Let’s play tennis? Sovereign choice, rules of play

You and I have agreed to play a game of tennis. No one is forcing either of us to pick up the racket. We have made a choice.

I do not show up with a baseball bat and baseball, insisting that this is how we are playing.

During the game we know the rules. Sometimes there are areas of uncertainty. Is the ball really out? We might ask an independent judge to facilitate that disagreement. 

Our style of play might be different. You might be more skilled at backhand than me. I might be a stronger server. 

We can play with deadly seriousness, or for fun, and any shade in-between.

The game will unfold within these boundaries in infinite ways, no two games ever the same, allowing our individual expression agency within that game.

Spectators are protected from harm, and at the same time invited to support but to not interfere with play.

This simple yet powerful analogy is missing from our current discourse, where people speak of coercion, authoritarianism, lack of freedom and rights without responsibilities. 

Governments are far far from perfect. One of the main remits of a government is to protect all people, to create enough rules to set a boundary of care without removing people’s sovereign choices. 

Public health is about the health of all of the public. Seat belts, non-smoking, disease and epidemic control, waste and refuse removal, water and plumbing infrastructure, sun care campaigns. You can still choose to not wear a seat belt, to smoke, to not use sun protection, to throw your rubbish out the car window. That is your right. Like all things it comes with consequences. Setting rules for public health for the majority still gives you the right to not play by these rules.

We might not like tennis and its rules. It might be the game the majority of people are playing. You do not have to play. This is not coercion, it is choice. Authoritarianism is when you have no choice at all, when you are physically and emotionally compelled to do something against your will. 

The contradiction that lives in the cry for freedom is a great hypocrisy. My right to impose on others without their right to not be imposed upon.

We need to return to the overarching common ground that unites us all. 

Photo taken December 19th 2021

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