Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On the rights of the nonexistent

          On the rights of the nonexistent

               In yesterday’s blog I discussed the rights of the unconceived. Do they have rights trumping the right of existing adult women to contraconception? The Roman Catholic Church, and the Republican Party, both say yes. I found this a fascinating idea, in paralogical terms; and I wondered if these rights extend to other nonexisting people; specifically, the dead and the fictional.

               Define “existism” as denial of the rights of the unconceived and the otherwise nonexistent. I can think of no more deeply engrained bigotry; for all existing institutions are systematically biased in favor of the existing, simply because they themselves exist. The nonexistent have neither voice, vote nor valuta.

               But the city of Chicago offers hope of reform. One needs only a name to vote there, sometimes repeatedly. The unconceived can vote there, and the dead, and the fictional. Even those who do exist, but are presently absent from Chicago, can vote there, in their absence and even without their knowledge!

                In general, the Rights of the Absent are a local version of the Rights of the Nonexistent; for absence is local nonexistence. In fact all of us are absent in all but one small volume, and there only temporarily; so this issue involves us all.

               As for the rights of the dead... another can of worms! Does posthumous Mormon baptism violate the religious liberty of the departed? Can the dead register on a Do Not Baptise list? No, they can't... except maybe in Chicago.

               And as for the rights of the fictional; there seems something morally suspect in the way that writers will introduce minor characters, make the reader like them, just to abandon them to horror and death. The author treats those fictive people as means only, not ends in themselves. Surely this is unethical. Why should it make a difference that these people are only fictive?

               Note that the manipulative author makes us care just enough about the fictive victim before disposal; so the author mistreats not only the fiction but the reader too. And even that is a best-case scenario. Even worse is when the fictive person is treated as a mere prop, as quickly disposable furniture!

               For the issue, in Fictive Rights, is not cruel mistreatment. That’s part of the fictive person's job description; overcoming adversity builds character; that's how characters make their living. The abuse is not fictional suffering; it is badly-written fictional suffering. One must suffer for Art; that is inevitable; but if a fiction suffers, then it ought to get the Art that it earned. It's a matter of labor-management relations. Authors had better respect this, or their fictions might go on strike.

               There is legal precedent for Fictive Rights; namely the personhood of corporations. Perhaps the dead and the unconceived and the fictional should incorporate themselves.

                And what of the Gods? Are they any less fictive than a corporation? And therefore, don't they deserve the rights of the nonexistent? These include freedom from all obligations, an alibi for all crimes, and a vote in Chicago.

               - but alas, even corporate law, theology and Chicago politics have systemic existism! For the nonexistent have no voice of their own, so only spokespersons can speak for them. But those spokespersons themselves exist, and so cannot truly represent the nonexistent. Therefore all positive rights for the nonexistent tend to reduce, in practice, to privileges for their spokespersons. 

               Positive rights for the nonexistent do not exist. They have only negative rights, such as the right to remain silent.

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