OKIE IN EXILE — No easy answers
I thought when I got to be old I would understand the world, but I’ve been listening to so many people talk about so many things in so many ways I don’t even understand what I used to. (“The more I know, the less I understand / All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again.”)
I used to know what rights were, and I valued mine, but I don’t know what rights are. We talk about the right to healthcare, the right to cable to tv, the right not to wear a facemask during a time of global pandemic, the right to control your own body, the right to life.
I think I know what goods are, so let me think on paper about that. A good is something that is... well...good. We can be concrete and talk about canned goods, like pork and beans or whole kernel corn. These are things that can keep you alive.
In the context I am thinking about, it is meant more abstractly. Health is a good. Education is a good. Having a means of transportation is a good.
I am healthy; that is a good I have. I’ve been privileged to go to school; that is a good I have. I’ve got a car; this is a good I have.
Those were all statements of my own personal goods. But I drive my car on roads that were built by various states sometimes with the aid of the federal government. I attended schools that were paid for by the government. I am healthy because I go to physicians who have to meet standards laid down by their associations and who are licensed to practice medicine by the government.
I have my own personal goods, but so many — and perhaps all — are supported by institutions that were created for the Common Good. I come from plain people who have been plain all the way back as far as we have knowledge. I have an interest in supporting the Common Good. Supporting the Common Good supports my personal interest. It is a very seductive idea, but as beautiful as it is we still have to be careful.
Suppose there are three people who are going to die shortly: a person who needs a heart, another who needs a liver, and another who needs lungs. To make it interesting, say they are important people who contribute to the Common Good in some way. Now suppose there is a vagrant who steals and makes messes in the public square but nevertheless has a healthy heart, a healthy liver, and a sound pair of lungs and happens to be a tissue match — the ONLY tissue match — to the three worthy individuals mentioned before.
Do you use his parts to save them?
If you say, no, he has a right to live. Don’t the three individuals also have a right to live? Why does his right to live override their rights to live? There are three of them and they are better people. Not only do they match him in rights, keeping them alive supports the Common Good.
I know my answer. We don’t kill people for such things because it is just...wrong. But how do I justify that in absence of my personal religious beliefs. I don’t want to be ramming my religion down someone else’s throat, right? (“I am so sorry you are being vivisected, but it is wrong for me to impose my religious beliefs on others.”)
This started out to be a column in support of the Common Good, but I got lost along the way by thinking too much. Sorry, I will try not to let that happen again.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube.