Always a violation of the rights of others

Matthew Housiaux


When meeting someone for the first time, there are a few topics that you would be wise to avoid if conversation is to go smoothly. Religion is one, as is politics.

However, if by chance politics come up in such discourse, it would be advisable to move to something more appropriately superficial, such as your favorite KC and the Sunshine Band song, before reaching the subject of the death penalty.

There is something understandably incendiary that comes with the debate over whether we retain the right or have any justifiable reason to take the life of another person.

Most people base their stance on this issue on some semblance of “morality,” generally religious or logic-based notions of secular humanism purported by, among many others, the late writer Kurt Vonnegut.

If I am blunt about my worldview, I must admit that I don’t believe in morality. I believe it is an arbitrary human concept that has been conditioned into organized civilization over many generations, malleably twisted and contorted at the behest of each subsequent generation and their amendments to the morality of their predecessors.

I also do not believe in the idea of a natural and overarching reality beyond the extent to which it can be explained via science, such as Harvard socio-biologist E.O. Wilson, who has been an avid spokesman for the genetic inclination toward altruism in humans.

I believe that everyone is imbued with the same basic level of total and absolute freedom. Because of this, I also believe we have an obligation as humans to make a conscious effort to avoid violating this freedom in other people as much as possible, so as to avoid the sin of hypocrisy.

If someone were to violate this right to freedom in another person by using an extreme method, in this case murder, we have the right to retaliate by temporarily or permanently restricting his or her freedom.

However, no matter what the circumstances and no matter how brutal one’s violation of the freedom of a fellow human being, we have no right to take away the absolute whole of a person’s existence.

And you, the reader, may ask: Where is the justification for such an argument?

Well, there isn’t one. It’s wholly based on my sentiments, my subjective interpretation of an issue that does not carry with it a concrete solution.

When I gaze as objectively at the world as  possible for any person bound to a personal consciousness, all I know is that absolutes don’t exist for me unless I create them. There is no one to pin a gold star to my shirt collar when I do something “good.”

Instead, I must rely on the hope that if I respect the humanity of others, the autonomy of their will and their individual wants and needs, they will return the favor.