The Owner is very keen on Rights. Human Rights, Animal Rights, the Moral Standing of Trees… the Owner says just because something doesn’t have rights that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have rights. She says I have a right to be cared for and nurtured by my Human. She says she has a right to expect adoration from her Dog. I suspect that this comes with a corresponding commitment to being chewed that she has not fully understood. She says that Rights are essential components of a liberal community. Only Totalitarian States deny them.
She says that some rights are so important that no excuses for ignoring them are possible. She talks a lot about the Right not to be tortured as an example of this, but I think the Right to cheese would be a better example. I would not like to live in a Totalitarian State if it denied the right to cheese,
She does not explain where rights come from. At first I assumed this was because they lived in the fridge, but that was the cheese, not the rights. Rights are metaphors, so they cannot live in the fridge. Rights, she says, come from duties. She takes the view of Jack Donnelly, who said that rights are offered by the moral community in accordance with its moral norms. This means that Moral Humans have Moral Human Rights to vote and be rude about the Prime Minister and become Owner of a Moral Dog because these are the kind of Rights that other Moral Humans who are Not Totalitarian agree they have a duty to provide. It follows that Moral Dogs have a variety of Moral Dog Rights, many of which relate to compost, bottoms and the behaviour expected of ducks, because those are the rights that Moral Dogs agree on. Moral Ducks, on the other hand, may have rights to float, but they don’t have a right to choose the Prime Minister because they can’t agree on anything.
The Owner says ducks would do a better job of choosing a Prime Minister than the Conservative Party.
I suggest that perhaps the Prime Minister has rights too but she says when he got the right to be Prime Minister he also got the duty to Do It Properly (she then exercises her right to be rude about the Prime Minister, which she seems to feel is linked to this). Likewise, she says generously, when she acquired the right to the Moral Dog she acquired the duty to provide cheese.
I rather like Rights. I concede graciously (albeit with some reluctance) that this means that Ducks, despite their insulting faces and otherwise pointless existence, may have rights to float. Caspar, though it pains me to say it, has a right to be fluffy. If he didn’t his Owner would presumably have to shave him on a daily basis, which would be a satisfying thought, were it not unbecoming for a Moral Dog.
I feel I have understood the Rights and Duties concept very well when the Owner reveals the Inner Totalitarian. As we pass the compost heap I spot a wonderful piece of compost, inexplicably more attractive than the rest, and I race enthusiastically to seize it with my new sense of moral certainty. As she rushes into the compost to join me I feel sure that, together, we are recognising the Rights of the compost as a Moral Being to be cared for, nurtured, appreciated, chewed, and ultimately digested – but then, inexplicably, she drags it from my Vulcan Death Grip and throws it back onto the pile. It sits there, forlorn, so nearly chewed but now rejected, cast back onto the scrapheap of life, its right to joy and fun and participation snatched from it as if its rights don’t matter at all.
As we leave I look at her accusingly. It seems to me there is no point claiming you think everything has rights when you are only prepared to recognise the rights that it suits you to recognise.
She says that’s the problem with Saudi Arabia.
How did we get onto that?
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.