29 October 2004

A right to sight?

The World Health Organization and a number of other bodies have launched a campaign to combat preventable blindness known as Vision 2020 - The Right to Sight. As someone who is severely myopic (a condition I sincerely hope does not extend into other areas of life) and has glaucoma on at least one side of the family, I can affirm the importance of being able to see. It is definitely not something to be taken for granted.

However, I question the appropriateness of the expression, "right to sight." As I've written before, there is a persistent tendency in our society to subsume too much under the rubric of rights. Rights are treated as a panacea for every societal ill, and now it seems they are being thrown at medical maladies as well. Aside from the fact that overextending a definition tends to cheapen it and weaken its meaning, too freely using the word rights could tend to diminish our capacity for gratitude. If we go through life believing we deserve whatever blessings God has chosen to grant us, we are far less likely to thank him for what we have -- since we're entitled to them anyway -- and to cultivate instead an attitude of grievance for the things we do not have.

So rather than "the right to sight," what about "restoring the gift of sight" as an appropriate slogan for the WHO's campaign?

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