Invented Rights

Written by Ben Siler on November 17th, 2009

There is no right to childhood unless society or the state grants the right to childhood. A right is nothing but a legalized privilege. Until a right to childhood is granted through some legal means, there is no right there at all. This means that the adults who manipulated and abused Ender stole nothing from him. What could they steal? His expectation for a normal childhood? (It must be a normal childhood that we mean when we say a right to childhood; Ender didn’t actually lose his childhood except as childhood is taken to mean a carefree space of time before adulthood.) Ender didn’t lose his expectation for a normal childhood (if he ever had it at all); at most, it was simply left unfulfilled.

This is the conundrum we place ourselves in if we insist of talking about all goods in terms of legalistic rights. How can we express what was taken from Ender using rightspeak? Since it was nothing material, it is hard to describe. In the end, our desire to condemn this action leads us to inventing rights that are neither intuitive nor derived through reason. To take a real life example, we have the debate between pro-choice and pro-life Americans. Both sides, shepherded by tradition into using rightspeak, invent rights (the right to life and the right to choose) that are obviously unintuitive, since large populations disagree over whether they exist. In addition, neither of these rights can be convincingly derived from nature, God, or science. In their urgency to condemn the other side, pro-life and pro-choice groups invent rights since they believe that only rights can be violated. In the same way, we might feel that there is something deeply wrong about the way Ender was used. To condemn the people who used Ender with a condemnation we feel is fitting to their abuse, we must invent a right that they violated. The right to a normal childhood takes its place among the right to life and the right to choose.



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