About five months ago, I had a Facebook debate with a friend about medical malpractice. It started with a simple status update and evolved into a heated volley where we had to agree to disagree. At the core was a difference in how we view our rights. Note: the person I was debating with was a lawyer
He repeatedly asserted that everyone had a right to litigation and for a jury to decide what I was due. While I can't really argue with that, I kept thinking that no amount of money or court action could bring back what medical negligence takes away. Justice, for me, is a little more difficult to come by. No court action can reverse death, disability, or chronically poor health. Furthermore, I believe that pain and suffering are a human condition that are as intrinsic to our life as breathing and our heartbeat. So for me, it is utterly ridiculous to assume that a court or a lawyer would have an adequate panacea for those.
Musing on these things made me realize that justice for me is as simple as a sincere apology and an individual attempt to make things as right as possible. I realized that this notion of justice comes from the fact that I feel a duty to other people to do my best at all times and when I fail, I am obligated to say I'm sorry and to make restitution.
This simple debate brought to light that I would rather people in my world respond to duty than be compelled to action by a list of rights that have determined for us. So in my day-to-day wanderings through this life, I have been asking myself "What is my duty here? or "Do I have a duty to perform here?" I have found that I don't always have a duty to act. In some cases, my duty is to simply be a quiet presence or to let things unfold and not attempt to control the situation to my ends.
In focusing on what my duty is in situations, I have found that my 'rights' have lost the sparkle they once had. They are simply too dependent upon other people granting them to me.
So until further notice, I am going to live according to my duty and put my 'rights' on the backburner.
I feel like I lead an abundant life. I have everything I need (and I am thankful). I realize that I sit here in a free country, where I can say what I think, act in whatever way I deem appropriate. Yes, there are laws and consequences for breaking those laws, but in general, they are pretty well articulated and I understand them. Additionally, I have never experienced anything that has intentionally violated my rights. So, I firmly admit that if I was a child in the Sudan or even a poor person anywhere, I would view things differently.
So what is the balance between duty and rights?
If we were all to act according to our duty to one another, would that be enough for worldwide social justice?
What would that kind of worldwide social justice climate look like?