Friday, January 31, 2014

Citizenship Rules for a Fake-Sentient Species

With all the recent talk about boycotts of Italy and Israel, people often ask me, "What right do you have to speak of X?", which makes me realize I have some core concepts of being an active global citizen that may completely confound or confuse others. Below are some of my first principles for responsible homo sapien citizenship, keeping in mind that I still adhere to the doctrine of Very Low Expectations, since not many are willing to make such leaps.  Feel free to criticize - in fact, the closer friend you are, the more I would expect you to chide me mercilessly.

1. We do not pass many tests for sentience to begin with. There have not been that many evolutionary steps beyond the opposable thumb, and we will go mad looking for transcendent behavior in such a silly species.  If we're going to boycott, let's begin with the species, not the nation-state. 1A Corrollary: The nation-state, as well as the supranational organization, is the most artificial of any creation, and deserves less loyalty and more skepticism than the tribe or community.

2. Your best friend, lover, family member, or member of tribe, race, or nation-state, does not deserve an excuse or a free pass.  In fact, you should hold those closest to you to higher standards of behavior than strangers or adversaries. When you observe inappropriate behavior among members of your in-group, you can approach them quietly and privately at first, but if there is little response, don't be afraid to name and shame.  Even if - especially if - they're members of your family or your tribe.  No free passes, ever.

3. China and Russia will be particularly incensed to learn that there is no such thing as an "internal affair." Every law passed by a municipality or nation-state, and every act by a state, including fully covert acts of intelligence agencies, is subject to critique by every citizen of the planet. (It should be obvious that this applies to the U.S. as well.) If a nation passes a law banning gays or quashing dissent, a global effort to boycott is fully appropriate, and no pleadings for special circumstances are legitimate. I don't care if you're an Islamic Republic or a "big-man" animist dictatorship, one standard of human rights applies for all homo sapiens.

4. On matters of justice, crime and punishment, the notion that an individual should be tried according to the nation-state in which the crime took place, only applies to a point. All nation-states should follow rules of evidence, procedure, and presumed-innocence similar to general ABA guidelines - which is not to say that American-style justice is an appropriate global standard.  It is only to point out that Italy, most Arab nations, and many Southeast Asian and African nations, do not adhere to an Enlightenment rule of law. No one should be tried for drug laws in Singapore or for protests laws in Bahrain, for example - including citizens of those nations.

5. If you are going to be a critical global citizen, think about the adage "Cruel But Fair." If you resort immediately to the ad-hominem name-calling attack, and insist that "All (members of X group) are bad," you only expose your ignorance and prejudice.  Be specific and address problems directly to the person responsible for the problems. Do not shirk from calling someone out for doing wrong. They may hate you today, but they will likely thank you later - and if they don't, they probably do not deserve to be friends or comrades.

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