Rights and Responsibilities

I have always been fascinated by rights and responsibilities. I guess it comes as no surprise that most people tend to think heavily of their 'rights' and little of their 'responsibilities'. How easy it is to simply invoke the idea of a right to get something you want. I've always believed in balancing rights with responsibilities. How can you claim a right without earning it?

I suppose that born in the Muslim religion/culture, there are definitely times I wonder why I think so deeply about such things. I am given a large number of rights that are of my definite benefit. Like most societies, whether or not you live up to your responsbilities, people still feel they are due their rights.

Consider such wonderful Islamic rights I have that would commonly be invoked by Muslim men
  1. My wife cannot refuse to have sex with me
  2. I have a right to deny anyone I don't like entrance to my home
  3. I have a right to an obedient wife
  4. I have the right to marry multiple women
  5. I have the right to a chaste woman
  6. I have the right to a greater inheritance from my parents than female relatives
  7. I have the right to take on sex slaves and concubines. Alright this last one is pretty historical, but doesn't make it any less true :)
That's a good looking list the primal man inside of me says. The price I have to pay for all of this. I just have to support the woman (house, feed, and clothe her).

On the women's side, the main Islamic rights she will typically invoke

  1. Whatever money she earns she can spend on whatever she wants as it is the mans job to take care of the household 
  2. She has the right to have her needs provided by her husband

Everywhere I look in life, everyone invokes their rights. People complain that South Asian men will sleep around with lots of women, but then think they have a right to obedient virgin wife. Surprisingly, many of them get it. Women will invoke their right to not contribute to the household even if they are not obedient, chaste, obey their husband's sexual needs...

A man will invoke his right to a greater inheritance, but then ignore his Islamic duty to take care of his parents. This happens so often where it is the daughters who end up taking care of the parents even though the son was given the greater inheritance.

I suppose it is just common for this kind of thinking to occur. People are very advantageous with their beliefs and rights.


The same is very true of politics. People expect all kinds of rights from the government. They expect
  1. The right to free and unlimited healthcare
  2. The right to be given free money when they're retired
  3. The right to good infrastructure
  4. The right to a safe neighborhood
  5. The right to good quality and free education
  6. The right to a secure financial system
 But of course rarely does the debate come to what responsibilities do you have. What responsibilities do you have to the state. Things like:
  1. Paying your due taxes
  2. Military service
  3. Getting yourself employed
  4. Having children or limiting the number of children you have
  5. Teaching yourself and your children that state's values
  6. Adopting and values of the state
  7. ...
I tend to focus on the balancing of both rights and responsibilities. For every right, that must be a responsibility. I suppose it is why I tend to advocate for things like work sharing instead of a guaranteed income.


Even chivalry as a concept is heavily rooted in rights and responsibilities. Much like the Islamic view of women, chivalry is about treating the woman as a helpless object that needs to be protected. It's origin lies in the knights and knights were a peculiar breed of warrior who adhered to a code. Obey one's duty to his lord and of course to the noble women.

Indeed, don't most aspects of chivalry remind you of a royal servant?

Indeed, being a knight of course came with many rights and responsibilities.
You got to wear the best armor, the best horses, received the best training and education, lived a pretty good life, got to invoke the name of the royalty... Depending on how skeptical you want to be on the whole enterprise, you also got to plunder villages and rape commoner women.

On the responsibilities side were many rules government obedience to the lord and treatment of people.Not everyone could become a knight either. You were either born into it or had to prove your worth through bravery.

Noble women having many rights over people, such as knights also had a range of responsibilities. They had to learn proper behavior and etiquette, be willing to be married off with little choice, learn to dance and entertain and run a household, serving older ladies, look beautiful, be the property of the husband...

One wonders how a noble woman's husband treated her as opposed to the knights of her home?

Now of course,  the code of chivalry worked its way into common society to some degree. Even there, there was a rights and responsibility aspect always hanging on the idea of women as beautiful objects that need to be cared for. The women's duties to earn earn this care and protection is to be subserviant to her husband and follow the lady like traits.

The Breakdown

Anytime rights and responsibilties get offset, you can be sure the breakdown of that system or relationship is inevitable. It might change into something meaningless like the title of Knight is conferred today as opposed to the real warrior knights of old.

Women today complain of the lack of chivalry among men. That is as I'd say simply a result of the rights and responsibilities mismatch. Before lamenting the death of chivalry, we should ponder the death of women worthy of it.

As women have gained more rights, have they taken on more of the responsibility normally associated with men? Are they just as willing to fight to defend their country? Are they just as willing to be the sole provider of a household? Are they just as willing to confront people or risk an awkward situation to do what is needed or what is truthful?

Similarly, men today complain about the lack of obedience and lady nature of their wives. That is as I'd say simply a result of the rights and responsibilities. Do they really take on the full roll of provider for the family? Do they adhere to the other aspects of chivalry like honor and truth...

And so we see the institution of marriage struggling. In countries like Sweden marriage rates have fallen. This is not a knock against Sweden. It is simply the reality that the institution of marriage doesn't bode well under newer circumstances where the rights and responsibilities of women and men since the original agreement on marriage.

Does the welfare state breakdown when the citizens/businesses don't think of their responsibilities and only their rights? We're going through this now with massive amount of debt in the world.

All such things eventually settle back to bring rights and responsibilities into equilibrium.

The End Result

So does the end result look like? What is the new nature of the state? What is the new nature of the relationship between men and women? Who knows. Everyone tries to figure it all out in balance.

I know for myself, I'm generally a pretty polite and civil person. Chivalry? Probably not. I generally try to keep the door open for anyone, be they man or woman. If they are old, I'll be more courteous. Of course, many people simply are not that polite and the result is a perception of a lack of civility and chivalry.

In terms of politics, we can see governments pushing for more rights over the people in exchange for the people's rights over them. More push for surveillance. More pushes for high taxes and ability to make rules. More pushes for more duties of the citizen. Volunteering in exchange for free education or other such programs.

It is all to be seen.
Yet, one thing is for sure.
Poeple will always try and maximize their rights while getting rid of their responsibilities, but the course of nature will always bring those to equilibrium.


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