Human rights are talked about a lot lately, mostly because of the regress experienced in many countries around the world, as authoritarian dictatorships pop up here and there, and democracy is under heavy strain for many reasons, including the failure of solving major economic and financial problems. Repetitive violation of human rights has almost become banal, especially on the part of States, but also by individuals who « say things as they are » or fight « political correctness » when in fact they are just openly calling for racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny etc. These are not easy times, and the saddest part is that those who should be defending human rights seem to have forgotten one human right which has never really been formally written down. Indeed, all too often, those who should be defending human rights have fallen into a radical line of thought as well. A perfect mirror image to the authoritarian dictatorships : authoritarian human rights which forget the subtleties of balancing various contradicting rights like the right to free speech and fighting racism etc. But its especially a simplistic kind of discourse where human rights lead to a human Utopia where everyone is happy dandy. This is especially prevalent when talking about economic inequalities, as if solving those problems will automatically lead to a Utopian society where everyone will be « happy ».
But there is one thing that they have forgotten : they underestimate the power of humans to conjure circumstances or reasons to be miserable.
Indeed, I would argue that the forgotten human right is the right for each and every human to be miserable. Most horrible dictatorships came about specifically with a promise that everyone would be happy. Yet happiness is not something that you can legislate and enforce. It is a state which is mostly found within, and the outside circumstances are merely small helpers along the long winding path to happiness, peace of mind, tranquility and inner peace. In many regards, there is a trend or a tendency in society to point fingers at people and ask if they have the right to complain given their status of « privilege » in terms of wealth, power, fame or any other attribute. This reminds me of parents furiously yelling at their crying kid : « I’ll give you a reason to cry ! » as they are about to spank them, not being able to tolerate or understand that their child could cry or throw a tantrum for seemingly no reason. But the cold facts are that humans never needed an alibi or an external circumstance to feel like shit. Depression hits the poor and the rich alike. The only difference is how they can cope, but ultimately, if untreated, it ends up the exact same way : suicide. Only one is jumping from a bridge while the other is dying from luxury drug overdose.
That is the ultimate self-deception of social justice warriors : the belief that once whatever policy recommendations they push forward are voted and enforced by law, that their struggles will end, that they will be able to go home and enjoy a peaceful, uneventful life.
If you have followed me on this spiritual journey, you might be surprised as you read this article, as it sets a different tone than my idealism and Utopian ideas, talking about harmony and peace between all humans. But in fact, these ideas are fully aligned. The ultimate end goal is not to ensure that everyone is happy, but that whatever system rules over society, that it enables everyone to pursue happiness should they so desire, without making people jump through artificial hoops.
In this sense, capitalism is a rather poor model for systemically encouraging or enabling people to seek after peace of mind, happiness, etc, at least the current neoliberal version of it, since it exacerbates two extremes : it creates a self reinforcing spiral making sure that it’s easy for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer. It is also sub-optimal in allowing for people to develop their talents, as profit is an ultimate precondition for any job to exist (except if it’s subsidized in one way or another, especially by the State, and that’s quickly drawing to a close).
Of course, there are much worse systems, but we can definitely do better. If you have read my « Practical Spirituality » series, you will get a glimpse of the kind of « system » or society that I imagine, where revamping the economic and financial system is a fundamental prerequisite. But I have never sunk into the Utopian temptation to believe that once all of those ideas are implemented, that every single human will be happy. In fact, I really, truly wish that humans will always have the right to be miserable.
And I am certain that regardless of how « perfect » a society we can imagine, humans will always find some reason, artificial or not, to be miserable. Human creatures are extremely complex, and the emotions that traverse them affect them in millions of ways. Even in a perfect system, social interactions, family relationships, frustrations with your partner(s), all of those will remain imperfect, so long as we have the ability to feel, misery and unhappiness will not disappear from the face of the Earth. And perhaps this is a good thing, as contrast is what makes those happy moments so « happy ». In a wave, a peak only exists in relation to a crest.
The only thing that I’m trying to do is to transition to a system which does not make it so damn easy to be miserable, a system which respects the right of each person to be miserable or happy, and which doesn’t disproportionately pull humans towards one or the other, that’s all.