Rights! There are no rights whatever without corresponding duties. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This is a difficult blog topic for me as I am not much of a philosopher or academic and feel more at home on a trout stream than on a soap box. However this is something I feel strongly about and as a result of recent events I am compelled to articulate my thoughts in as coherent and hopefully honest manner as I can.
It concerns the Occupy Wall Street movement. First let me say that I am very sympathetic to those who have suddenly lost so much: hard-earned pensions have disappeared, savings gone, home values greatly reduced and many real jobs lost in the recent global financial meltdown and continuing economic depression.
The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the major financial institutions and the government regulatory bodies. For a variety of reasons, either by commission or omission, they caused this mess. So I can thoroughly understand why people are demonstrating against the major banks and financial institutions, as well as against inadequate governmental regulation and financial policies. Few of us would argue that the system is broken and needs major reform.
I was a college student at the University of California in the mid-60s and have seen first hand how the power of people responsibly protesting against misinformed and out-of-touch governmental policies and actions can create a major wake-up call for citizens and governments alike. The anti-war protests during the Vietnam War were instrumental in finally getting the US out of an ill-fated conflict (but not before over 50,000 young people died). So on the whole I am a supporter of public demonstrations.
However, I have a major problem with one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration locations; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On the steps of one of the major tourist and religious attractions in London the protesters pitched their tent city. They caused a major disruption to a public place but people do have a right to assemble and voice their concerns, so they were allowed to stay.
However what really frustrates me is the behavior of some of the protesters. According to news reports at the scene, numerous protestors used St. Paul’s Cathedral as their personal latrine. Even going so far as to urinate and defecate on the carpets inside the main cathedral hall!
So, my post today is really about the principle of Rights and Responsibilities.
I believe that many of us are blessed to live in countries that guarantee rights and individual liberties for citizens. These are not free and have been won over the years with the blood and sacrifices of many of those who helped defend these freedoms.
But I also strongly believe that with rights come responsibilities. Responsibilities on the part of citizens to not only honor those liberties through appropriate actions and participation in the process of government, but responsibilities to behave in a manner that supports the well-being of all citizens and our public institutions.
There can be no real liberty or individual freedoms without individual responsibility.
In my opinion, rights without responsibility creates anarchy, and responsibility without rights is slavery. Our open and free societies are based on a healthy balance between rights and responsibilities.
Defecating and urinating on the carpets inside St. Paul’s Cathedral is not responsible behavior. And it wasn’t an accident, it was deliberate and in my mind an indication of immaturity, disrespect and lack of personal and social responsibility. With this type of behavior it is no wonder the government, city officials (and church officials) are getting fed up with the demonstrators, even if they are sympathetic to their cause! Therefore, it is time to move the occupiers on. They have had their say, we heard the message, but we should not condone such irresponsible behavior.
When people respect the balance of rights and responsibilities, the system works.
Tight Lines . . .
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