RIGHTS FOR WHOM
“Rights” were invented by humans and are granted by humans to humans, but not equally. An animal, on the other hand, or a plant, for that matter, does not have “rights” but rather “ecological integrity,” which, being of God, lies beyond the power of humans to grant.
We assign to animals such things as hunting seasons for sport and control of populations, bounties to be paid on the death of unwanted individuals and species, and extermination in a garden as destructive pests (or weeds in the case of plants), but these are not “rights;” they are economically motivated conditions. I suggest, therefore, that animals (and plants) are not given and so do not have rights; they have “ecological integrity,” which is unimpaired Universal wholeness and unity.
In contrast, the question of human “rights” has a long and complex history, because a human “right” is a legalistic construct based on some moral sense of privilege. A “right,” for example, is defined by humans and assigned by humans to humans and therefore does not apply to animals or plants unless we purposely give specifically recognized rights to animals and or plants. Although “rights” may have been originally designed to acknowledge equality among humans, they are predominantly selective in practice, despite the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” drafted under the auspices of the United Nations. This selectively is based on some notion that one species, race, color, creed, sex, or age is superior to another, which means that differences and similarities of anything are based on our subjective judgments about whatever those categories are. And all we can ever judge are appearances.
These differences in perceived outer, superficial, values became social judgments about the inherent, real values of individual human beings, as well as other forms of life. Superficial characteristics are therefore translated into special rights or privileges simply because the individuals are different in some aspects and either perform certain actions differently or perform different actions. The more different a form of life is from ourselves the more likely we are to make black-and-white judgments about its perceived real value as expressed through our notion of its rights. (In an ideal world, however, if I were to sense a difference between myself and another, that would be my cue to be all the more careful to treat them equally.)
Such judgments are made against the personal standards we use to measure how everything around us fits into our comfort zone. We thus judge this person good or acceptable and that one bad or unacceptable, depending on how they conform to our standard of acceptability; the same it true with all living things, be they fungi, green plants of various types, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals. Such judgments are erroneous, of course, because all one can ever judge is an outer appearance—and that most often in ignorance of the critical, biophysical function they perform in service to the Earth and thus the benefit of all life. In addition, each person’s standard is correct only for that person; it is not valid for anyone else.
For example, I consider killing another human being to be murder, but a headhunter would consider it a religious act, and a soldier would consider it a duty. Who is correct? We all are from our respective points of view.
There may be a number of judgmental reasons for these discrepancies in social stature, but none of them can be applied in the context of the real value of each person because everybody has a gift to give and each gift is unique and critical to the whole. The gifts are equal and different. What is true for human beings is true for every living thing on Earth, because every living thing is equal in its service to the Earth. Each species, each life, each function is equally important to the evolutionary success of our home planet—whether we understand it or not. Each species has its own excellence and cannot be compared to any other. All differences among all living things are just that—differences.
The hierarchies or judgmental levels of value are human constructs that have nothing whatsoever to do with reality. Every life is a practice in evolution and conservation, and every living thing is equal before God, however “God” is perceived. If, however, “God” does not figure into your scheme of things, then think instead of every living thing being equal before the impartiality of Nature’s biophysical principles as they govern the Universe.
Thus, we must discard our view of the Earth as a battlefield of subjective competition where human “superiority” reigns not only over plants and animals but also over human beings of a stripe different from our own. We will be better off if we consider the Earth in terms of complementary efforts in all living things are equal in their service—not where one is better or worse, or more or less necessary than any other. Each is only different and in its own way is equally vital to the health and well-being of the whole living system because life demands struggle, tenacity, and refinement, which continually fits and refits each living thing to its function. If such equality is indeed a manifestation of the “Truth,” as it is meant to be, how do we account for our Western industrialized society’s notion about the unilateral, inalienable “rights” attached with ecological and moral impunity to our sense of private property when said property is part and parcel of the global commons and thus the birthright of every generation into forever?
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Text © by Chris Maser, 2010. All rights reserved.