Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Rights

From the age of Hume and Locke rights have become a fundamental building block of human freedom. The US declaration sees these as 'inalienable rights'. But the word is suffering corruption and this is resulting in implications that are fundamental to so much of our lives.

Rights are now things to protect, to reserve, to own, to use to divide and to fraction. Rights are what tech companies use to sue fellow innovators, what film makers use to restrict distribution, what brands use to charge stupid fees for very basic products.

The 'right to freedom' seems a very fundamental principle to any human being: it was something that drove the American Civil War and the fall of the 'Iron Curtain'. Now it drives video on demand systems and the ability to sell mobile phones.

We live in an age where rights seriously need to be redefined. Concepts such as 'human rights' have become laughable in the UK due to providing more negative freedoms over positive freedoms - that is, they preserve the right of an individual over that of the community, collection or society, and therefore seem illogical.

When I take a photo I create a 'right'. So, what should I do ? Should I share it, for free, with everyone, or put a price on it and earn from my work ? When I add an entry on Facebook, do I have a right over what I have contributed, or when I upload a video to YouTube, do I fundamentally forego my 'rights' ? Licensing, after all, is another form of rights exploitation.

And we have truly ridiculous concepts in our society about rights when it becomes 'art', such as the pathetic drivel that 'artists' such as Damian Hurst produce. The 'rights' to these works are worth millions as soon as he touches them. He is truly Midas. And we are Phryginas...

Rights are fast becoming a negative concept, not a positive one, and this is a great shame. One little word that can mean so much, and so many different things.