By Dr Velon John, OBE
CASTRIES, St Lucia – This is a blanket statement that is nonsensical unless qualified or contextualised. And it is only when it is adjectivalised that the issue of rights, liberty and freedom come to the fore.
The pandemic parameter is both the context and the narrative that has engaged society on an existential and normative level. To further elucidate the arguments of choice emanating from this human tragedy, it is important that the term – pandemic – be defined.
As I see it; a pandemic is a disease whose geographical expression and manifestation are more or less deadly and global. That disease has the capacity to eradicate humanity; and it is this capacity that brings into acute focus the issues of rights, liberty and freedom.
Further, it is this capacity or the fear of this capacity that has engineered vaccination into existence. And so, at this time in our dubious evolution we see in the human pool a fundamental contradiction and ambiguity as the use or non-use of vaccination is concerned. As human beings, we have rights that underpin the use or non-use of vaccination. But that use or non-use has to be predicated on some value that is existentially linked to homo sapiens. Just as freedom is the corollary of responsibility, so are these rights a corollary to human survival.
Without rights, homo sapiens would rapidly descend to the Hobbesian level of a State of Nature where life would be solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short. He would be transformed into “homo animals”. In the context of the pandemic, the survival of man is at stake and the expression of any right that jeopardises his survival must not be tolerated. A “right” must be right in terms of its ultimate raison d’etre, sublime justification and functional collectivity. There are those who hold on to a myopic and warped view that – not to vaccinate is a right or the exercise of a right. “ It is my right”, they pontificate. That is not so; it is the prostitution of a right or more correctly the prostitution of the rights of man, since a right does not exist in isolation but is a sublime collectivity that is only functional in a paradigm of human survival.
When one says it it is my right, what does one really mean since it is the circumstance of becoming that gives it any immanent legitimacy, and that legitimacy must be a function of value in the circumstance of humanity. Hence not wanting to be vaccinated as a matter of unenlightened choice is not the exercise of a right but a bald posture of insanity that should be constrained and made mandatory. The choice, therefore, becomes what choice should be; an edifying, sublimating, pragmatic instrument of the mind, that is inextricably linked with its survival, its continued and ordained existence.
Like Rene Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum” ( I think therefore I am ), I choose therefore I exercise rights: and it is the exercise of those rights that define us as homo sapiens. Homo sapiens has the will to live and it is that will and the exercise of his rights that give a certain rectitude and meaning to his life. I will not be vaccinated that is an existential nullity giving rise to the thespian role of the absurd.
By the way, should it be, I think, therefore, I am or I am, therefore, I think?