One Sided Bargain?

By Garen Yegparian

In a deal–agreement–or contract–everyone expects all parties to keep up their end of the bargain–right?

Assuming you said yes–I’ll presume you agree that the same holds for the social contract of which Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote. I lay no claim to having studied his writings–but the term is very evocative. The individual has certain expectations of and obligations to society–as represented through government-especially when democratically structured–and vice-versa.

So what happens when one side isn’t living up to the terms of the social contract?

No–this is not an occasion to bash the Bush cabal and its failings. This time–it’s an indictment of the individual–or rather a group of individuals.

Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) opt not to participate in the life of a country. Sure they pay taxes (they might not even do that–but for the onerous alternative). Otherwise–they evade public life. They don’t vote or otherwise participate in the life of the republic–any republic–Armenia–the US–or any other. Their collective wisdom–competence–and energies are denied to the rest of us. Why should they be allowed to reap public benefits? If I’m ignorant of the specifics–please enlighten me. Oops–there’s the catch–it’s unlikely that anyone who knows better would read this newspaper or article.

It’s different when a Quaker conscientiously objects–refusing to serve in the armed forces. That same person might well be involved in advocating pacifism. That’s participating in and contributing to our collective life–as seen through his/her prism of life. When an individual refuses to vote based on some rationale–he/she usually still engages in societal activity. The dummy who just plain doesn’t know enough to vote falls into a different category. Like someone who needs other types of assistance–mental health–financial–educational–etc.–he/she is not making a CONSCIOUS–principled decision of non-participation.

JW–based on their first principles–oppose participation in civic life. Why should we–the rest of us–the people–have to pick up their slack? The logical conclusion of what they advocate through their door-to-door recruiting/proselytizing is a complete collapse of society. So it strikes me that these folks should go live where they won’t be a drain on society. All this came to me after a couple of discussions with my barber who belongs to the JW.

While groups such as JW–by virtue of their relatively small number–may not have much practical impact on secure and large countries–or those with well-established polities–the same cannot be said of places such as Armenia. This presents a serious problem when human rights activists–based on their life experiences in the type of setting just mentioned–pressure Armenia and others to not discriminate against such sects.

I say no. Unless JW or other sects and groups like them (I emphatically include all such withdrawal-oriented groups–not just JW) come up with a way to compensate for their non-participation–they should also be denied the benefits of citizenship.

What do you think?


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