Friday, July 15, 2022

Rights, Wrongs and Norms

There are rights and there are wrongs. We have the right to do certain things or even to refrain from doing certain things. We have the right to freedom of speech and yet we have the right, in certain circumstances, to remain silent. We have the right not to be coerced. We have the right to vote and to worship. These are guaranteed as part of the contract we call our constitution. 

And then, there are social norms. They are not written into the Constitution or even into our Bill of Rights. And yet, we all observe them, because, if we didn't, life would become insufferable.

People who follow social norms respect each other. They do not yell at each other, harass or abuse each other on the street or in restaurants. They also observe rules of propriety and decorum. 

Now, you can, in principle, not be prosecuted for violating the norms of social behavior. It is not illegal to have bad table manners or to stand up and shout during a theatrical performance.

In recent years we have been exposed to a violation of norms, though not necessarily of rights. Those who despise a certain president and who are now up in arms about a Supreme Court decision believe that they have the right to violate social norms.

Of course, they believe that they are fighting fascism-- by adopting tactics that were practiced by Nazi Storm Troopers. No one ever accused today’s radicals of possessing even a modicum of intelligence.

Anyway, Daniel Greenfield raises the issue in terms of the recent harassment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during dinner. (via Maggie's Farm) Those who did so were, clearly, violating norms of proper social behavior. They insist that they feel so strongly about a certain issue that they can arrogate to themselves the right to render someone’s life miserable. 

And, let’s not forget the Harvard law teacher who declared that the justices who voted in a way she did not like ought not to be allowed to walk the street, shop in stores or have lunch in peace.

Alejandra Caraballo called for the systematic harassment and abuse of justices who are, dare we mention, significantly more intelligent than she is. Her intemperate rant raises the question of how she got her job, based on what qualifications or on what judicial temperament.

In normal deliberate debate one makes a show of professing one’s respect for one’s opponent. One recognizes that one does not hold a monopoly on the truth. Failing to do so undermines the basis for debate-- that is, the humility that recognizes that one ought to respect those who disagree.

People with bloated self-esteem persuade themselves that they are entirely right and that their opponents are entirely wrong. Surely, we have seen the same moral derangement in those who insist that they are right about climate change, regardless of what scientists say. See yesterday's post.

Obviously, Caraballo never learned intellectual humility. Again, however did she get to teach at Harvard Law School.

One remarks, with some regret, that in a nation whose workplaces are rife with various kinds of harassment, sexual and moral, we have supposedly serious thinkers promoting harassment as a political tool. Why does anyone think that this example will not be practiced by those on the other side of a question. If the only determinant factor is how strongly you feel about an issue, or about a person, why not create a society where harassment has replaced decorum, where rudeness has become pervasive.

Greenfield addresses a question that has apparently been raised by the dimwits of the mainstream media. Does Justice Kavanaugh have a right to eat dinner in peace?

After pro-abortion activists forced Justice Kavanaugh to leave a steakhouse, after an assassination plot against him, lefties harassed the steakhouse and the media hosted a debate over whether conservatives have a "right to eat dinner".

Apparently, they believe that since the right to eat dinner is not written into the Bill of Rights, Kavanaugh does not have such a right and ought not to be allowed to live in peace.

To which Greenfield correctly responds, that eating dinner in peace is a civilizational norm. It is a sign that  you belong to the same society, that you respect each other:

Eating dinner isn't a right, it's a civilizational norm to let people eat in peace even if you disagree with them. 

Civilizational norms are self-justifying and reciprocal. You don't need to think very deeply about them. If you can't understand the moral justification, then the simple one is that if you don't let other people eat dinner, they won't let you eat yours. 

The social contract involves reciprocity. We allow other people to live their everyday lives free of harassment because we want the same from them. One might say that it simply expresses the Biblical phrase-- do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you feel seriously aggrieved, even harassed, the principle tells you not to return harassment with harassment, not to invade someone’s privacy because you believe that he has invaded yours. 

Unfortunately, American leftists, during their 2020 Black Lives Matter insurrection, violated those norms. They harassed people who were having dinner. It is good to recall those incidents, because no one on the left thought that there was anything wrong with what the rioters were doing. 

