Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Hobby; My Rights

Anyone in the least familiar with the discussion surrounding the general topic of "Human Rights" (see also: Civil Rights) will likely be aware of the distinct viewpoints regarding whether, or possibly to what degree, rights are an individual or collective phenomenon. My own belief is that this dispute arises mostly as a result of a general lack of mutual understanding about the nature of rights.

Human rights are an inherent component of the individual human condition. At their most basic conceptual level, human rights devolve from the principle of "right to property", or the idea that we each of us inherently possess the right to ownership of our individual selves; all rights are extensions of this fundamental principle. Thus, rights are both individual and universal among human beings. The generally misunderstood part of all this is that rights are also limited in the means and degree to which we may each express or exercise them in our collective existence within human society, if only as a necessary precondition to there being such a thing as "human society" at all.

I am a recent life member of Historical European Martial Arts Alliance, and, here in Tyler, of East Texas Historical Fencing. As a HEMA member, I am a practicing martial artist (with a, to this point, somewhat theoretical scholastic bent), and like all such I own weapons (though it must be acknowledged that, as an American living in Texas, it is only to be expected that a goodly number of those weapons are only notionally "historical") (cough/NRA member/cough). To own such is a direct extension of my inherent human rights, but the active exercise of my right to such ownership is constrained and infringed upon by the self-same inherent rights of all other members of human society with whom I inevitably interact. To quite cheekily paraphrase: wherever two or more of ye shall gather together, there too is society.

Having determined that rights themselves are an entirely individual experience, it remains universally true that ownership is distinct from use. A martial artist cannot use the weapons being studied without regard for others, and neither can ordinary human beings use (exercise) their rights without regard for other human's exercise of their rights. Much like the United States is made up of 50+ different ways to collectively exercise individual rights, the Earth is comprised of (what is it now, 168?) many different ways for societies to organize the collective expression of individual, universal human rights. HEMA Alliance being international in structure makes this realization an everyday experience for we individual members in our efforts to interact with and learn from each other.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates in part: "... shall not be infringed." This is a specific limitation on the federal (national) level of government within the cooperative construct between now-50 individual States, and demarcates the legislative boundary of the several states internally, but has no direct application to individual citizens therein. One of the foundational assumptions to creation of the USA was that governance of human society ought to be the minimum necessary collective balancing of exercise of each individual human's rights within the boundaries of a stipulated society. Providing express limits on how and why government may limit the exercise of human rights has the intended benefit of maximizing individual opportunities to use the rights we all own.

HEMA designates procedures whereby stipulated persons may regulate and, when necessary, infringe upon individual members exercise of their human rights within the collective HEMA society. Would the "real world" had it so easy. Instead, we tiredly trudge our collective way through often-obstinate individual efforts to achieve short-term, personal goals using methods having long-term, wide-spread consequences, but which are in themselves arguably legal. In HEMA (as in many other physical activities), we wear protective equipment to prevent individual injury from our or another's exercise of weapons. In life, we find ourselves having to resort to the law should there be injury resulting from the exercise of our rights. If I only get to have one or the other, I'll take the second option every time. Fortunately, door #2 includes the possibility for HEMA membership, so it has that to recommend it.

How well or honestly any given example of human society achieves the laudable goal of equable exercise of human rights is beyond the confines of this essay, but if I have managed to add some clarity or understanding to the practice of my hobby or my philosophy then I will not have wasted either of our time.

No comments: