Those who are aware that real lyrics once accompanied music – as opposed to three or four-word song titles shouted ad nauseam for 12 minutes – may recall this from Cole Porter:
the world has gone mad today,
and good’s bad today,
and black’s white today,
and day’s night today;
If Mr. Porter thought his era was weird, he never envisioned the bass awkward, topsy turvy madness that permeates our society.
convicted deviants have rights of privacy when they move into unsuspecting communities – freeing them to molest, traumatize, perhaps kill, children again;
right-to-life activists, dedicated to the preservation of human life, shoot pro-choice proponents to death;
in a world where wireless electronic pads fax written jottings as printed documents to any place from anywhere, in a world where obsolescence and discard ability is built into most manufactured items, more dog food is sold in poor neighborhoods than in affluent ones, because that’s all many elderly or poor can afford to eat;
convicted incarcerated criminals have rights to color television, one in a cell, orange juice in the mini-frig comfort of a warm, electric and laundry provided cell, while law-abiding poor have the right to starve and freeze;
despite the fact that, from the beginning of existence, approximately one million species of creatures have ceased to exist, the endangerment of a two-inch fish that swims in the waters around New York doomed a riverfront project intended to bring leisure and pleasure to millions of people for generations;
to preserve some bird habitats, logging operations have been so regulated that lumber, a renewable resource is scarce, expensive to process, and the price of homes has skyrocketed.
What’s wrong with the above pictures? Balance. Intelligence is defined by some as the capacity to make distinctions; reasoned distinctions.
In the above examples rights seem to exist in the abstract, to be wisps independent of all else around them, inspiring folk with nothing but time and energy going for them to make a placard and begin a crusade. There doesn’t seem to be any capacity to balance one right against other rights, with an eye toward even-handedness, consequences, ultimate results.
While this tendency toward single-mindedness, this incapacity to distinguish or balance may be considered normal for some mental myopics, when such mental rigidity begins to be taken seriously by those dedicated to protecting liberty, by our judiciaries, by our legislatures, the question becomes that of the African man in the film entitled “Have the Gods Gone Mad?”
Where are the advocates for simple, wholesome, good for the commonweal, the rights of the average Joe and Jane? If you think about it, those rights that might bring further comfort and ease for plain vanilla human beings, old ones, poor ones, are too normal, too clean, too well lighted for the insistent, drum banging, placard-carrying, jeering, heavy-footed monomaniacs who need the exotic, the bizarre, the off-beat in order to get some recognition into their vapid existence.
Take it one step further, are the legislators and public servants (read politicians) filtering rights through the application of balancing tests as they fulfill their functions, are they attempting to achieve good for the commonweal, or are they merely subserving their own need for self-aggrandizement and recognition as they keep their eyes (four in their two faces) at once in a mirror, on the television cameras, the lunatic fringe, and the next election?
Regular folk who put their pants on one leg at a time, work and worry, strive and struggle, pay taxes and raise kids, have the right to ask don’t we have some rights too; the right to eat, the right to peace, to quiet enjoyment, to protection, comfort, cost reduction, parks, recreation.
Or have the Gods truly gone mad?