Individuals in society

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” John Stuart Mill, ‘On Liberty’

“Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.” ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’

Throughout these writings on collaboration it is assumed that individual rights are inherent in every system. As unhealthy cells can never create a healthy whole, a weakened people stripped of their basic rights will never create a healthy society.

In any system where groups have power, individual rights are always at risk. Both pure democracy and communism have brought human rights horrors every bit as reprehensible as fascist states; in order to guard against genocide, torture, and other persecution of individuals in the name of the greater good, a society must safeguard individual rights above all other authority.

In order for any society to ensure its survival without the use of tyrannical force, the members must be convinced that it is better than the alternative. If an alternative or no society at all appears more attractive than the current state, people will naturally be motivated to dismantle the current system. In order for a society to appear more attractive than no society at all, we need to consider the basic rights of individuals in no society. There are certain basic rights that we can see enjoyed by most mammals in their natural state; to ensure people do not need to resort to fighting for these basic rights, we can enshrine them in our social contract. If people can see their basic rights more attainable within the system than without, it will be in their best interests to protect the system.

Every undomesticated mammal will seek and sometimes fight for their basic needs: food, shelter, safety, the right to reproduce and to provide for and educate their young, the right to cohabit, at least with offspring, some measure of privacy, the right to associate or refuse to associate, the right to communicate, the right to explore and the right to learn. To some extent, all mammals have also the right to choose the time, place and method of their work within the bounds of nature and survival. Any interference with these basic rights is seen as an attack and will be greeted with whatever defence the mammal is capable of.

If an individual agrees to abide by the laws of a society and not attack it, it is reasonable that the society provides means for all members to attain the same advantages they would fight for in a state of nature. When a society refuses to allow its members to attain basic needs such as food, shelter and safety, and the deprivation is not caused by unavailability, only the most extreme repressive force and mass imprisonment will protect the society from revolution.

Given access to basic needs, the commonly recognized advantage undomesticated mammals have which their domesticated counterparts do not is freedom. Domesticated mammals are widely recognized as being in some sort of slavery, though it is popular lately to equate their status to a permanently infantilized ‘member of the family’ instead, unless they are destined to be eaten. In either case, they do not have the free will they would have in a state of nature. They will never attain an adult, autonomous status or the dignity of self actualization.

When speaking of both domesticated animals and humans, many people question why they would even want free will. They are, after all, completely taken care of, subject of course to the whims of their masters. Given proper laws to ensure benevolent masters, what is so bad about slavery or perpetual childhood? The idea that we are all entitled to our human dignity is perhaps more easily understood. We do not have human dignity when we lose not just our basic rights to survival but also our free will and our right to reach our full potential. We do not have human dignity when we are not treated as responsible, intelligent, participating members of society. We do not have human dignity when we are kept in a state below what we are capable of achieving or in a system which fails to recognize where we naturally excel. And we do not have human dignity in a system where our basic needs are treated not as a right but as a privilege which we must earn and be grateful for and which a higher parental authority can remove from us.

It has become a common and accepted part of society that when people reach an age where they ought to have attained adulthood, they frequently express ‘unreasonable’ dissatisfaction, in the form of riots or other violence against their society. Where a socioeconomic excuse for this behaviour can be found, this will be commonly used by sociologists to justify the incidents but when the perpetrators come from the most advantaged segments of society, puzzlement and frustration are typical. Rebellion is completely expected by childhood development experts when caregivers refuse to allow a child the independence required for them to attain adulthood; it is curious that the same expectation is not attached to a society that refuses to allow people to attain adult status and responsibility.

Current political systems around the world typically discuss individual rights from the role of either a ‘good’ parent or ‘bad’ parent. The harsh parent will argue that individuals must bear full responsibility for all that happens to them, in the form of severe punishment for infractions of rules and no aid in times of need, and the benevolent parent will argue for all encompassing care for each member of society. Neither argues for individual rights that would give not just responsibility but also authority to the people, as this would eliminate the political systems as they exist today.

The rights all individuals in a society are entitled to are typically enshrined in a constitutional or human rights document at a national or international level. Because these documents are frequently produced at times following revolution, newly won independence, or other periods of great awareness, they tend to reflect the ideals of the people in the society. They frequently include life, liberty, security of person, access to the basic essentials of life including knowledge, privacy and personal autonomy in matters not affecting the rest of society, free development of personality and potential, and an unbiased and accessible legal system which does not promote the wishes of the group over the rights of the individual. The rights in these documents form the social contract between individuals and society. Each individual agrees that they will work for the greater good of the society and protect the individual rights of others in exchange for having their own rights protected. This contract is essential in a system of governance that is not simply mob rule, or despotic rule.

