Tag: Selfishness

Our rights vs our interests

A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights. Napoleon Bonaparte

As a citizen of a democratic nation each one of us has the right to exercise his/ her franchise and vote in the elections. How many of us have diligently used this right without giving any excuses and voted responsibly? Similarly those eligible for pension are expected to personally go and collect their pension each month. Most of those eligible for pension are old and suffer from various ailments but their family members ensure that they are dutiful taken on the respective dates to collect the pension but the same people may not honor the wishes of these elder people to cast their vote during the elections. This might seem like a bizarre example but it clearly illustrates the stark reality and the naked truth about the approach of people with respect to their rights and their interests.

There is the inherent selfishness that governs the approach of most people to focus on their interests because they are directly affected by it. Rights on the other hand are conferred on us and we have the option to use it as and when we want though the underlying principle of the right is to empower the person to exercise his/ her right for both personal good but largely for the public good. Take the case of people at a railway platform. They have the right to take a platform ticket and avail of the facilities on the platform including using the benches put there to sit on it. While the honest citizen will diligently follow it, the unscrupulous ones will try to hoodwink the authorities and yet claim their right to the seats on the benches. Even more uncouth is the tendency of people to occupy one seat and use the other seat to keep their luggage on lest the luggage get soiled when kept on the floor or it is used to ensure personal privacy by not allowing another to sit on the adjacent seat.

Many of us may have observed the above happenings from afar but may never be directly concerned with such episodes and so we may have a smug feeling of relief that we are not guilty of such tendencies and that we will sacrifice our interests when we have to chose between our rights and our interests. The unfortunate reality is that each one of us is guilty of the crime of being self centered and selfish enough to put our personal interest far ahead of our rights. The most classic case is the fine line that distinguishes between avoiding paying taxes and evading taxes. We have the legitimate right to avoid paying taxes by utilizing the provisions of the law legitimately. Yet when we it comes to our own taxes if we perceive it to be still exorbitant, we would resort to conveniently interpreting the law, perhaps indulge in some dubious means to asses our taxes or simply fudge the returns with the ultimate aim of minimizing the tax burden.

On a more macro level, we as citizens are also guilty of being mute witnesses and turning a blind eye to despicable practices like the use of child labor ( denying them the right to freedom and education), cruelty to animals ( illegal use for animal testing of drugs being the biggest culprit), disparity in wage structure between women and men, denying fair wages to the marginalized and downtrodden  etc.  It is not that we practice it, but our refusal to stand up for their rights that makes us party to the crime of being focused on our interests without exercising our rights.

Remember: “Interest makes some people blind, and others quick-sighted”  Francis Beaumon

Try this:

  1. List out 3 of your pet social causes.  Now that you are interested in them outline how you will exercise your rights to ensure that you play an active role in making the social causes fructify and deliver results.
  2. Assuming you have the time and the inclination to use the Right To Information act (RTI), make a list of causes, public interest matters, areas of concern in which you would possibly use the act. What prevents you from invoking the provisions of the act for public good?

This post is courtesy www.actspot.com

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