Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Modeling after the Lowest Common Denominator

I don't believe the few should be punished for the crimes of the many. Does that make me a privilege-ist? Well, if a person deserves privilege, he should have it. We live in a culture of appropriation and amalgamation, where, in spite of (or perhaps as a reaction to) all the diversity in human life, we try to regulate human behavior according to sweeping generalizations. It's a curious symptom of the equality mindset, that everyone should be treated the same, and have to follow the same rules. Even if it means putting extra pressure on the underachievers and pulling back the overachievers. It occurs when you mistake equal opportunity for mathematical equality. People are not the same. Fairness (and thus, justice) is not predicated upon treating everyone the same. We're all different. We have different abilities, and we have different sensibilities. Equality means that we all deserve to be treated as having equal worth - that no one of us deserves to be overlooked, discriminated against, or have our basic fundamental rights violated. Especially if we're not like everyone else. That we're different doesn't mean we don't deserve to be treated with the same humanity. But that doesn't mean we must or even want to be treated in exactly the same way. A man in a wheelchair should not be expected to take the stairs, but his inability to do so does not reflect a lesser worth or humanity. He is not equal to anyone else in the world, he is different. But just as worthwhile as anyone else. Just as deserving of dignity and his basic human rights.

In law, we have a tendency to want to legislate across the board, because it's easier than taking individual factors into consideration. And yet, this is precisely what the courts are designed to do. And they're designed that way for a reason - to protect each individual's human rights. Because a man in a wheelchair is not a handicapped man, he is an individual. A man of color is not a black man but an individual. A female is not a woman but an individual. A youth is not a child but an individual. There are, unfortunately, persons in our midst that go about committing crimes against law and humanity - raping, stealing, murdering, etc. - but this is no justification for the limitation of the basic human rights of the individual. To legislate "safety" to the extent that it violates the freedom of the innocent is not justice. We do not have a responsibility, as citizens of a social order, to give up our rights and freedoms for "protections", nor for the excessive punishment of those who break the social order (criminals). On the contrary, it is our responsibility to stand up for our rights and our freedoms against this kind of legislative and social protectionism. That one man might steal a gun and use it to commit murder is not reason to restrict another from purchasing a gun for self-defense. The honest citizen should never be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a criminal. It is not just to punish a person for someone else's bad decisions.

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