Are You Romanic or Germanic?

A famous Spanish philosopher said that there are two types of attitudes towards individual rights, Romanic and Germanic.

The Romanic attitude entails believing that you are endowed with inalienable rights by virtue of existing.

The Germanic approach, on the other hand, posits that the only rights are the ones you went to battle for, won, and then successfully defended every day.

I’m not sure how meaningful the words “Romanic” and “Germanic” are in this context but I’m definitely in the second group. Nobody is going to give you freedom. You’ll have to take it and defend it every day. Works this way in interpersonal relationships, in the workplace, society at large, everywhere.

17 thoughts on “Are You Romanic or Germanic?”

  1. Whoever the Spanish philosopher was, his or her fame was undeserved. Human rights are equal to human responsibilities. Every human being who exists has various rights and must uphold whatever responsibility constitutes that right, or the right is cancelled.

    For example, women have the right to bear and raise children, which means that they bear the responsibility to sensibly nurture their body & the developing foetus during pregnancy towards a safe birth, as well as properly provide for and educate the child unto adulthood. If, however, the woman fails in her responsibility by, say, abusing or starving the child, then her right to keep the child is usually cancelled and the child taken away.

    The same principle can be seen regarding gun rights, where a person may possess a firearm (usually with a license) so long as they store and use the firearm safely. If the person fails in their responsibility to properly store and use the firearm, then their right to possess it is cancelled, and the firearm often confiscated.

    Based on the above, it is plain that this so-called “Germanic” and “Romanic” rights business is just nonsense.

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    1. “For example, women have the right to bear and raise children,”

      This is not a right, this is just biology. It’s like saying someone has the right to have blond hair or blue eyes.

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      1. In terms of this particular right, let’s look at China. For years it pursued a policy of not letting women to have more than one child. Forced abortions, child murders. The people didn’t defend this seemingly natural right, and they lost it. There are many examples like this in history.

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        1. I guess I understand “rights” in a different way. To me it’s something that’s defined by the society as deemed by it for efficient functioning. The fact that that China has a policy of one child only, doesn’t limit the number of how many times a woman can conceive. However the Chinese society doesn’t grant the right to the second-conceived fetus to survive. I guess, looking back at your post, I come from the German way of looking at rights – it’s something that you regulate and fight for in order to ensure a prosperous life in a society. Rights can be given and taken away.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. @ Maria: “I guess I understand “rights” in a different way. To me it’s something that’s defined by the society as deemed by it for efficient functioning….”

            There are different kinds of rights. Human rights are overarching rights that are intrinsic to the human being by dint of existence. Legal rights are those conferred or granted according to law as it is written. Contractual rights are a subset of legal rights and prescribed within a contract in existence.

            Rights are/were grouped/categorised differently depending on the opinion of whoever was grouping/categorising them, which sometimes causes confusion.

            In addition to that, there is sometimes overlap between different kinds of rights eg a woman may have a natural human right to conceive, bear, birth and raise a baby, but that may come into conflict with the laws of a dictatorial government that denies her the legal right to express the human right that she had the whole time.

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      2. @ Maria: “This is not a right, this is just biology. It’s like saying someone has the right to have blond hair or blue eyes.”

        No, you’re confused. The right to bear a child isn’t about the function of the female body or the kind of offspring that will be produced. The right to bear a child is the choice that a woman makes as the final decision maker about whether to get pregnant, remain pregnant full term, and give birth.

        A woman who chooses to get pregnant, remain pregnant full term and give birth has absolutely nothing to do with blond hair and blue eyes, since those attributes of the baby are not chosen by the mother but rather determined by natural laws that the mother has practically no control over.

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        1. I “liked” both of your replies to me, because I enjoy listening to different points of view. But but I have to say one thing: the “No, you’re confused” is super condescending.

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          1. @ Maria: “But but I have to say one thing: the “No, you’re confused” is super condescending.”

            The way you said “This is not a right, this is just biology. It’s like saying someone has the right to have blond hair or blue eyes.” wasn’t terribly polite either, you know.

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  2. “Romanic and Germanic”

    I tend to think that rights are inherent (rather than granted by authorities) but that it’s necessary to assertively exercise rights rather than assume they’ll be there when needed or desired.

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  3. I go with the philosophy of the Declaration, which states that rights are God-given and inalienable, however much this is ignored in practice. So I guess that puts me in the Romanic camp.

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    1. Neither position is inferior or superior. I think they both have a right to exist. I’m more cynical, so I feel closer to the Germanic perspective.

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  4. Followers of Natural law posit that there are some rights (God-given or otherwise) that pre-exist and are therefore not created by any society, they can only be discovered and must be protected by the authorities. The Germanic view – which seems to be prevalent in Anglo-Saxon societies, is what is creating all sorts of rights , including patently absurd ones like the “right” to abortion, in a never-ending ascent towards utopia.
    The Romanic view, on the other hand, more widespread in Latin countries, contributes to the complacency of those who have never fought for any of the rights they enjoy and who cannot, as a result, even imagine that such rights can be withheld from them at any time at the whim of the authorities.

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  5. This is a cliché and it is about civil code vs. common law. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but I’ll bet even a Roman will tell you freedom is a constant struggle.

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    1. @ lb
      I am not sure whether your comment was in reply to mine or to Clarissa’s original post.
      Still, I see no cliché being bandied about. Moreover, who’s talking about advantages or disadvantages?
      The point is to get some insight into some very specific worldviews characterising certain societies and the resulting understanding of the concept of “right”.
      In our Americanised world – that is the real meaning of “globalisation” – the once very meaningful distinction between civil law and common law has come to lose most of its significance. We live in a very hybrid world, and while millions of people may rejoice about such a development, at least as many do not and can only look in dismay at the loss of civilisational differentiation.

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      1. “the once very meaningful distinction between civil law and common law”

        Yeah, we’re definitely headed toward a new model – clout law. No one cares about the letter or spirit of the law but the relative clout of the parties involved.

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    2. “it is about civil code vs. common law.”

      Civil code is based on common law that has become accepted over the years as the proper behavior of decent people. The changing rules for civilized society over the centuries led to written laws like the Magna Carter and the U.S. Constitution.

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