The self evident fact that we were endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights was used as a marker from which every line of logic about a new government would derive meaning. Unalienable rights were like the filter I used for my coffee this morning. Every idea was run through the filter and the unalienable right was used to decide if that idea was admitted into the new government.
The Declaration of Independence sifts through the notions of prudence and tyranny, but there is no making sense without the unalienable right. The document well articulates the complaints of the people against the British King, but one would be lost without the understanding that even the King’s ideas must pass through the filter of the unalienable right.
Unalienable rights served as filter for the building of a nation, but unalienable rights also called that nation into a deeper understanding when Martin Luther King Jr. led another revolution. King helped everyone see that the inclusion of people of color had been promised since the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. He used unalienable rights promised to all men created equally as a filter of ideas, calling a nation to, not only tolerate, but celebrate others endowed with the same rights. His argument was that unalienable rights were given to ALL men, but those rights were being denied to some men, particularly men of color.
We love unalienable rights!
Freedom is the highest virtue!
Responsibility on the other hand is a form of slavery in our eyes. Responsibility is what those who are old and powerful say to those who are young and vulnerable to keep the power and squeeze the young for gain. We feel this way because those words have been true. Martin Luther King Jr. knew too well. Alli and I checked out the hype of the Netflix series The Tudors. I cringed whenever King Henry quoted the Bible to justify his oppression. We also cringe when a wealthy business owner tries to keep an employee from exploring better options because “I have been good to you”. However, just because responsibility has been used to oppress, does not mean it does not exist.
The founding fathers who wrote of unalienable rights were completely convinced that we have unalienable responsibilities. They did not have to say it, but I think today we do. If unalienable responsibility does not ruffle a few feathers then I do not have my hand on the cultural heartbeat as well as I think, so I understand the rub, but think with me.
There must be unalienable responsibility if there is unalienable right.
The right to life automatically assumes we at least have the responsibility to avoid taking life.
The right to liberty necessarily demands the responsibility to never enslave.
The right to the pursuit of happiness assumes the responsibility to avoid curtailing another’s pursuit.
We see that we have a responsibility to stop some peoples pursuits. If the way you pursue happiness is to take the life of another we would deem you deranged or ill. We would all agree we have a responsibility to stop your right to pursue happiness and protect the right to life of the person you seek to destroy.
We declared our independence as a nation. We cannot declare our independence as individuals. We are responsible to one another.
In the workplace we are even more responsible to another group besides our co-workers. The clients we serve. They have innumerable options to take their business and go somewhere else. In your work, you are dependent on those who choose your product or service as well.
I have friends in the medical field who are dependent on their patients to choose their services and therefore provide for my friend’s families. A contractor is dependent on his clients. If the clients never choose his company, he could not chase his dreams of owning a beach house.
You may be bored because this is completely obvious.
Why then, when I ask people why they work do I always hear an answer that addresses their rights, but not their responsibilities?
While speaking to a group, I was trying to argue that we are more productive when we take our own profits and incentives from the center of our motivation and attention and replace that with our neighbors needs. An older member of the audience finally frustrated placed his pen down, furrowed his brows and looked up and to the right ceiling. I stopped and said, “You seem agitated, please tell me why”.
He wanted to say it. “MONEY GREASES THE WHEEL”, burst out of his pursed lips.
“You can say all this feel good stuff all you want, but at the end of the day we work for money.”
He knew he had unalienable rights to pursue happiness and provide for his family, but he failed to see that he had an unalienable responsibility to take care of his clients’ needs.
I just asked, “Where does that money come from?”
“My paycheck”, he said to dismiss the dumb question.
“And where does that come from?”
He named the company who paid him.
“But where do they get this money?”
This is extremely obvious, but it is almost forgotten when we are managing ourselves day to day. It is extremely obvious, but I want to make sure I clearly articulate this concept after seeing his face change when he realized he was over emphasizing money.
Our unalienable responsibility in the workplace is to meet the needs of the clients and communities our work was designed to serve. A met need come before any profit or incentive that comes back to me.
To be clear, this is not Socialism. Unalienable rights cannot be taken by government, so unalienable responsibilities cannot be enforced by a government. This is a way to manage or lead ourselves through work decisions and practices. You get to choose, but wisdom is aligning with what is actual. No oppression because it’s your choice. Freedom to choose like a fish chooses water over land. Recognizing unalienable rights and responsibilities will keep us making our next wise move.
It is not the way to merely make our next nice move, but it will guide our next wise move.