Whose Rights?

I get so tired of people whining about their “rights.” What they usually mean is their “right” to impose their viewpoint on others and insist everyone agree with them.

My latest trigger was a radio interview with an activist protesting an Ottawa appearance by psychologist Jordan Peterson. He has some ideas on gender that the interviewee, who self identifies as “they,” find offensive.

Peterson is well respected in his field, and was not coming to town to discuss gender but creativity. But “they” thinks he should be banned because of his views on gender, which don’t match “theirs.”

I don’t intend here to delve into the gender issue. I have heard it said there are 31 different genders, which I am sure came as a surprise to God when he heard it. (Yes, I know that last sentence is theologically incorrect, it is hyperbole, don’t shoot me.) That Professor Peterson chooses to disagree with that number is seen as heresy by some, and it appears there is a movement to burn him at the stake. He apparently has no “right” to free speech on the question of gender (or any other topic), because he doesn’t share the same viewpoint as the activist.

As a society I think we have completely misunderstood the idea of rights. People talk about them as if they are some sort of absolutes. Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The US has a Bill of Rights. We are all convinced we have rights that are guaranteed.

But you know something? There is no such thing as “rights” in our society. We only have privileges conferred by the state, which the state can at any time arbitrarily remove, including the “right” to keep on breathing.

That is why “rights” are fluid, changing over time and from society to society. My “rights” in Canada are very different from the rights I would have if I lived in Saudi Arabia. Or even in the USA.

It seems to me that a lot of the time when people bring up the concept of “rights,” they are doing it not to free up others but to restrict them. Because Jordan Peterson is not politically correct on the gender question, “they” want to deprive him of his “right” to speak in public on another topic.

I should note that it is not only those on the liberal side of society who seek to impose their viewpoint using the “rights” issue. Americans have a “right” to carry weapons, which is, when you look at it only a privilege granted by government and upheld by the courts. As a Canadian I do not have that “right” – and am no worse off because of that.

So stop whining when someone hurts your feelings and telling me you have the “right” not to be offended by others. Life doesn’t work that way, no matter how much you would like it to.

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