[extropy-chat] Rights and Moral Indignation

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Dec 12 12:39:41 UTC 2006

Stuart writes in an incredible post

>> >> But those caught on the battlefield
>> >> under the flag of no country have, in
>> >> my opinion, none of the legal rights
>> >> of American civilians.
>> > 
>> > They have all the rights of human
>> > beings since that is what they are.   
>> Rights in the abstract again, I suppose.
>> There aren't any such things. There are
>> legal rights established by custom or law.
>> The rest are merely things you happen
>> to approve of. They have *no* legal
>> rights, I repeat.  Those caught on the
>> battlefield under the flag of no enemy
>> should be captured and
>> dealt with summarily.
> Beware, Lee, you tread a slippery slope.

Yes, that is true. But beware of "slippery
slope" arguments. Just because you want
to move a little in some direction does
not mean that a total slide to the end in
that direction becomes inevitable.

> If you are dispensing with all abstractions as being
> "unreal" then why not dispense with your money?

Sorry for giving the wrong impression---
it happens that I strongly believe in
the reality of abstractions.  They are actually
existing patterns in the universe.  I'm neo-
Platonist, you might say.

But the "rights" argument is an old one on 
this list. I have an open mind, but I still 
think that all the "Natural rights" stuff is
wrong. There are many things wrong 
with it.  One is cultural:  it's just a side-
effect of Western values;  in China and
Japan such a concept would seems
downright peculiar and totally arbitrary.

Secondly, *these* particular abstractions
---"rights"---I do claim to not really exist.
(Unlike money, or the the number 17, or
*democracy*, or other abstractions that
have value and which do exist.)

Show me an argument that rights exist, 
oh, say, before the advent of civilization.
Or, say, before the Magna Carta, or

> ...

> Then while you are at it then why not start
> Then if you truly must rid yourself of all abstraction
> then you must dispense with math, reason, all your
> favorite stories,

Not at all!  I do believe in abstractions, I
do believe, I do believe!  I do believe in
abstractions!  (But not in fairies,
if you get my Peter Pan drift.)

> and in the end your very memories and
> identity. After all Lee Corbin is but an
> abstraction

Am not!!

> Contrary to what you seem to suggest Lee, governments
> have never served to "give" people rights.

I  TOTALLY agree!  Absolutely!  Especially
as I contend that rights in the abstract don't

It's people who should *assert* legal rights;
legal rights---as you write---are *not* to be
dispensed by any stupid governments from

> I love the Constitution as much as any American, but I
> know that moldering document can't protect me. I was
> a fool to think that it could ever shield me from a
> water balloon let alone the stormtroopers of tyranny.

Well, as James Madison wrote

    "Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a
    wretched situation.  No theoretical checks -- no form of
    government can render us secure. To suppose liberty or    
    happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical
    idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the
    community, it will be exercised in the selection of these
    men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put
    confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to
    choose them."

In other words, if the people don't have enough 
character, then the game's up anyway. Don't
*expect* a piece of paper to protect you. But
sorry, that's your point, not mine  :-)

> We Americans must stop relying on the ghosts of
> well-intentioned dead men, whose bones have long
> turned to dust, to protect us. This is every bit as
> foolish as any superstition. We must instead learn to
> fight our own battles once again.

Yes, the cost of liberty is eternal vigilance.

> The consequences if we do not is that the
> never-ending "war on terror" will slowly
> by degrees morph itself into the "reign of
> terror". You have been warned.     

Yes, we had this argument not long ago. I
agree that it is a real risk. But there is also
a risk letting more and more nations get
nuclear weapons, and a risk of letting
more and more infiltrators into Western
countries.  These risks must be balanced.

>> The "nations" the West is fighting
>> against---or I should say, trying
>> to fight against---are not at all civilized.
>> Their barbarism knows no bounds. 
> Yet for all their unbounded barbarism, has their death
> toll in the 1500 years since Mohammed equaled the
> death toll of one night of our "civilized" bombings of
> Dresden, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki?

Well that's, duh, *only* because they didn't
have H-bombs!  What do you think would
have happened to the enemies of Islam if
they did have such weapons?  Do you think
a bunch of them would suddenly convene
under a tent somewhere and say "Oh but
these new weapons are too terrible to use!".
Come now.

> How is that you protest so at them cutting
> the head off a man with a knife. Yet you
> and millions of other Americans will pay
> good money to walk into a theater and
> watch the simulation of a man doing the
> same to dozens of people with a chainsaw?

Maybe because the audience knows the
difference between fantasy and reality?

> I have, Lee. I have gone into such neighborhoods many
> times in the past and I am sure I will again in the
> future. For her part, Samantha would probably fare
> much better than you in those parts of town too. Your
> fear is so glaringly evident, its like a spiritual
> beacon for violence. You seem like a "bully-magnet".

Oh, so now it's *my* fault if I get roughed up
while you and Samantha were to look on?
This is one of the most egregious defenses
of evil I've ever seen of evil.  Just because
they don't pick on you, that makes them okay?

> Where you see "gangs", I see the poorly
> armed but nonetheless ARMED "last hope
> of America".

My God.  We are truly doomed, when you
and people like you look to the vicious urban
gangs as the last hope of America. Was Al
Capone one of your heroes too?

How about those in the gangs who kill
hundreds of their fellow wonderful hoodlums
each year in the big cities?  Your heroes? The
last best hope of America??

What do you want me to do?  Get a gun and
start selling drugs (as should be my right)?
Form my own gang?  Is that how I'll get
any respect from you?

Then if I kill enough people and show how
tough I am and that I can resist the cops,
will I become one of your heroes too?

People who act (as though you sound) and
who passively watch the law-abiding get
beaten down by criminals and toughs
because the law-abiding were openly 
critical of the gangsters and hoodlums
really give me a pain.  I saw the same
thing in Junior High school. Some people
I knew didn't hate the bullies at all, but
just blamed those who got in their way,
or were nerds, or wore the wrong clothes
and got picked on as a result.


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