Friday Flotsam: Rights, Duties, and Cruella de Vil

1. Regarding gun control, my judgment is this: a man has a duty to defend his home, family, and community. He cannot do this unless he is able to bear arms. Since ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, he therefore has the right to bear arms.

No amount of statistics, no amount of misuse of this right abrogates it. If anything, if society is in such a state that a large chunk of it is too unstable or immoral to be trusted with firearms, that only makes it more necessary for the common man to own them, because then the duty to defend his home etc. becomes more acute.

2. This is a fundamental principle: that rights are the corollary of responsibilities / duties, which are consequences of relationships. Again, ‘ought’ implies ‘can’: if a man ‘ought’ to defend his family, then he necessary has the right to acquire, keep, and bear the means to do so.

Likewise a parent ‘ought’ to care for his child’s health. Which means he has the right to decide what medical procedures the child will and will not receive based on his own judgment. In other words, whether the horror stories of vaccine side effects are true or whether they are the wildest National Enquirer style nonsense is completely irrelevant to the question of whether anyone should be legally required to have their child vaccinated or be vaccinated himself. The important point is that it is the parents’ responsibility to care for their children’s health. If the state compels them to do something that, in their judgment, would be unhealthy, then the state is compelling them to act contrary to their responsibility to their children, which is unacceptable.

If the state is wrong in such a case, the state is not going to bear the consequences. The state is not going to be held responsible for the child’s health. The parents are. There is a disconnect between who makes the decisions and who bears the responsibility, which is to say a false-to-reality situation.

3. The same is true when it comes to non-discrimination laws. Again, the business owner is the one responsible for the management of his own property, and he is the one who will bear any consequences of mismanagement. But now the state tells him which judgments he makes in that capacity are and are not acceptable and which factors he can and cannot take into account.

Basically, they require him to act against his own judgment if his judgment fails to meet what they deem to be acceptable conclusions. Again, the point is not whether his judgment is correct, it’s that he can be forced to act against it in the case of his own responsibilities, despite the fact that he will be the one to suffer any consequences.

4. Fundamentally, this is a matter of thinking in terms of relations and the consequent duties first and drawing rights as a conclusion of those terms. If a man has children, he has a duty to raise and care for those children because they are his. As a simple matter of fact, he brought them into the world and he stands in this particular relation to them, which imposes certain responsibilities. Now, if a man has a responsibility to instruct his children (which he certainly does), then he must have the right to do so; to educate them himself if he so chooses or to select what he judges to be the best school to send them to. ‘Ought’ implies ‘can’.

By contrast, our normal way of thinking seems to me to start with certain presumed rights and then to penalize any impositions upon them. I could be wrong (I need to re-visit the Federalist Papers and other related documents), but I have never once heard a clear or objective means of determining what is and is not a ‘right’ under this system.

5. It occurs to me that this dichotomy is similar to what I understand of the pre and post-Enlightenment approach to philosophy / science. The pre-Enlightenment understanding was that we acquire knowledge so as to conform ourselves to the truth. The post-Enlightenment techno-scientific mindset is more that we acquire knowledge so as to conform the world to our desires.

The idea of rights as corollaries of duties versus fundamental rights seems to me to follow the same dichotomy; the difference of finding and conforming one’s proper place in the world and of conforming the world to oneself.

As I say, my knowledge of all this is pretty superficial right now, so I may be misreading it entirely, but so far as I can tell it seems to fit.

6. On a different note, I had to laugh out loud when I learned that Cruella literally posits that Cruella de Vil’s tragic backstory is that dalmatians killed her mother. I mean, that’s the sort of thing you joke about, not something that any sane writer would offer as a genuine story. Heck, giving a tragic backstory to Cruella de Vil, of all characters, is itself the sort of thing that no one should ever have taken seriously in the first place. Yet here we are. Someone wrote that, someone filmed that, someone put that into a multimilllion-dollar movie.

Seriously, this is not a deep or tragic character: she’s just a grouchy rich lady who wants a fur coat. That’s all she ever needs or ought to be. We all know or know of people like Cruella: she’s an absolutely perfect caricature of the bad-tempered, self-absorbed, spoiled rich woman who is too used to getting her own way to endure any kind of challenge or check. She comes onto the screen as complete as she could possibly be and nothing more needs to be said.

That right there is a more substantial, interesting, and striking figure than your stupid paint-by-numbers ‘conflicted and driven to evil’ supposedly-nuanced character going through the motions of a tragic backstory. This is shown by the fact that people still remember the original character, talk about her, and make stupid, bloated movies about her sixty years after her debut, while probably no one will remember your ‘strong and layered female protagonist version’ by this time next year.

Characterization complete

Though really, it’s almost silly to criticize modern Disney at this point, as they enthusiastically devour their own flesh to stave off the inevitable moment of starvation.