Protection of human rights has been a popular theme in western countries. Activists agitate for the protection of their privacy. Legislators discuss how to craft appropriate documents enshrining human rights. The UN Charter and various pieces of legislation the world over give various forms to the discussion of rights.
Our human rights have been described in some quarters as “inalienable”.
Thomas Jefferson and Inalienable Rights
Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence describes human rights as “inalienable“. Jefferson claimed there that inalienable rights were the foundation of all government. Since the Declaration of Independence was, in and of itself, a declaration of defiance against British Rule over the colonies, Jefferson appealed to the existence of inalienable rights as the basis on which the American colonies could resist the British claim to authority over them.
Jefferson argued that a person’s rights are intrinsic in the individual and only have to be “declared” to be effective.
Most people today do not understand Jefferson’s view of rights nor do they really understand what is “inalienable” about their rights. People in authority like to have those under their control thinking that rights are granted to them by some human authority. That way the subjects are kept under the power of those who have denied them the full use of their rights.
What made the rights declared by Thomas Jefferson to be ‘inalienable’? By what authority are any rights able to be asserted or possessed? Are they inalienable because nature has bestowed them upon us? Are they inalienable because they make sense in some special way? Are they inalienable because the body of citizens deem them so to be?
The answer to these questions significantly impacts the type of rights you have and how secure you and your children can be in those rights.
If rights come from nature, then is it not reasonable that anyone with superiority of nature, such as strength or cunning, has an equally implicit right to abuse all others? If nature is our final court of appeal then those who are best endowed by nature have no recourse for their use of that advantage.
The Theory of Evolution, with its “survival of the fittest“, taught that we are all just the product of nature and that some are more evolved than others. On that basis Australian aborigines and natives across the globe were killed as if they were animals. Their bones and skulls were sent to museums in England and America as specimens. I have heard testimony of Australians who shot Aborigines without any sense of remorse, seeing them as much like a kangaroo or other animal.
If nature gives us our rights then it follows that people who are better endowed by nature have power over the less endowed. Evolution thus means that the more evolved creatures have an automatic right to dominate, use and destroy those who are less evolved.
Since those earlier days of the slaughter of natives we have been able to prove by genetic research that the Theory of Evolution is wrong. Natives in “primitive” lifestyles are not less evolved, but have just as much natural endowment as educated westerners. They had been reduced to primitive technology, but they are not primitive creatures biologically.
Hitler and Natural Rights
Hitler asserted that the Aryans were a superior race and so they had the right to assert themselves over other races of people. He was influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and found it to be a friend to his ideas of domination.
So, natural rights is not a good place to anchor our inalienable rights. We could argue that everyone who is disabled, blind, or physically limited can be abused and dominated by all those who can exercise power over them.
The resultant battle would reduce society to a jungle of competing predators. Survival of the fittest is the prescription for anarchy, warfare, fear and terror. Praise God our rights come from a higher source than nature.
Nature is not the source of our inalienable rights, since nature does not bestow equally upon all the same potential to enjoy equal experience of life.
Are human rights inalienable because they make sense in some special way? If that is the case, then anyone without sufficient sense to appreciate them or with superior sense, so as to be able to see past them, can abuse those rights with impunity.
If rights are based on human sense and logic then anyone who can beguile, confuse or out argue others can assert themselves over others. Simple people can be exploited. Those who have been educated to think that their rights are subject to their university professor, their government or their place in society’s caste system, will be talked out of their rights.
Logic is not the source of our inalienable rights. Logic has been used to justify the abuse of those rights, applying such theories as the Theory of Evolution as justification for abuse, cruelty and murder.
Are rights inalienable because the body of citizens deem them so to be? If that is the case then any other body of citizens can then contest them, if they so wish, and violate them, if their society sees that a different set of rights should apply.
If society is the basis for our rights, then what happens when some new pop-culture idea invades our society and causes people to change their idea of human rights? Societies change and through history many societies have become unhappy places to live. Women have been abused in societies. Life is cheap in some societies. The poor have been treated shamefully in some societies. Disabled or unproductive people have suffered greatly in some societies. Cruelty, superstition, slavery, warfare, domination and the like are clear elements of different societies through human history.
Society is not the source of our inalienable rights. Society does not have the moral anchor to make anything consistent and unchangeable.
The only way we can have ‘inalienable’ rights is if they are bequeathed upon us by a superior force to which we owe some moral obligation. God, as separate from creation and ruling over it as its creator and owner, is perfectly able to grant us ‘inalienable’ rights. Outside of His presence and role in the process it is hard to conceive of any real validity for Jefferson’s assertion of inalienable rights.
Moral Rights or Declared Rights
Jefferson’s assertion that rights only have to be ‘declared’ to be effective is interesting. He places great stock in the sovereignty of each citizen to arbitrate his or her own entitlements. He presents a type of natural law, that people have, by virtue of their existence, a right to assert their own personal validity, and to claim rights attendant to that existence.
How does Jefferson expect that the individual assertion of personal rights will be upheld, especially if all others deny that asserting individual the rights to which they lay claim?
Fighting For Rights
Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence led to war. The American War of Independence was not a matter of a declaration of rights, but a battle to repel another who declared their right to control the American Colonies.
Here we see the natural struggle of existing entities, each asserting their place, but having to accept the place which they can successfully claim in practice. The assertion is of little real worth, except to focus the resolve of the person making it. In practice, the self-asserted rights can only exist with the cooperation of all others in the society, who agree to approve the rights in a social contract of mutual benefit.
The only social order that can be achieved by man is so achieved only by subjugation of some, or cooperation of the many.
Moral Rights, on the other hand, do not come from subjugation of others, nor from the cooperation of others. They are not based on democracy, western culture, education, literacy, economic prosperity, industrialisation, globalisation, assertiveness training, power of self-defence, elitism, force or any other human endeavour.
Moral Rights spring from God as our moral creator, who placed us, as moral beings, into His moral universe. He then, as Almighty God, has the power to grant us what we cannot get for ourselves. He also has the power to defend us against those who have greater might than we do.
The inalienable rights which we have are the gift of Almighty God to each of us.