Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Strangest Entitlement

     No, not the kind paid out with Treasury Department checks. I have another in mind today – possibly one that’s irked you for a while.

     Start here: “Everyone is entitled to...” Complete the sentence with some tangible good or service. Is the result defensible?

     Note that I didn’t write “Is the result true?” The formulation I used is a circumlocution for one of my favorite words: should. In the state of nature, no one can claim any good or service of any kind by right. Therefore, no one can claim any good or service by right under any other condition, real or imagined. Rights are like that.

     “Is the result defensible?” is quite a different question. It averts the matter of rights in favor of a quite different condition: symmetry. “If Smith can have benefit X, why can’t Jones?” All other things being equal, of course. If we eschew consideration of material things (including money), what’s left?

     Exactly. You’re sharp this morning!

     Nevertheless, in the inexplicable universal votings and debatings of these Ages, an idea or rather a dumb presumption to the contrary has gone idly abroad, and at this day, over extensive tracts of the world, poor human beings are to be found, whose practical belief it is that if we "vote" this or that, so this or that will thenceforth be. Practically men have come to imagine that the Laws of this Universe, like the laws of constitutional countries, are decided by voting. It is an idle fancy. The Laws of this Universe, of which if the Laws of England are not an exact transcript, they should passionately study to become, are fixed by the everlasting congruity of things, and are not fixable or changeable by voting! -- Author unknown

     Men’s opinions and attitudes are beyond the powers of legislation. They cannot be effectively compelled or prohibited. No statute, even if passed unanimously, could make me approve of intoxication, rap “music,” or the Boston Red Sox. (As I’m sure there are drug fans, rap fans, and Red Sox fans who would feel he same about my allegiance to sobriety, actual music, and the New York Yankees, it’s a damned good thing that our laws recognize a right to life.)

     However, that doesn’t mean no one’s out there trying to do that very thing.

     It started – of course! – with the “civil rights” laws, which purport to forbid “discrimination.” That so many persons should fail to understand that such a law undercuts a basic human right – the right to choose one’s own associates – is a devastating commentary on the habitual thoughtlessness of men.

     It was a simple progression. First the flacks had to persuade us, mainly by repetition and public disapproval, that “discrimination” is bad. Then they had to persuade us, without explicitly saying so, that what’s bad “should be” illegal. From there it was a single step to legislation that forbids it.

     Each of those three steps was and is irrational in the extreme. Forcing people to “tolerate” one another merely exacerbates the tensions between them. Over time, the reasons they have for disliking one another, if they’re grounded in reality, will advance rather than recede. But no exercise of logic or demonstration from history will persuade someone who wants to believe that legislation is omnipotent. Consider the insistence of the warmistas that we really need a law against bad weather.

     But “discrimination” is a lame turkey, far too easy to shoot. There’s another shibboleth of the Left that’s more on my mind this beautiful spring morning: tolerance.

     “Tolerance,” for the Left, isn’t a well-formed concept but a political club to be used against its adversaries. We’ve been flailed with it repeatedly: over adultery, over illegitimacy, over homosexuality; over race, creed, ethnicity, and “culture;” and so on. At each occasion normal people have been told that we must learn to “tolerate” others...including, most notably, others who have no intention of tolerating us.

     The Ace kicker lies in this: the Left’s notion of “tolerance” includes the requirement that we accept behavior from others that we wouldn’t accept from one of “our own.” That acceptance has recently come to include commercial settings; an employer is required to give equal consideration to all applicants for employment regardless of the foreseeable effect any particular applicant would have on the workplace or his other employees. This is a destructive force of unappreciated power. It commands the unwilling to accept deviancies of varieties that are actively dangerous.

     Consider a hypothetical case: Smith, an applicant for employment at Acme Corp., loves durians. He has one at lunch every day. When pressed, he asserts “a right to eat what I want.” What are the foreseeable effects of Smith’s culinary preference on other employees who must use the same lunch room? Were you in charge of hiring at Acme, would you willingly hire someone like Smith?

     The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would require you to give Smith an “equal opportunity” to become an Acme employee. Not to do so would be “intolerant.” Smith’s intolerance for his coworkers’ prerogatives and preferences would be summarily dismissed. The same applies to other offensive characteristics or behaviors, for the EEOC is unconcerned with the effects of its “tolerance” mandate upon your business.

     Just now, the worship of the false god of “tolerance” is corrupting Western society in two highly visible ways: Islam and the machinations of the violent Left.

     Islam is staking a claim to a special position under the law: a position that exempts Muslims from conformance to laws and practices their creed opposes. We’ve all read the stories about Muslims in the workplace demanding special privileges. Those privileges have been both “positive” – a “right” to be excused from work several times per day for a prayer interval, and to have a special place set aside for those prayers – and “negative” – a “right” not to be commanded to work with (or be near to) things or practices Islam deems haram. Given those proclivities, a sensible American employer would decline to hire Muslims. The dictum of “tolerance” for others’ “religions” has been used to countervail that rational preference. Note that that dictum is accorded no weight when invoked by a Catholic employer whose religion forbids abortion and homosexuality.

     The reverse of the coin is being portrayed in our streets, as “Antifa” and “Black Bloc” use violence to suppress freedom of expression. Weren’t we supposed to have a right to free expression and freedom of (peaceable) assembly? I think it’s mentioned in some old document or other. But not to the violent Left! Any opinion they dislike is deemed “hate speech” and “intolerant.” Federal legislators are slowly aligning themselves with this madness. The American tradition of freedom for the expression of opposing views gets no shrift whatsoever.

     I could go on, but I think the point has been made.

     To say that A has a right to B’s approval is to say that B has no right to his own opinion. – Thomas Sowell

     Much of the lunacy that afflicts us today descends from the notion that legislation can compel attitudes. It is not so; it has never been so; and it will never be so. That won’t keep activists and the legislators they favor from trying.

     You’d think the madness rampant among:

  • Black racialists who demand reparations,
  • Muslim agitators who demand tolerance of polygamy and sharia courts;
  • Homosexual activists campaigning for the repeal of public-decency and age-of-consent laws;
  • Leftists who claim a “right” to shut down the assemblies of conservatives and speakers with conservative views;

     ...would have taught us something. No nation can withstand such battering from within. It’s a demonstration of the imperative of discrimination, at the national level: the incontestable privilege of a sovereign nation to decree who may enter, who must be denied admittance, and who must be confined or expelled as not compatible with the nation’s laws and norms of public conduct. Yet we ignore the evidence before us.

     Any bets on when the next Catholic church will be constructed in Saudi Arabia?

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