And we understand that America’s judicial authorities let the BLM riots rage on unmolested, calling them protests. Merrick Garland’s Justice Department has refused to enforce the law against protesting outside the house of federal judges. One ought to underscore the fact that no one has a right to protest, even peacefully, outside of the home of a federal judge. It is a violation of federal law. Unfortunately, the Biden justice department does not believe in enforcing laws.

And yet, Greenfield argues, if ever a group of people protested outside of the house of a minority justice, they would immediately be arrested and sent to prison.

And then you have to ask whether most people want to live in that kind of society.

Lefties have flagrantly broken those norms, one of the more famous photos from the Black Lives Matter race riots includes race rioters demanding that diners raise their fists in solidarity with their hateful cause. They have repeatedly harassed conservatives and just random people. And all this has taken place with the innate understanding that if a mob gathered outside a place where Ketanji Brown-Jackson was having a latte while sharing fun times going easy on pedophiles, the sky would thunder and the FBI would be on the spot in 3.5 seconds.

The point is, we are now living in a nation where there are different rules for different people. You cannot have a united country when different groups are held to different standards, and especially when one side is allowed to violate norms when they feel deeply convinced that they are right.

But counting on abuse of authority to protect blatant double standards is just tyranny. And a fragile one at that. Counting on the innate decency of conservatives is also a weak card.

The Left claims that it wants to burn everything down, but the masses of its upscale supporters have no sense of what that would feel like or look like.

They say things like "there's no right to eat dinner" while believing that they do have a right to eat dinner. As the radicalism they have unleashed continues, they may find that there is indeed no right, only civilizational norms that they are destroying. And that those little things are the difference between civilization and barbarism. 

Failing to respect civilizational norms means that one has lost the argument. It means that one is a sore loser, that one cannot debate the issues, and that one feels that political action, the sort practiced by Storm Troopers, is a valid expression of political conviction.

In the end, as Greenfield notes, these behaviors shred the social fabric by systematically violating the norms that constitute it. But, once they do so they are telling everyone that harassment is a good and normal thing to do. 

They are saying that, like children, if they do not get their way they will throw a tantrum until someone steps in and stops them, by force.


ErisGuy said...

They insist that they feel so strongly about a certain issue that they can arrogate to themselves the right to render someone’s life miserable.

In _The Best & The Brightest_, Halberstam recounts an dinner party where anti-war professors argumentatively disrupted the dinner.* Whereupon the host told them to mind their manners, you’re disrupting our dinner. The reply was ‘your president disrupted our whole year.”

The one taking the beating is the loser, and America and Americans have been losers for decades. They simply won’t fight back.

* And how often have Leftists from Obama to Pajama Boy exhorted his comrades to interrupt Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

BobJustBob said...

Attempting to intimidate a Supreme Court Judge is a Federal offense...unless nobody chooses to prosecute...we live in a 3rd World Banana Republic.

18 U.S. Code § 1507 - Picketing or parading

Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

Nothing in this section shall interfere with or prevent the exercise by any court of the United States of its power to punish for contempt.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps an individual Justice could have these boneheads arrested for contempt.

Walt said...

On the other horn of that dilemma is the fact that suddenly everybody thinks they have a right to everything including, but not limited to, instant gratification. Just last week a group of young women thought they had a right to free dipping sauce with their fries and then thought they had a right to destroy the restaurant and assault the servers when they didn’t get it. And the week before that, a woman in a Harlem bodega thought she had a right to a free bag of chips and , learning she didn’t, called in her “boyfriend” to punch out the 61 year old clerk while she herself stabbed him. And only this morning the customer of a Chase Bank on 86th Street thought he had a right to a service that the bank doesn’t provide and, informed of that, stabbed the bank guard in the neck.

On the actual topic, the 1st Amendment is about peaceably assembling “to petition the government.” Since the Justices already decided Roe, there’s nothing left to petition them about. So the acts of harassment are NOT a legitimate 1st Amendment right. They’re merely a tantrum.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

We could cut off Nancy Pelosi's access to booze.