As time goes by, I hear people talking about their rights with increasing frequency and ardour.
This has become a focal point for many who resent the imposition of the global pandemic and governments' attempts to prepare our communities for the inevitable spread of the disease.
The great failure in logic by many people who staunchly assert their rights within our society is that they rarely seem to consider their mutual obligations.
Don't get me wrong, I staunchly believe in and support individual rights.
But no one person's rights transcends another's.
A person's rights come with equal and opposite responsibilities to others.
For example, if we consider the specific issue of mask wearing, some people will argue that they have an inalienable human right to choose if they want to wear a mask.
I have no particular problem with the idea that people may wish to exercise a choice.
But those same people still have a responsibility to the rest of society to ensure that they do not increase the risk of spreading infection to others individually and/or increasing the health care burden to society as a whole.
When someone argues that they have the right to not wear a mask, they are in fact saying that their right is more important than the rights of those they encounter to not be at an increased risk of infection.
So, if you don't want to wear a mask - or get vaccinated - you must explain how you are otherwise going to mitigate the risk associated with your choice to the rest of the community.
I have never heard anyone arguing for their right to not wear a mask explain this.
Simply, when we make decisions within a society, it is essential that we consider everyone's rights, rather than just our own.
This goes to the core of one of the greatest threats to a civil society.
If we, as a nation, condone and/or encourage people to continually put their own desires ahead of the collective good, then our society will continue to fragment.
Governments have, on occasion, disingenuously over-reached and imposed restrictions on an individual's rights and freedoms without being able to justify this in regards to the safety or wellbeing of the rest of the community.
Ironically, the best way to protect our individual rights is with the same genuinely balanced and robust understanding and articulation of our mutual obligations.
If we individually considered our rights in the context of our mutual obligation, our society might be able to make more progress on the really big issues.
John F Kennedy inspired a generation with one of his most quotable quotes - "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".
I doubt we have ever needed to reboot this sentiment more than today.
While the pandemic is a major disruption, it is not the greatest challenge we face.
As a society, we must rise to meet these challenges.
They are hard and there will be significant disruption and imposition.
We just can't do it selfishly.
- Peter Mailler is a third generation livestock and grain farmer from northern NSW. He holds a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science and founded the Country Minded political party.
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