There's a meme circulating through the interwebs. No great news there. The 21st century is shaping up to be defined by memes; they're like modern day proverbs, although few are wise. Nonetheless, this particular meme states:
'Society has gotten to a point where everybody has a right but no-one has a responsibility'.
Clever ... I think ... but what the hell does it mean?
It is generally shared by those who are opposed to rights ... gay rights, black rights, human rights.
But what is this 'responsibility' of which the meme speaks?
Er ... I got nothing. At least nothing that would justify negating the rights of others.
It is just a meme that speaks volumes but says nothing. To some, this meme is screaming that people can't have rights unless they fit responsibly into society or behave in a certain way or well, you know, act straight, act white, act American or Australian or whatever.
Obviously, everyone does have responsibility within the society they live. We have a responsibility to care for each other and to not propagate hate and intolerance. At least, that is the general gist of societies such as the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and so on. Each one has a Constitution that protects individual liberty, freedom of religion and in general have laws that oppose discrimination.
We have a responsibility to ensure that we are not removing or limiting someone else's rights. For example, we all have a right to exist within society, regardless of our religion, race, sexual orientation, gender and so on. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that no-one's rights are infringed. We have a responsibility to follow the laws of the country which are generally there to protect people's rights. We have a responsibility to ensure that nothing we do prohibits people's needs from being met, or prohibits people from exercising their rights.
Those are our responsibilities.
Rights and responsibilities are two different things and having one doesn't negate the other.
The meme is aimed at stirring up fear of giving 'other' groups of people the same rights that 'we' have ('we' being the white privileged ruling class).
The rights of one group are not more important than the rights of others. Yet, white, Christian, heterosexual privilege in Australia would have us believe that their lives are more important than indigenous people, Muslims, LGBTIQ people, the unemployed, the poor.
Refugees have been a target of horrendous abuse at the hands of the Australian government, with the support of most Australians. Many of those who share that meme are opposed to granting refugees their basic human rights, but ignore their own nation's responsibility under the UN Refugee Convention to settle refugees, not to detain them indefinitely, not to demonise and persecute them, not to abuse and deny their human rights.
To say that one is not homophobic when opposing same sex marriage, yet then spruiking of all the bad things you fear will happen if it is legalised is disingenuous.
To say that one is not Islamophobic, and then campaign against Islam because of fear of terrorism, burqas, halal and the loss of Australian 'culture', is to shout one's phobia loud and clear.
To deny being racist, but then oppose immigration from non-caucasian countries because of the fear that you don't want your 'culture' over-run by people different to you, is racism. Own it.
To claim that opposing Islam isn't racist because Islam isn't a race, ignores the fact that racists take the worst behaviours of the few and generalise them across the many ... which is exactly what the Islamophobes do. So if an Islamophobe doesn't want to be called a racist, then don't act like one.
Perhaps, the Islamophes and racists would do well to heed the words of the Prophet Muhammad in his final sermon:
'... an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action'.
That one verse sums up rights an responsibilities. The rights? No one is superior to others, we have equal rights. The responsibility? Do good to others.
This should be good news for Christians, because the bible says in Ephesians 2:10, we're created to 'do good works'.
The only 'superiority' is by respect and doing good ... and it doesn't impinge on the rights of others.
It is our responsibility is to do good ... in other words, to be do-gooders.
One is not 'doing good works' or 'good actions' by attacking or opposing others. That includes attacking others through terrorism (whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or secular), waging war (say in illegal invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan as an example) or trying to ban others from enjoying the same rights that others do.
Live and let live. Stop attacking others, stop putting people down and stop trying to ban people from having the same rights as others
Indigenous people have the right to practice their culture and to access the same levels of service as others. Don't prevent this.
Muslims have a right to freedom of religion. Don't try to stop this.
Everyone has a right to marry the person they love. Don't continue preventing this.
We all have the rights to freedoms of movement, expression, existence. Don't stop others from enjoying these.
I started with a meme, it's only right to finish with one: