Rights and Responsibilities

M. - The Dalai Lama [has] tried to introduce into the constitution not only the notion of individuals' rights but also the idea of individuals' responsibility toward society and the state's responsibility toward other states in the world.

J.F. - Yes, it's true that one aspect of what we could call the crisis of modern democracies is that in our own state of law the citizens feel that they have more and more rights and less and less responsibilities toward the community [...] people are a lot less interested in the question of citizens' responsibilities than in that of their rights. They're nevertheless two side of the very same thing.

M. - The East is more inclined than the West to think that society's harmony shouldn't be compromised by people using the notion of human rights to justify doing anything they like, at any time, however they want, as long as it's 'allowed'.

For indeed, such an attitude is really a form of anarchy. It leads to an imbalance between right and duties, between liberty for oneself and responsibilities toward others.

The individual is supreme in Western societies. The individual can do practically anything, as long as it's within the framework of the law.

The individual's responsibility is to consciously preserve the harmony of society. That's something that can only be done if individuals respect the law, not as an obligation, but in the light of an ethical sense, both spiritual and temporal.

The point is not to restrain individuals' freedom but to instill in them a sense of responsibility.

[...] the public's fascinated by violence and sex, and commercially it works very well. The producers only see money to be made, while the legislators are paralyzed by the fear of even touching people's freedom of expression.

The result is complete ignorance about responsibility and an inability to translate such a notion into either law or convention.

If human rights are considered on their own, without human responsibilities being taken into account, there's never going to be a solution to the problem.

In the end, a sense of responsibility has to come from the maturity of individuals, not from restrictive laws. And for individuals to attain such maturity, spiritual principles that make inner change possible have to be alive and well in society, instead of being cruelly missing.

[Matthieu Ricard]
and [Jean-Francois Revel]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.282, 284, 286-7

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We must offer to a young man objects on which the expansive force of his heart can act, which expand and extend it to other beings, and which cause him everywhere to find himself again outside himself.

On the other hand, he must carefully avoid those objects which might restrain and repress his heart and stretch the mainspring of the human I or ego, etc.

[Jean-Jacques Rousseau]
Émile, p.115-20

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In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

[Harold Pinter]
Nobel Lecture, 'Art, Truth & Politics'

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