Some great connections...
Friday, September 14, 2007
Rights, rights! Who can regard them seriously? Take the right to life. I translate that as the right to food, shelter, clothes, clean water, clean air. No mention of health care or education – I'm staying with the basic five. How many of us have these things? And liberty? How many of us can freely choose our leaders? Our way of life? Move unhindered beyond our borders? To make it worse, eexercising our supposed rights can get mighty complicated. Are you, gentle reader, vigilant for your health, exercising your freedom to betake yourself to the supermarket so that you might purchase bottled water and avoid the deadly microbes in the stuff out of the tap, thus preserving that life to which you imagine you have a right? Well, turns out that the plastic bottle won't leach dioxins into the water as that alarmist e-mail has warned. That's an "urban legend". Rolf Halden of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the Centre for Water and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has, however, advised that "city water is much more highly regulated and monitored for quality... [while] Bottled water... can legally contain many things we would not tolerate in municipal drinking water." Stay with me on this. Freedom to choose the water we drink, and our right to clean water are tangled up here, and furthermore, intertwined with a host of other things, like simple literacy, and less simple access to cyberspace. The moral of the story is that lots of us, rich and poor, are drinking lousy water: some, because there are fewer and fewer clean springs, rivers and uncontaminated aquifers; some because where there is water, those whose business it is to see that it's potable fail to do that job (remember Walkerton?), and some because they go off hunting for clean water in a plastic bottle, which may just be a bad place. In sum, it seems to me that too few people throughout history have had the most basic rights, and so few people nowadays exercise even the palest resemblances of them, that I just don't believe. Relative privilege, though, is another matter, and that I'll tackle soon., if God spare life.