Friday, March 9, 2012

Privileges Versus Rights

One summer Saturday, a few years ago, a buddy of mine, named Joe, and I were hanging out, spending a day together bowling, talking about our high school band days, and our current directions in life.  The original plan was to hang out in the day time and later depart in the evening, but we were having so much fun that we decided to extend our small reunion.  Having done almost "everything" else in the city between the time of this day and back when we were Juniors and Seniors, we decided to try something outside of our scope of fun.

Joe and I aren't clubbers or urban-nightlife type of people (yes, even, despite my experience with glowsticking; I actually practice just for fun, but don't venture to raves that often).  We were your average college guys that strayed away from doing anything too mainstream.  But, because of other businesses closing up for the night, we agreed to check out a dance and bar venue nearby.

As we approached the club, a bouncer gave us a quick up-and-down look and shook his head, stating, "Sorry, no shorts allowed, and you need some shoes" (I was wearing sandals at the time).  We weren't permitted to step beyond him, and had no idea what theme or event they had going on that night.  So, we said our "thanks," and drove off to play some billiards.

Now, let's take a step back and ask some questions about this scenario.  Because I drove a long way just to arrive at the club, I at least deserved some fun, or a few minutes just to take a peek inside regardless of the dress code, right?  Heck, gas isn't inexpensive.

Am I allowed, then, to claim that the bouncer denied me my natural rights to have fun, and my rights to be myself?  I mean, it's just not me to glamour myself up with spiked and gelled hair, cologne, an open collared shirt and dress pants (unless the occasion calls for it) just to dance and socialize.  This bouncer, in my theoretical opinion, violated my rights to enjoy the party...right?

No, he didn't.  He is only doing his job to ensure that the club's environment stays in tact, that if a dress code is present, then all participants must follow those rules per its culture.  Maybe some people don't want to see casually dressed college people crash their sophisticated environment, but it doesn't necessarily imply that they don't want Kevin and Joe at the event.  In fact, the bouncer just gave us a hint to what we need in order to enter -- he didn't tell us "sorry, we don't want you here."  There was nothing personal in this meeting.

Let's say that I don't understand that concept that there's nothing personal.  Let's say that I feel like he did deny me entrance because of who I am, and that I'm stuck on the idea that he took away my rights.  This bouncer doesn't know anything about me, and I (theoretically) work 7 days a week at the soup kitchen, distributing food to the underprivileged.  I (theoretically) tutor homeless students, work at the YMCA, etc. etc.  I've (theoretically) done all these great things for humanity.  Is it okay for me to strike up a public rally against this certain bouncer?  Certainly not.

First, I should have talked to management -- this bouncer is not laying out the rules, but he is enforcing them.  I mean, who would want a bodyguard who doesn't do their job?  He does what he does because it's his duty and his implied nature.  He isn't a rude, unreasonable draconian.  For all I know, this man could have also been a Boys&Girls Club volunteer or mentor who has a side job at this bar.  Thus, given that he is not management, I should not be focused on convincing him to let me in, but I should take my concerns to the overall organization.  I am sure that he would be happy to allow me in if it wasn't a formal night.  There is no sense in reaching out to the other people in line and asking them to verbally shoot down this specific bouncer for not letting us have our fun or be ourselves.

Second, if management finalizes a decision that parallels the bouncer's (i.e. declining me access until I put on the right clothes), is it time to spark up a movement?  No, of course not...  I cannot conclude that it's personal on these bases.  I can't say they're specifically denying Kevin and Joe because we're Kevin and Joe...unless there's a contradiction.  That is, are there common exceptions?

My next direction for research should be looking for inconsistencies.  In other words, have they allowed ANYONE with shorts (or no shoes) in, ever?  Does this rule apply to everyone, too?  Until there is a concrete, solid example of a random stranger with shorts and sandals allowed into the club, I cannot say the bouncer did this to me because it's me; I cannot say he took away my rights.

Rights and privileges are two different things, by the way.  Rights are something that you are born with, but are not always specifically written down (they're written down when there are people who don't use common sense, or want to take advantage of humanity).  I have a right to the freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, and freedom to protect myself.  These rights exist so that no one can randomly or spontaneously violate you.  This implies that you are doing nothing, that the situation for these rights to exist is when you are a passive, static target (in other words, when you did not make any decisions to led to this event).

However, there are some limitations to these rights when you participate in anything social, when you make a conscious decision to take part in a gathering or perform an action.  Limited rights include privileges.  When you want to do something, you actually have to give up some rights if it is necessary to protect the rights of others.  For example, you can't take sharp utensils when you want to fly, for safety purposes.  You can't yell "bomb" in a crowded stadium, even if there isn't one to begin with.  If you create a disturbance, you are then throwing away your privileges in effect, such as the privilege to live in a home versus a cell, or the privilege to fly.

Thus, I do have the right to have fun (I can have fun elsewhere), just not at the club.  The bouncer didn't chain me up and say I wasn't allowed to do anything that night (THAT would be a violation of my rights, then, because it would affect me even if I didn't make a decision at all).  If I want to take part at this event, I have to abide by a rule that everyone else is following, or else lose the privilege to have fun at the club.  Debating the issue would probably deny me access for the rest of the night, or maybe a temporary lockup when they call the cops for "disturbance of the peace."

This entire concept applies everywhere.

Yes, it applies to the Spiral.  I'm talking to those people out there who argue that "cursing" is a natural right to have in Wizard101.  Just like people of the club scene, players of this game do not want an environment of hostility or discomfort, hence the Report button.  If someone is acting against the Terms of Use (which is the contract every player automatically signs when they sign up for an account), there is no need to feel shamed or discouraged to flag them for KingsIsle's review; you are only doing your job as a community member to keeping the Spiral a safe and fun place.

Yes, it applies to game contests.  When you fail to follow the rules or directions, you lost your privilege to have a chance at winning; you weren't denied "rights" for making a mistake (again, you had the chance to enter, you made the decision to, and you are then subject and responsible to following the rules; when you break them, you lose the chance; i.e. you were not denied them in the first place).

It certainly applies to social gatherings, as I mentioned a bit ago.  You still have the right to not conform, and the right to be yourself, but remember, by keeping or holding onto certain rights that others give up for the sake of allowing the convention to exist in presence AND in essence, you are giving up your privilege to be at the meeting in spite of your desires and preferences.