If a governing authority were to pass laws in contradiction to the social contract, the government would be in breach of contract. The people in the society can then remove the authority given to the government or consider the contract null and void and declare a state of no governance from which a new social contact may or may not be formed. The governing body loses authority when it acts in contradiction to the social contract. A ruling such as that in the Supreme Court of Canada, which found that the government of Canada had violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the case of Omar Khadr and yet left the government with the authority to decide the remedy, while legally justifiable under current Canadian law, is a logically incorrect action in a society of free people.

If mob rule is allowed to change the social contract to remove rights from individuals in the name of the greater good, the social contract with each member of society is also null and void. If the point of a social contract is that each individual agrees that they will work for the greater good of the society and protect the individual rights of others in exchange for having their own rights protected, every violation of anyone’s rights needs to be of grave concern to the whole of society. The greater good has never and will never be served by laws which violate individual rights for the benefit of overall society.

Almost every law which violates a social contract is brought in as a one time exception that will only violate the rights of a certain minority group and will only apply in one or very few scenarios. It is usually presented as a protection of the rights of a highly sympathetic group with majority approval and accompanied by demonization of the target minority group. Sweeping surveillance of the internet is marketed as protecting children from pedosadists and to allow law enforcement to prevent child pornography, despite all evidence that it does nothing of the kind and is not actually intended to. Internet users are depicted as potential pedosadists and pirates of copyrighted material, particularly if they have privacy concerns or fight against censorship. Internment of all Japanese citizens in Canada during World War II, the USA Patriot Act which criminalized providing expert advice or assistance (including legal) to designated terrorists, the massive worldwide loss of rights and liberty, not to mention life, in the name of ‘counter terrorism’, the ‘state of emergency’ invoked around the world at various times which, once invoked, frequently becomes a permanent state, it is very easy to find countless examples of rights violations in law at this time. In every instance, these societies have broken their social contract; they have become coercive societies which now must rule by force.

These sweeping changes are usually preceded by creeping changes felt only by the marginalized in society and frequently billed as ‘for their own good’, such as various laws and regulations in both Canada and Holland which restrict legal prostitution in ways that would not be tolerated in other legal careers. In practice, the marginalized members of any society seldom enjoy the rights that form society’s contract with them. Until every member of society makes it their business to defend the rights of every member of society, no society will be safe from these encroachments.

If the marginalized group can be given a group name, anything from ‘Palestinians’ to ‘terrorists’ to’Anonymous’, the success of the violation of their rights is far more likely. If the majority of the population does not identify as part of the victimized group they are easily able to accept the loss of rights, especially if it is accompanied by propaganda to villainize the group. In this case, the entire society has broken their social contract and the society has lost legitimacy.

In the United States this concept of ‘other’ was carried to the entire rest of the world, and it was not until the government passed legislation in the form of the 2012 NDAA which attempted to treat US citizens in the same manner that illegal immigrants and the entire rest of the world were treated that the law was challenged. Such an extreme case suggests a strong need for a worldwide social contract which tolerates no ‘others’, particularly as states put defence of their citizens as their first priority. It is easy from there to justify defending citizens not by supporting them but instead by persecuting others. Individual rights must apply to every individual, and every law, including those of borders and nationality, which differentiate between groups will undermine individual rights.

Human Rights Law

Currently, the world has not fought for individual human rights in large numbers since the end of World War II which left us with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those rights have been subject to a guardian coup d’état, largely unnoticed by most of the world. Historically, a lack of awareness of violations to social contracts was both real and excusable, and the ability to organize in protest was severely hampered. That is no longer the case.

Since the UDHR was written in 1948 it has been under relentless attack as has every other documentation of rights before or since. Although the preamble clearly states the intent to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction” the text, widely distributed in early years, is now rarely seen. The Covenants adopted in 1966, law since 1976, billed as ‘clarifying the UDHR’ and written in far more convoluted terms, are one of the first significant examples of legal undermining which, if the principles of the UDHR had been followed, would never have passed.

For example:

UDHR Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

was completely negated by the Covenants, which start by adding the word ‘arbitrarily’, and then proceed to remove the right to life from everyone not under 18 or pregnant. (Even this was disregarded by the law in several countries, most notably the United States.):

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 6
1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.

5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.

6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.

UDHR Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

was modified to separate “forced or compulsory labour” as somehow separate from “slavery or servitude” and allow prison labour, which has since become a thriving slave industry. It also includes enough vague generality to be very flexible in allowing any form of state slavery.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 8:
1. No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.
2. No one shall be held in servitude.
3. (a) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour;
(b) Paragraph 3 (a) shall not be held to preclude, in countries where imprisonment with hard labour may be imposed as a punishment for a crime, the performance of hard labour in pursuance of a sentence to such punishment by a competent court;
(c) For the purpose of this paragraph the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(i) Any work or service, not referred to in subparagraph (b), normally required of a person who is under detention in consequence of a lawful order of a court, or of a person during conditional release from such detention;
(ii) Any service of a military character and, in countries where conscientious objection is recognized, any national service required by law of conscientious objectors;
(iii) Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(iv) Any work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations.

In case there was anything left of the UDHR that may hinder a state from doing exactly as they please, it is made clear that the state may limit any of these rights “solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society” which instantly renders the entire body of human rights law as, in the words of George W Bush describing the US constitution, “just a g-d piece of paper”.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 4:

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, in the enjoyment of those rights provided by the State in conformity with the present Covenant, the State may subject such rights only to such limitations as are determined by law only in so far as this may be compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.

Building a New Society

I highly recommend clicking the link and reading the thirty UDHR articles. Most people today are suspicious, and rightly so, of any document from the UN, but this was the first document and, as a product of its time, it is shockingly complete and beautiful in its simplicity. That is not to argue that it does not need an update, but most of the updates suggested in the past detract by addition. The UDHR, while very improvable, is a model of how principles ought to be written, in simple, pure and universal terms upon which law can be based, with no vague Hallmark sounding generalities that require interpretation.

The idea that only a lawyer can understand the law was created to disguise the undermining of the basic principles of society. In order for a social contract to be binding, the principles must be easily taught to anyone, including children. No law must ever deviate from the principles of the social contract, therefore law ought to be largely intuitive. It is evident from the above that a vigilant society must audit, and indeed write, all new laws to prevent the undermining of principles.

Along with accessibility of the law, the inviolability of principles has also been under attack. A very short time ago (when the UDHR was written), principles were considered the foundations upon which everything must be built, as they are in every science and discipline. If someone said they were against your idea in principle, your task of convincing them became far harder as you must now first convince them that either your argument fit their principle, or their principle was wrong. If you succeeded at the latter, that person would have to rethink their values on everything, because morals and values were to be built upon core principles, as was the law. Today, if a politician says they are against something in principle, it means they have already agreed; principles have been designated as niceties that we all appreciate in theory but are impractical. This is an Orwellian attack on the structure of a society which clears the path for every oxymoronic law which has followed.

In order to stop the incessant flow of laws against the will of the people, core principles of society must be defined. When these principles are defined, it must be recognized that no law can ever be passed which contradicts these principles. In order for society to be stable, and allow a new and better system of collaboration, principles must apply equally to everyone, without exception.

The law must be accessible for all, not only the wealthy. Currently, NGO’s are required to fight for the rights of people and nature, but corporate rights are protected by their access to the expensive legal system. Legal remedies must be as immediate as possible as powerful interests can destroy lives just as surely be protracting a court case as they can by winning one. And the law must be intuitive, not up to the subjective judgement of an archaic legal system. Members of a society need to know before committing an act what the repercussions of that act will be, and the law must be applied equally to all. This requires a far more automated and accessible system than is currently available in any country. The fact that the legal system has remained so archaic strongly suggests that it is meant to remain inaccessible and subjective as that is best serving the interests of those in power.

The discouragement people once faced for obtaining online medical advice, particularly from their peers, is greatly compounded for legal advice. This must change. People must recreate the legal systems to work for them, and that requires direct involvement at every level in the creation and implementation of the laws. The law, more than any other part of society, must be transparent, accessible, equal, and created by and for the people.

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9 thoughts on “Individuals in society

  1. The current system will continue to become more corrupted until the ultimate revolt. Our most pressing questions are when and how the old system will be abandoned. We must take the rapid advancements of autonomous warfare into consideration. Time is of the essence as all large nation states will posses the ability to launch large-scale fully automated attacks within the next 50 years. Such technology will vastly complicate the imminent revolution.

    While a quick and perfect transition is obviously impossible, the process can be orchestrated into logical stages. The revolution could begin with a Global Secessionist Movement, allowing us to remove the social pollution of large nation states while retaining basic community structures.

    Collaboration technology can now replace nation states, making global self-governance possible for the first time in human history. There are many questions but this is the only answer.

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