I have a basic philosophy that comes up in conversation quite a bit. I find it very useful to understand how rights in a civil society could be balanced using a simple refrain. It goes like this:
My rights end where yours begin.
This statement, if applied universally to all, leads to much clearer boundaries between people in society. I like to imagine the sphere of rights afforded each of us as small bubbles, pressed together like an n-dimensional foam. We all butt up against others, and others us, but none of us intrudes upon one another.
So, while I have the right to believe that a golden monkey rules existence, I don’t have the right to force your belief (or appearance of belief) in the same.
I sometimes extend this further.
You have the right to believe in murder as a fun thing to do. You even have the right to commit murder, I suppose. But others have a right not be be murdered. Since exercising your desired right to murder would infringe other’s right not to be murdered, you aren’t allowed to kill people. You are allowed to believe it’s OK to do so, but you don’t get to actually do it. (This does lend a different moral perspective to the occasional, and usually sensational stories of willing victims of murder.)
So then things get complicated.
Which right is to be protected more, the right to murder or the right to live? The right to believe in a deity or the right to live without such encumbrances? The right to a basic, living wage or the right to vast sums of wealth?
It seems there is no answer to this without a sense of just what we consider basic human rights, enumerations of which have been plentiful over existence, but meaningful application in society always seems to fall short.
But if we can come to consensus on what protected rights should be, I think my concept is useful for better understanding the limits of an individual’s rights.
The night of the latest US election was tumultuous for many of us. For me, it meant getting only a small amount of fitful sleep. My mind was racing about what I could do. (Which is telling, I suppose, as at that point I was barely concerned with how things happened, just that they had and that I needed to do something to help.)
Within that mental turmoil, I seized on an image of an inverted capital T – an anti-Trump symbol in my mind. The next morning I spent some time playing around with some designs. It was therapeutic as it kept my hands, eyes and brain engaged in something that, while small, was at least productive.
During that exploration I checked – as I try always to do – on alternate meanings of the inverted T. It never does to introduce a symbol to mean one thing only to find that it means something vulgar, silly, or even opposite in intent in another culture, language, etc. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that ⊥ is also used to convey “contradiction” or “unconditionally false” in mathematics. (And, also, “perpendicular to” in geometry.) So I found I had a symbol that directly referenced an inverse of Trump’s policies that already had very similar connotations in existing usage.
That feels powerful to me.
I released some graphics, made some jewelry, ordered some buttons and bumper stickers, and officially released the design to the public.
It turns out this is my most popular jewelry design to date and the buttons and stickers are proving popular too. To be clear, I’m not trying to capitalize on the events in our country (though that would seem to be the most modernly American thing to do) and so I’ve priced everything well below what I would for purely aesthetic designs. My costs are covered and just enough extra is added to let me expand the line, but I’m not making bank on this.
If it means something to you, please use and share.
You can access high-resolution and vector images here: http://www.waaronw.com/resist
By the way, the “Up Tack” character (⊥) is U+22A5 and the similar “Perpendicular” character (⟂) is U+27C2.
I’ve dabbled with Noam Chomsky’s longer form writings for years, but found I rarely got very far into any given work. There are the one-off essays that can be found online and a couple of pretty well-done video compilations of talks (available on Netflix, even) that I have enjoyed. I’ve been meaning to read more for a long time, but I think I made little progress because his work does not make one proud to be an American. (Or, at least, it doesn’t make *me* proud and, I would hope, it wouldn’t make many others proud of our past actions either.) It’s depressing to truly realize one is part of a hypocritical terrorist state.
I’m nearly finished with Hopes and Prospects, and I did finish most of Manufacturing Consent, and I am pretty blown away by just how prescient these texts are considering they are mostly history books. Facing a Trumpian near-term future, I think the facts elucidated here are all the more important to be very familiar with. The patterns have not changed much, but the intensity has ebbed and flowed – and not always they way one might expect under particular administrations.
I’m trying to stay strong in the face of seemingly overwhelming condemnation for what I have always thought were core American beliefs, but I won’t lie and say I’m finding it easy. I’m hopeful that if I can make it through until April, Chomsky’s upcoming book Optimism over Despair (based on interviews) will have some tidbits that will help.
For a long time now, I have missed having my own space to post content that I have been itching to write, projects I want to create, and questions I want to explore. This site is an effort to collect my work in one place where I can control it and ensure that it’s available in the future. (I also prefer not to let my work provide advertising revenue to unaccountable companies – there will be more on that subject for sure!)
Over the coming months, I’ll be using this space to document some of the projects I’m working on and, generally, use it to noodle at the topics I’m passionate about. Not everything here will be polished, or even finished, but it will be real and it will be, occasionally I hope, important.