Sunday, 6 June 2010

Resurfacing old thoughts

When I taught at Carrington Polytechnic / Unitec, I used to talk to the students in the induction / orientation programme about our expectations with respect to caring for the computer laboratories. However, I tried to phrase it in terms of them taking responsibility. I used a four quadrant diagram.


The principle was that we are given privileges such as access to education (not a right to education). These privileges come with associated responsibilities. A right tends to be something we demand or can demand. The thing is when that happens, we tend to take less responsibility for ensuring others have access to that right. A right is a selfish understanding about access to things. The concept of a privilege is that it is offered to us but we through our actions can take up that privilege. However, a privilege comes with responsibilities. We can't just take the privilege for our exclusive use.. If we ignore the responsibilities of the privilege through our actions then we will experience consequences which is the loss of the privilege.

Moving from the context of education to the wider context of living, we have been given the privilege of life and the access to resources to live and learn. We can abuse that privilege through our actions and destroy the resources and life itself. Or we can accept the responsibilities that come with those privileges and take care of the resources so they continue to be available for others. We can accept our responsibility to be a caring part of the community seeking to build bridges and develop harmony. For me, as a Christian, God has given me the privilege of life and the privilege of walking in relationship with him. That carries with it a responsibility to bring God's peace (shalom) to all, not through conquest but through love and caring. We reach out to others in honesty, integrity, and truth. There may be conflict (not military but in terms of ideology and in speaking the truth) but always the goal is to bring others closer to Christ.

In the end, we can't opt out of our responsibilities nor can we force delivery of rights. We can only act in accordance with the responsibilities or suffer the consequences (i.e. the lose of the privileges). Our actions aren't based on our privileges, they are based on our responsibilities. The consequences have a direct impact on our privileges and not on our responsibilities. This gives a more cyclic picture.

Since drafting this blog, someone suggested that we can talk about the rights of others in the sense that all should have a right to education. This isn't seeking to gain for oneself but rather recognising someone else's need in a way that says they should have that need satisfied. I totally agree with this perspective. We should be arguing that all have a right to a place to live, to food, and to being able to live a meaningful life. It is clear that our economic system is not designed to ensure that this happens. Therefore, I argue that it needs to be changed to place the needs (rights) of people ahead of accounting strategies.

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