totalising communities are another. Neither peers nor the deciders of fashion can tell you who you are and your uniqueness is your greatest contribution to the social.

8. Defend yourself and your property but leave justice and punishment to the commonwealth. If the commonwealth is unjust, make sure you participate in making it just by giving a strong opinion and organising to remove injustice when it becomes intolerable. The magistrates rule by no right other than our agreement to their administration of justice and may be disposed of if they fail at any time. This right of resistance is absolute no matter what the forms or claims of the governing class - the question is only whether resistance can succeed or not against often superior forces.

9. If you cannot treat the social with respect even if it is weak or inadequate, walk away from it but don't despise it. It has its reasons and its purposes - to maintain order without which freedom cannot exist, to defend against predators and so on. To despise the social is to despise humanity - which is fine except that none of us can escape being human ... tragically perhaps but that is how it is.

10. Do everything you desire but harm no-one in doing it. There is no need to be over-protective of others at one's own expense but any strategy that constrains their self-creation or takes no account of their vulnerabilities as much as your self creation and vulnerabilities is an evil strategy. All relationships are constant negotiations between free individuals so society's interest is limited to creating the conditions for freedom and restoring balance when an evident oppression takes place. Let love drive us but a love beholden to science, reason and respect for the unconscious animal within us all.

You might class this as a conservative libertarianism with social-radical characteristics in the implicit call for active social intervention to equalise the primary right to autonomy and explicit acceptance of the right of resistance to incompetent and malicious authority.

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