Several years ago when leaving my apartment, I shared the elevator ride down with a father and son. They were discussing their errands when the little boy, quite matter-of-factly, reminded his father they needed to buy a Sony PlayStation while they were out. His father chuckled and told him that wasn’t going to happen.
The little boy looked angry and demanded the PlayStation. The father, amused by his son’s bold demand, only refused again. I was preparing for a tantrum but the boy simply said, “Dad, it’s my right to have a new PlayStation, you can’t say no”. I appeared to be witnessing some form of intellectual tantrum.
“Oh, it’s your right is it?” the father responded.
“Yes. It’s my right to get a PlayStation and you can’t stop me from my rights” the boy said firmly.
The father looked at me, rolling his eyes he said “It’s his right you know” loaded with sarcasm.
“Yes, it’s my right” and the boy smiled, believing his father had given in as he made the sarcastic comment to me.
Sure, that little boy seemed like a spoilt brat demanding a video game system, but I realized that people, regardless of age, still seem confused as to what their ‘rights’ are, compared to their ‘privileges’.
Does the mass population understand the difference between them? So when did the line blur? Have we become a group of spoilt brats that continually confuse our ‘right’s’ from our ‘privileges’?
In the most primitive and simplest of definitions, a right is something we are all entitled to regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religious views, income, sexual orientation and so on. For example, you have the right to freedom and no one shall be held in slavery.
A privilege is a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. For example, as a member of a fitness club you may have access to services that non-members don’t have.
On June 15, 2016 it will be 801 years since the creation of the Magna Carta, considered the birthplace of modern rights. Originally written to protect a group of rebel barons from the unpopular king, they were simply trying to protect themselves from the royal power.
Magna Carta was the stepping stone and was adapted and adjusted by other people, groups, and countries. From the Bill of Rights in England in 1689 to the Declaration of Independence by the United States of America in 1776. These, and many others, assisted in progressing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the United Nations in 1948, setting out for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
It’s interesting that I’m sitting here in Sydney writing this, while Australia is the only Western democratic country that does NOT have either a constitutional or Federal bill of rights to protect its citizens, although a few of the states do. Sixty-nine other countries do, but I digress.
The blurring of the distinction between these two words seems to continue to occur as generations get older. My gut tells me that my grandparents had a better understanding of what their rights and privileges were. My parents have a good idea, I have an ok idea, and likely my kids will have no clue (but I will do my best to educate them).
Society has gotten confusing. It might appear that we have gone too far protecting a child’s rights as they feel entitled to nearly anything they want. A spoiled generation punished by time-out’s, which really doesn’t seem much like punishment to me, as I consider some of my punishments. Doing chores for no allowance, grounded from my friends, or missing that special event taught me quickly about life. But now I think we have a generation growing up way too privileged and not having a clue between rights and privileges.
So who’s to blame? Was it a point in time? A societal issue that caused this perhaps? I think it’s a combination of many things. With each passing year new issues arise in society which challenge our existing belief systems. Important topics such as women’s rights in underdeveloped countries, to transgender rights in modern society and the rights of millions of refugees fleeing war torn lands for a better life elsewhere. We have made some huge strides in human rights and privileges, but we still have a lot of work to do too.
In the end, rights and privileges are created to ideally allow us to be better people, co-exist better and be universally protected. But we also find ways to screw this up with sexism, racism, religious and political disagreements and more.
The one thing I found quite interesting was in the world of computer security, where ‘rights’ and ‘privileges’ pretty much mean the same thing and are interchangeable. We’re living in a tech world surrounded by gaming systems, smart phones, tablets, interactive televisions and increasingly, virtual reality. Perhaps therein lies the answer as to why younger generations can’t distinguish the difference between a ‘right’ and a ‘privilege’. After all, they are the same thing in the world of technology they are growing up in.
Author: Aaron Vardon, Strategy Director, Ikon Communications