Friday, 16 January 2015

The Only Right Left Standing - The Autonomous Individual Potentiating

Last week, we wrote on 'rights' which we think of as little more than demands and claims which cannot speak their name but must be cloaked in evasive language because the prevailing hegemonic system - whatever it may be - has pre-appropriated moral language for its own historically defined ends. Our view remains that demands and claims should be made in the name of autonomous individuals and of groups that would do no harm to others and that these demands and claims can be made without requiring any of the customary fluff and bluff of unjustifiable moral assertions from half-crazed activists.

Perhaps one 'right' (that is, demand) seems to be completely forgotten amongst the comical plethora of rights to cover every attribute that a person may have or not have. This is the 'right' simply to be a person - or rather to exist as who you are and not as you should be in the eyes of others. A person, above all, should have the right to live in accordance with their own biochemistry and to make private choices about attempts to change that biochemistry by any means at their disposal - carefully cultivated 'poisons', sexually, risk-taking, playfulness, transformation or whatever. The 'right' is associated with a very simple responsibility - the only responsibility - which is to take personal responsibility for harms to oneself and others. Even their death is the business of persons alone although my own prejudice is entirely towards the impulse to a life well lived.

The only reasonable exceptions are when the rights of others are diminished on the same terms as they are claimed - violence against the person springs to mind. The only sanctionable obligation should be to nurture one's offspring and, secondarily, all the young of the species, because these are persons in the making who need help to become persons. A nation of greedy self-regarding narcissistic pensioners piling debt on the young is an obscenity and the political liars who created this state of affairs beneath contempt. This commitment to the future and disregard for the dead weight of the past and 'tradition' makes me unusual amongst those who have come from a Left tradition in feeling deeply uncomfortable about abortion (as denied potentiality) while accepting, pragmatically, that the balance of interest directs us to a woman's claim to choose.

But, once born, there is nothing lower 'morally' than the person who abandons or mistreats a child. So perhaps one right - the right to autonomous development - can be salvaged from the absurd moralistic mess of contemporary liberal nonsense. I have to face the fact that this ends up with a core moral position not entirely alien to the Catholic Church albeit without the necessity of God or the flummery of the Church. This is the full acceptance of the 'right' or claim (or demand from the life force) of each person to be an autonomous individual to meet their full potential and not to be killed, injured or have the resources required to make choices removed from them - if the Left had consistently held to this principle some of the nastier brutalities of history might have been avoided.

Each person also as a subsidiary 'right', or claim or evident demand, arising out of this autonomy to be met, that is, to engage in precisely the levels of intimacy and commitment that suit them and no one else.  Of course, this is where our world view really does part company with the Iron Age restrictions of Catholicism. But, however we try to salvage them, all rights are a fiction other than this right of autonomy because only the autonomous right arises from the simple fact of a consciousness aware of itself in the world, an emergent right to be treated as the essence of a whole person's relation to Being, one who is always more than their attributes (thereby damning all forms of identity and essentialist politics) and who has an integrity of body and mind for which they can take responsibility themselves if permitted by social conditions. The Leftist aspect, of course, is thus not the evasions of rights ideology - that repulsive faux-left thinking of the petit-bourgeois graduate - but the commitment to create social conditions that give equal chances to all persons to be highly self-potentiating autonomous individuals in their own 'right'.

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