The current proposal to cut off 150,000 Detroit residents for not paying their water bills has me thinking about what ‘rights’ means, especially when under current European right legislation it seems not possible to deport murderers because they own a cat.
The rights to shelter, food, water are the most fundamental. Along perhaps with the right to warmth and coolness, since extremes of temperature can kill us. But you have to pay for all of these. In developed European countries these rights are considered fundamental. In the more ‘progressive’ US you can easily die of cold, warmth, dehydration or starvation and be regarded an idiot because you dared to be too poor to pay for them. In places where there is war or pestilence, these rights are what the masses crowd towards.
But after these rights, what comes next ?
Free movement, freedom of speech, sexual rights, inviolability ?
And then I can get specific.
The right to broadband, the right to express and do anything online. The right to benefits from society ? The right to lie ? The right to self-defence ? The right to kill ?
Of course, one person’s rights becomes the other person’s lack of rights. They sometimes call this positive and negative freedom.
And the reality is, if you live in rural Wales, where there is no longer any public transport, so you can’t get to the doctor, or the library, broadband is a solution. What about a right to broadband or transport ?
The people who serve us are beholden to the current edifice: in England it used to be the landowners, then the mineowners, then the manufacturers. Today it is the bitminers, those American multinationals who pay little or no regard to borders, or rights, until they have to. We have outsourced our rights to Google, Facebook, GCHQ and Tesco.
And then we have those other rights. The right to speed, to get pissed, to smoke, to beat up a stranger. (Yes, you noticed that these rights are somehow contradictory to the right to health and healthcare.)
The right to watch Coronation Street or Game of Thrones. The right to listen to a song that’s not on Spotify.
It’s a wide church (oh no, the right to believe and worship.. I forgot!) and we all have an opinion or two.
When you run a rights management company you may spend some of the time worrying about availabilities for in flight rights in June, but you realise that rights are the building blocks of civilisation.
I want a political class fighting for my rights: shelter, food, drink, warmth, coolness, transport, broadband.
Notice that I only now mention healthcare and education: without the above they are pointless, and are anyway hugely divisive in places like the USA, which is one of the few countries on earth to maintain that there is no right to health and healthcare.
Of course, we will always disagree on what rights should be, but my measure of a politician is that they are fighting for my rights, as I measure them