Johnny Reb is a Selfish Bastard





In his essay Human Rights: An East Asian Response, Henry Rosemont Jr. is a great proponent of Eastern political thought for the purposes of living a good, protected life. He argues forcefully against the Western view that places self above community in favor of a sort of family-based architecture of society. Such a view takes emphasis away from the individual and the self-centered “needs” thereof and places it instead on the community as a whole and the relationships between individuals.

Rosemont’s argument is that no one can be truly successful if those around him live in poverty or similar; all society should be based on a community, and all rights should favor this community over the individual. In the Western world, particularly in America, far too much emphasis is placed on what each individual can do to better himself, even at the expense of everyone around him. People will often give up the rights they believe they have fought so hard to secure just to get ahead in life; for example, the corporate slave who votes against any candidate who might give more rights to businesses and take away things such as 40 hour work weeks, then turns around and works 60 hours or more a week in the hopes of getting that big promotion. Others will give their lives protecting the right to be an individual in a place that seems obsessed with destroying said rights, the communization of a nation formerly fraught with freedoms. But Rosemont doesn’t believe all this personal freedom, in the sense Americans typically see it, to be such a good thing; rather, he sees a nation that takes care of its sick and frail, makes sure every mouth is fed and body clothed, and rewards good deeds while punishing bad to be far above one who thrusts its denizens to a battleground where only the craftiest and cruelest survive, like some sick blood sport. Rosemont might even argue Communism to not be such a bad thing at all, in the Marxist sense, if you could keep corruption from ruining the experiment.

Armchair patriots across the nation would likely disagree with the argument Rosemont presents concerning the proper human rights. “Wait!” they would say. “Millions of men and women have died under this flag to defend my right to burn it. We’ve fought wars just to keep my free speech free, and now you want me to turn red!?” Granted, a true patriot would probably type this in an email rather than say it aloud, as then there is then little danger of physical harm, but his cyber-screams would not fall on deaf ears. An impressionable young patriot might get it in his head to start a march on Washington, a flag burning, a riot, or any other myriad things to protest his perceived loss of freedom. To Confucius, however, “exemplary persons in making their way in the world are neither bent on nor against anything; rather, they go with what is appropriate.” (4.10) This man, bent on personal freedom, destroys things hw probably shouldn’t; he burns symbols of his own freedom, he takes resources away from those who might need them more, and he tears apart anything that gets in his way. His reason for demolishing property and possibly people’s livelihood? Because he can. He has the right to be an idiot, just like he has the right to speak about things of which he knows not, think whatever he wants, and get upset at others when they try to act on these same rights. Our subject has never been deprived of any of these rights, yet he feels he might die if he ever was. He has never experienced anything other than a life of leisure, and he feels he can trust people no farther than he can throw them. To our subject, the sense of duty to community Rosemont promotes seems akin to treason for simple reasons; what if his neighbor turns out to be untrustworthy? If this happens, Johnny Reb can’t possibly recover all he has earned, as he has had to pull double duty for his lazy neighbor. Johnny and his former friend both decide to stop working for spiting each other, yet still believe