I plant potatoes, the plants flourish. Surely I have a right to eat the potatoes once they develop. Yes. I agree.
I’m minding my own business, lolling in the sun, fondling the flank of my woman, when I’m attacked by a thief. Surely I have a right to defend myself, and my woman, and my hearth. Surely I have a right to harm the creature harming me. Yes. I agree.
But what if you planted the potato? Do I have a right to dig it up and eat it? That’s a little stickier.
What if I planted my potatoes in your garden, in your driveway, in your daughter’s drawers?
Rights have something to do with locale. Don’t they? (Note below.)
I was recently stimulated to dream such problms by watching Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes: first the remake he produced, then the “original” he directed (1977). A retired cop and his family choose an off route through the desert on their way to California. They’re sabotaged by a clan of freaks, freaks freaked by nuclear testing. The white breads are lost in a desert they’ve never heard of before, have never seen or been in before. They’re driving on a road they’ve been told not to use, a road which isn’t really a road. Yet they never doubt their right to enter, to wander, to bear arms, to defend themselves …
Actually, the freaks were entrapping them, lived off intrepid trespassers. But our primary characters drove hundreds, thousands, of miles to fall into the trap.
PS: my first contact with Craven’s work came as part of a deliberate effort to correct my ignorance of the horror genre. Instantly I began posting praises, retractions of my prejudice …
Even a whore house can have integrity, relatively. Even a whore can be virtuous, pure, a genius … relatively.
In college I kept hearing about how great Spanish sherry was. Shakespeare has Falstaff obsessed with it. I was a drinkr: I went and bought some Spanish sherry, tasted it … What was the big deal? It doesn’t travel well, my friend said. “Go to
Spain,” he said, Drink it there. You’ll see.” Well, I’ve never gone to Spain. I didn’t seek out Spanish sherry when I was, finally, in a few other places in Europe. But I have absorbed the idea that some things travel well and some things don’t: just as some things translate well, while other things don’t translate at all.
One thing I think we should be very careful about is how well rights travel.
The southern white may have had every right to defend his family from foul language: when at home! with his family. Does that right travel to the home of a black he marches to with lynching in mind? Lynchers made a regular practice of shoving their women and children in front of them as they harrassed a target victim. Finally the tormented black might yell, “Get the hell off my land.”
“He said ‘hell’,” the lynchers could chorus: justifying the murder about to come. The lynchers were Christians, you see, and the n- said “hell” in front of their little girl. [Bowdlerizing K., 2016 08 03 Offensive terms go dosidos in fashion.]
A couple of thousand years ago the Celts across Europe were faring very well, exploiting their innovations with salt mining. Salt not only flavors food, it preserves it, makes foods travel well. We’d still be in our own little corners of Europe without salt: salt for ham, for sauerkraut … Columbus would never have dreamed to sailing to India without salt aboard as a preservative. The Romans didn’t mine salt. The Romans built roads, conquered, administered things: made sure it was their olive oil that was selling, not yours. So the Romans built roads north of Rome. The Romans saw the Celts prospering. So they conquered the Celts, took over the mines: administered salt from then on, till the Brits took over, the Americans …
Well, that’s what happened. But did it have any right to happen?
My going from my house to my outhouse beats a path. I might add gravel, even paving, shovel it in winter. I have a right to poop clear of my kitchen. Indeed, it’s an obligation, to survival. But do I have a right to build a road through your yard? Do I have a right to build a road, open a Macdonald’s, through the timber wolf’s territory?
Do I have a right to send troops to your country, arm them, tell them to defend themselves … as they trample your compound?
I’m not sure we deserve our right to talk about rights.
Rights have something to do with locale
Toward the end of grade school a new kid was added to the class. Lennie had just come up from Peru. Lennie gleefullty told me that in Lima you could shoot anybody provided you killed them in hour house. That’s self defense, protecting property. So: if you shoot somebody and they stagger around, finally dying in the street, drag the body back into your house. Now you’re safe from the law.
If you shoot your wife, she belongs in your house: so, drag her from your house into the street. Now the police will see: you didn’t do it! The police will go find somebody else to hang. or shoot before a wall, whatever they do in Peru: or did, back in the late 1940s, 1950.
A few hours later: I begin to watch of DVD of Fritz Lang’s Spiders (1919). A Harvard geologist has been snooping around the sacred grounds of descendants of the Inca. Pursued by the Incas he scribbles a message, puts it in a bottle, and throws it in the sea. The bottle is picked up by a German sportsman. The message details the location of Incan treasure, of an Incan gold mine: inexhaustible the bottle says. The white people go Oh, goodey! They believe the treasure, the gold, the world … belongs to them!
It’s their right!