Sunday, January 11, 2009

Have no "right to happiness"

The words "right to happiness" are strong. They imply that not only are there natural rights and laws, but also that happiness is something that we can pursue within the bounds of that law. 

However, in this essay, C. S. Lewis is dealing primarily with the issue of sexual happiness. The opening presents a situation where a Mr. A. and Mrs. B. divorced their respective spouses to marry each other. One of their acquaintances said that they were completely justified in their actions because they "had a right to happiness". The newly formed couple was merely fulfilling their own sexual desires. 

At the heart of this story lies a certain inconsistency within the moral reasoning of many people. The truth is that sexual desires have come to supersede other desires within our society. In other matters, we are forced to push aside our desires, such as with alcohol. But with sexual impulses, according to Lewis, we are told to obey them, usually regardless of the cost or consequences. This has changed slightly in recent years, with more emphasis being put on education and abstinence even in public classrooms. However, society as a whole seems to still speak the message that sexual impulses are to be followed. As Lewis writes, "our sexual impulses are thus being put in a position of preposterous privilege." 

Is this true? Will our society really excuse more radical behavior due to sexual impulses? I suppose so, but only to a certain extent. A pedophile, for instance, is not accepted and loved by society as a whole. We look down on pornography and other forms of sexual amusement. But at the core, we do excuse, or at least allow, radical behavior. A woman can have multiple surgeries and procedures done to keep her body looking young. We will excuse acts done out of love, even when they are hurtful to others, as in the case of Mr. A. and Mrs. B.

Overall, the right to sexual happiness should be treated as other rights. We have the right, I suppose, to consume alcohol, but most people will consume in moderation. Those that do not are generally looked down upon. Why then, do we as a society almost glorify the images of rappers and celebrities? Why is being a "pimp" a good thing? We must place our sexual desires back into a more normal position, or "be swept away".

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