Monday, March 12, 2012

The Human Right to Convenient Parking

When a word means everything, it means nothing. To stretch the bounds of the concept of 'human rights' to something as trivial as convenient parking, takes away from real human rights problems in other places in the world where slavery and subjugation are normal practices.

"The Post’s editorialists have weighed in on the Jobean tribulations of Patricia Howson of Ottawa, and her arduous and inventive quest to park her Mazda 5 on her home’s front lawn. She began that quest because parking it in back of her house requires just a little move careful manoeuvring in the lane space that leads to the back than she is comfortable with. She has spoken, I think tearfully, of perils to her side mirrors, possible scrapes on the paint and a potential blistering of the pristine chrome of the door handles.
I struggle to keep this matter in proportion. Granted, frustration about parking the family Mazda 5 is not perfectly parallel (if that word may be forgiven in this context) with Cambodia under Pol Pot, Ukraine in the perfidious days of the sadist Stalin, China under Mao or the Congo in those days of unspeakable horror when Leopold of Belgium set the world to weeping by his cruelties and brutality.
Canadians, fortunately however, have a broader understanding of such matters. We begin with the idea that here in Canada, nothing is too small or, on the face of it, too ludicrous to be matter for a human rights complaint. If it keeps up, one of these days shoe polish will be listed as a human right.

Here in Canada, mainly due to the conceptual largesse of the human rights commissions themselves, we’ve been schooled to take a less grim view of human rights. Our human rights codes are more upbeat, something like what Anne of Green Gables might draw up in a whimsical moment. When must you wash your hands? Is it right to heckle? That sort of “basic” stuff.

In Canada recently, human rights have been put through a great experiment. They have become unhinged from any basic understanding of their cardinal meaning, stripped of the aura that we accord our highest aspirations. If the current diluted concept of human rights is grounded in some coherent philosophy, related to a set of first principles, we all await the news of what that philosophy, those principles, might be. It isn’t enough to say that Archbishop Tutu likes the way we do things and leave it at that.

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