I just read a discussion in which someone had said, “People who don’t understand they have a right to privacy don’t actually need privacy, especially if the privacy violations are happening in the name of abuse prevention.” (I’m not trying to dredge up personal stuff so I’m not naming names or forums and ask people to do the same, I’ve seen this around many forums by many people and this person just happened to spark this entry. This is a response to the general concept, not to that person.)
Well, one thing I did was refer them to Dave Hingsburger’s “Ethics of Touch” video where he describes how increased impairment/likelihood of abuse/etc requires increased boundaries and observation of rights, not decreased ones. And I also pointed out the hubris in assuming that a person doesn’t understand they have rights, and the difference between gut-level understanding and intellectual understanding (you don’t need intellectual understanding of a concept of ‘rights’ in the abstract to feel viscerally when they are being violated, or to feel pain in general even if you don’t know where it’s coming from). I covered a lot of this in my more careful, not less post.
Additionally, something else Hingsburger mentioned in the same video — not understanding that you have a certain right sometimes is the problem in and of itself, and is a sign that a right has been systematically violated. I once let a total stranger into my apartment. She walked around, inspected the whole place in detail, asked me a question (which I answered incorrectly due to memory problems and an incorrect understanding of time-words — she asked me if we’d been harassed lately, and I thought she meant within the past hour or two — we’d had threats of violence towards us and our pets screamed at us through our front door something like the night before but I didn’t remember or mention those at the time, I have real trouble retrieving information like that in response to questions) and left. Turned out she was the attorney for the other side of a legal case my roommate was involved in. My roommate was angry that I let her in, and angry that I’d given her an answer she could use against my roommate. I didn’t know I had a right to refuse people entrance into my apartment. And that was the problem. The solution wouldn’t be to continue treating me as if I had no such right, because, after all, I didn’t understand, now would it?
But there’s another aspect to this.
If anyone uses the argument, “They don’t understand this right, so they don’t need it,” they can’t pick and choose. If not understanding a right means not needing it protected, then people who don’t understand the intellectual concept of a right to life can be shot, people who don’t understand the intellectual concept of a right to freedom from abuse can be beaten and tortured, people who don’t understand the intellectual concept of a right to eat can have food withheld, and so on and so forth. Not to mention those who would otherwise understand the concept but have been treated as if the right does not exist so long that they don’t realize it does, or don’t believe it does even if they do know that such a right could theoretically exist.
So don’t use “They don’t understand the concept of rights, so they don’t need them,” and then turn around and claim you’re using this argument to justify abuse prevention. If you really believe that people who don’t understand a right don’t need to have it protected, then you have no business trying to prevent the abuse of people who (you think) don’t understand a right to freedom from abuse. If you do believe that people who don’t understand the right to freedom from abuse deserve protection from abuse, then you don’t belong using the “They don’t understand the concept of rights, so they don’t need them” argument, it leaves people wide open to abuse on many levels.