Date: Wed, 04 Oct 1995 11:45:39 +0100
From: "peter.harvey" [email protected]
Subject: Rights of peoples and institutions
Santipala Stephen Evans talks of the rights of people. Williams sees such social entities as a government or state as being able to be ‘sentient beings’, which can have rights and responsibilities in regard to another social entity.
Now clearly a social entity can have rights and responsibilities arising from specific contracts that it enters into //as// a social entity. But does it have any ‘intrinsic’ rights irrespective of such contracts — analagous to the human right to, say, life — other than the collection of the rights of its members? Does ‘Tibet’ or ‘the Tibetan people’ have a right to self-govenment which is other than, or more than, the right of Tibetans to self-government? And if so, how is this best to be articulated?
Date: Thu, 05 Oct 1995 21:16:35 -0400
From: "williams" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Rights of peoples and institutions
I do not necessarily consider all modern nation states as sentient beings — in particular, I doubt this status for many of the nations created by the carving up of territory by colonial powers. I’d also wish to include many other types of social being, such as families, tribes, and religions as potential sentient beings. Being a being at the social level is different than being a being at the individual level, just as we are different than our cells. (Note that a modern nation state might not be an organic being while at the same time its’ government is an organic being.)
As we are people, not cells, animals, or nations — clearly we are going to tend to favour other people and their rights over then rights of non-people. This is to be expected, and to some extent not even wrong. But it is important to remember that we are doing this, and we should be able to relate what we decide as correct between people to what we decide is correct with regard to non-people.
A social entity is an organic being through the actions of the people which constitute it. It is through the interplay of our causes that the social being exists and acts. Through contacts, not through contracts.
Within the U.S. Constitution a basic right of existence is enshrined in the statement: Congress shall make no law … or abridging the … right of the people peacably to assemble … (Other 1st admendment rights elided.) This "right" is in actuality more an acknowledgement of existence which I wanted to point to.
I’m inclined to view the whole issue of "rights" within the Buddhist manifesto — to save all beings from suffering. The current "common coin" is human rights. I think we should simply use this coin as skillful means toward the ultimate objective.
Toward this end. I think the Tibetan People have a right to self governance if the collection of people who would constitute this Tibetan People consider themselves a Tibetan People, and also wish self governance. The is no way I can consume the Tibetan People as food to sustain my own being, therefore dismembering this social being can seem to me as nothing other than needless cruelty.