“I Have Rights”
This morning on Twitter, I started out with a conversation about a great blog post about how PR agencies don’t seem to get ‘online’, then segued into a short discussion about the differences between blogging and journalism (very basically, I think that bloggers haven’t done themselves any favours by continuing to operate without a ‘code of ethics’. Suw pointed out that the problem may simply be with *people* rather than journos or bloggers. Tom and I agreed with her. Hurrah! People are crap!). It ended with a discussion based on one sentence I wrote:
“Everyone thinks they have a right to be listened to…”
I was asked, “Doesn’t everyone have a right to be listened to?”
My answer, “Nope. Everyone has the right to SAY what they want. They don’t have the right to be listened to….There is a very, very big difference and some people don’t get it.” And then we went on for another 20 minutes trying to have a nuanced conversation two sentences at a time.
Maybe it’s an unfashionable thing to say. Maybe it doesn’t fit within a certain mindset. Maybe it’s wrong. I don’t know, but I’m going to expand my thoughts about this much more than 140 characters per post on Twitter allowed me to.
So my statement is: “Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”
Three thoughts within that statement need to be expanded: “not everyone”, “right”, “to be listened to”.
Let’s start with “to be listened to” as I suspect this could be the most confusing bit.
There is a semantic difference between “hear” and “listen”. The sentence ‘I heard my mother telling me to do my homework, but I didn’t listen.’ explains the basic difference pretty well. “To hear” is the act of detecting soundwaves with your ear. “To listen” is to make an effort to hear something or to pay attention to what you hear.
“Hear” can also mean – “to be informed of” (“I heard you were moving”). “Listen” can also mean – “to obey” (“My kids never listen to me when I tell them to clean their room”).
“To be listened to” means requiring the action of another person. You can’t stand alone in the middle of the desert and “be listened to”, you need another person to do the listening.
“Listen” is the word I used. Purposely. With the first definition I can restate my initial sentence in stronger, more absolute terms as “No one has the right to insist everyone else makes an effort to hear what they say.” or “No one has the right to insist everyone else pays attention to what they say.” Restating the sentence using the second definition of “listen” is “No one has the right to insist everyone else obeys what they say.”
Equally it is correct to say “Not everyone has the right to insist anyone else makes an effort to hear/pay attention to/obey what they say” as not everyone has the right to compel anyone else to do anything.
“Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”
“Right“. What is a right?
1. A right is something for which you do not have to seek the permission or approval or willingness of others. It is something to which you are legally and fundamentally entitled irrespective of anyone’s private thoughts.
2. A right is universal – everyone is covered, not just certain people or one group of people or everyone except one group of people.
3. A right pertains only to yourself and does not mean you can make a claim on anyone else. You do not have the right to claim ownership of another person’s money, property, time, life etc though you have the right to earn your own money, own your own property, do what you want (without infringing on the rights of others, of course) and live your own life in the manner in which you choose (again without infringing on the rights of others).
If you were the only person living on the planet you would be able to live your life exactly how you want to no matter what gender you are are, what colour your skin is, what crazy things you believe, what crazy things you say, whether you are fully physically able or not. You would have the “right” to be able to find, gather, grow your own food, you’d be able to make a shelter, think anything you want, say anything you want etc etc
If then suddenly some other people appeared, do you gain MORE rights because there are other people around you or not? That is, because of the existence of other people, does that mean you are fundamentally entitled to “more”. Do you now have the right to their food, their home, their clothing? Do you have the right to force them to do things for you like grow your food, build your home for nothing in return? Do you have the right to tell them what they can think? Do they have the right to make any of those claims on you?
The answer to these questions, of course, is “No”. If not, please tell me why you think so in the comments.
Now…In this world where you’ve been entirely on your own and at liberty to sustain your own life in the manner of your choosing when suddenly other people have appeared, do you now have have the right to make them listen to (Make an effort to hear/pay attention to/obey) anything or everything you say? Do they have the right to make you listen to them? Do any of you have the right to be listened to?
Of course, the answer is ‘no’, but if you think the answer is ‘yes’, please use the comments to explain how ‘claims on property, liberty and thought’ are not allowed but ‘claims on time’ or ‘being forced to obey just anyone/everyone’ are.
A “right” is not an expectation, a desire or a wish based upon ones own personal preferences. A “right” is a fundamental entitlement for every single human being on the planet.
“Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”
Finally. “Not everyone” means just that.
There are some people who have a right to be listened to: law enforcement and judges, for example, but only, of course, when it comes to their jobs. You are legally required to listen to, to obey, a police officer when they are telling you to put your hands on your head when they are arresting you, but if you are Alex Ferguson, for example, you don’t have to listen to, to obey, what they think would be best starting line up for Manchester United. And if Alex Ferguson tells you to put your hands on your head, you don’t have to listen to him, unless you are one of his players and putting your hands on your head is part of a warm-up…
The reason some people- and there are others besides the ones I mentioned- are “listened to” is that they have authority. Authority is earned – by passing the bar then being a good lawyer, you may become a judge; by passing the entrance requirements and tests, you may become a police officer; by, well, I actually don’t have any idea how someone becomes a football manager, but I think you get the idea. Authority in all situations and circumstances is not the right of anyone.
Some people have authority in some situations. No one has authority in ALL situations.
Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”
I think when people hear the “not everyone has the right to be listened to” sentence they automatically think ‘freedom of speech’. Freedom of speech means that you have the right to say what you want. It does not mean that anyone else is compelled to a) provide a platform, public or otherwise, for you to use b) pay for you to say what you want c) publish, broadcast or listen to what you have to say.
I think it’s pretty simple. Many people don’t.