Citizen Action Monitor

Our documented ‘rights’ may no longer reflect what is ‘right’ – Nate Hagens (35)

“The continuum between rights and right – what is right – is open for discussion,” says Hagens.

No 2317 Posted by fw, June 27, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

“There have been many social contracts in recorded human history. From the Code of Hammurabi 3500 years ago to the Magna Carta and U.S. Constitution, humans have often created rules and guidelines to properly delineate the needs and circumstances of the timeWe now live on an ecologically full planet – and are aware of what we are, where we came from, what we need, what we want and what we are doing – to each other and to our surroundings. With this backdrop, there is a distinction between ‘right’ and ‘rights’.Resilience.org 

Readers of the above passage by Resilience.org, or of my transcription below of Dr. Hagens’ comment about his continuum Rights vs Right, may be as initially puzzled as I was in inferring the meaning of either text.

After some reflection, here’s the inference I finally arrived at from the contextual clues. For example, in the above passage I inferred from the text “humans have often created rules and guidelines to properly delineate the needs and circumstances of the time” that our “rights” were documented, presumably with a legal basis.

And given that we “are aware of what we are, where we came from, what we need, what we want and what we are doing,” our documented “rights” may no longer reflect what is “right” in the sense of “Let right be done”.

Thus, from the contextual clues – which, by the way, never use the terms ‘rights’ or ‘right’ until the very end – we arrive at the distinction between ‘right’ and ‘rights’.

To further shed light on the meaning, consider the Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of ‘right’ and ‘rights’ (with sample sentences)

right – mass noun — That which is morally correct, just, or honourable

“Perhaps wrong is the new right, in new-New Labour, just as dissent is the new unity.” (In other words, responsibly informed citizens know that what today’s political parties says is ‘right’ may be morally ‘wrong’).

rights of manRights held to be justifiably belonging to any person; human rights. The phrase is associated with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted by the French National Assembly in 1789 and used as a preface to the French Constitution of 1791.

“Recall Karl Marx’s famous critique of the ways in which a democratic constitution formally committed to the rights of man and citizen may distort perceptions of injustice, and so blunt demands for social change.”

Which leads me to this question: Can Americans trust their so-called “democratic government” (and constitution) to protect their ‘rights?’ Ralph Nader and Chris Hedges touch on this in their 24-minute, not-to-be-missed, videorecorded discussion of “American Mythology”. Click here to view it: American Mythology and the loss of democracy. Here’s a sample Nader quote from the video:

“So, we have all these myths that operate about a democratic society. And obviously a democratic society rots slowly, by definition. And we have been decaying and disintegrating our democratic institutions for over 40 years now.”

Moving right along —

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 35, continuum 34, runs from 45:57 to 46:50.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 45:57 to 46:50)

[OUR CULTURE] –

45:57[Continuum 34: Rights vs Right] — Rights vs Right. There have been many social contracts in our history. This painting on the right is the Lascaux Cave from 20,000 years ago in France. We had the Code of Hammurabi which was 3,500 years ago, a social agreement between the people in Mesopotamia. We had the Magna Carta and the US Constitution. And all of those social agreements were between people at the time who knew what was going on and they arranged agreements for what mattered.

46:31 – We are now on a full planet. The situation has changed. We know far more about what we’re doing and who we are. The continuum between rights and right – what is right – is open for discussion.

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[Resilience.org Supplement] — Rights vs Right – There have been many social contracts in recorded human history. From the Code of Hammurabi 3500 years ago to the Magna Carta and U.S. Constitution, humans have often created rules and guidelines to properly delineate the needs and circumstances of the time. We now live on an ecologically full planet – and are aware of what we are, where we came from, what we need, what we want and what we are doing – to each other and to our surroundings. With this backdrop there is a distinction between ‘right’ and ‘rights’. This continuum will remain a back-burner item. Until it moves to the front burner.

*****

About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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