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Manual Forget My Age, Its My Duty

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It is easy to forget this important point, yet it hardly means that commitment to human rights translates into a widespread public discourse about, or political prominence of, duties. So we are now very familiar with the claim that all humans everywhere have rights. But we are much less familiar with the notion that rights are protected by the fulfilment of duties. Consider that, from their president on down, few Americans seem to believe that a right to be free from torture might translate into a duty to prevent and punish torture.

More important, even the most generous attempts to protect the political and socioeconomic rights of individuals leave some duties of individuals to their own states and all humanity out of account, as well as some duties of states to one another. After all, not all duties that morality might impose follow from individual rights. If states have a duty to provide housing and food, do individuals have a duty to pay taxes to ensure it can do so? If inequality gallops locally and globally, is it best to frame the problem as an indirect violation of a right — there being no right to fair distribution — or as a rationale to impose on individuals, corporations and states a duty to contribute to a just society?

If the planet burns, is the remedy a personal right to a healthy environment or a collective duty to preserve the earth for future generations? Sign up for our weekly newsletter. The answers to these questions are hardly obvious, but our ability to tackle them in the first place is depleted by our unbalanced understanding of moral and political discourse over time.

That discourse once gave obligations their due. Unfortunately, while there has been great interest in the history of rights, no one has attempted to write the history of human duties. Even that phrase sounds strange.

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In particular, there is now a whole canon on the history of the internationalisation of human rights since the middle of the twentieth century. It turns out the West — and possibly the world at large — historically cultivated robust theories not only of governmental obligations toward individual rights, but also of individuals toward one another, citizens toward their governments and rich states toward poor ones.

Duties are not without their own baggage. But, compared to the well-excavated history of rights claims, the lesser-known history of duties provides a valuable starting point as we attend to urgent purposes in the world today. For millennia, duties — or responsibilities , as we are more apt to call them now — were the main commitment of religious ethics and thus the centrepiece of the history of ethical culture.

If every duty has a correlative right, the right must be said to be in God!

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Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant provided a revolutionary foundation for morality: the freedom of people to choose their own ends. But when he lectured on practical ethics , his teaching took a familiar form, expounding a catalogue of duties. Many everyday bodies of law, such as tort law for the redress of private wrongs, have never dispensed with this premodern emphasis on duties. The rise of the history of human rights in our time has sometimes distorted our perception of these antediluvian realities.

The same observation applies to early modern ideas of natural law, which have long been credited as the basis of later natural rights. In response to the hegemony of ethical schools, religious traditions and political authorities emphasising obligations within stark hierarchies, a few Enlightenment political thinkers asserted the supremacy of rights. The goal of this shift toward rights was escape from the confinement of duty, and that was no doubt a good thing. The question was, after individual freedoms had been proclaimed and won, what would happen to the earlier public emphasis on duties?

Giuseppe Mazzini: “The principle of Duty”

Would it simply disappear? Appeals to rights famously justified Atlantic revolutions against political oppression. Those revolutions were subsequently domesticated through an appeal to duties.

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of , and its even more liberal update of , were answered by the conservative Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and Citizen. Discussion of duties did not persist, however, simply to contain the demand for rights. Instead, most nineteenth-century liberals assigned importance to duties themselves for two main reasons.

First, they nestled their liberal political commitments within historical and sociological frameworks that made individual freedom a collective achievement that depended on ongoing collective commitments and necessarily common action.

If liberals defended rights, it was not because they believed that individuals enjoyed perfect freedom in a mythical state of nature. Instead, rights, if plausible at all, were social entities — like everything else. The difference between good and bad states was not the distinction between those that respected the pre-political rights of the state of nature and those that did not. Rather, it was the difference between states that properly balanced social freedom with other collective purposes and those that did not.

Second, many liberals were concerned that when the state or globe was viewed as the forum for the protection of individual freedom alone, the result would be a destructive libertarianism that would sweep aside values other than individual liberty, including equality and fraternity. So their motivation to maintain the historic emphasis on duties in a liberal age was powerful.


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Despots had always droned on about the duties of subjects to the state. But even as libertarianism rose, some nineteenth-century liberals elaborated the older republican idea that citizenship in a community of free people affords privileges, but also incurs responsibilities.


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  • Whereas Thomas Paine, who fanned the flames of the American Revolution and then participated in the French, offered a famous defence of The Rights of Man , the nineteenth-century liberal and Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the most famous men of his age, titled his central volume of moral and political theory The Duties of Man Mazzini was not a great philosopher, but his global influence was such that his ethics deserves a look.

    Gandhi mentioned The Duties of Man as one of the texts that most inspired his own thought. With the theory of happiness as the primary aim of existence, we shall only produce egoistic men. We have therefore to find a principle … which shall guide men toward their own improvement, teach them constancy and self-sacrifice, and unite them with their fellow men … And this principle is Duty. Though Mazzini is best remembered for his nationalism, he was also one of the earliest cosmopolitans, who believed in the eventual unification of humanity.

    What drove his activism at every scale, from his local agitation to his global vision, was his commitment to the reality of and need for social interdependence for the sake of achieving all goods. Both you and other prospective jurors who report for jury service will be given an opportunity to voluntarily donate your juror pay to certain local or state charitable causes.

    When you report for jury service, you should receive or request a form that allows you to direct the county treasurer to donate your reimbursement for jury service to a designated charity or fund which should include:. Your employer is not required to pay you for any time that you missed from work due to jury service. However, your employer cannot fire you while you are fulfilling your civic duty.

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    An employer who terminates, threatens to terminate, penalizes, or threatens to penalize an employee because the employee performs jury duty is subject to sanctions for contempt of court and payment of damages to the employee. The length of jury service will vary considerably for summoned jurors. While the jury selection process may require your attendance for a day or a fraction of a day, jury duty generally lasts about one week.

    However, the majority, usually more than two-thirds, of all summoned jurors are NOT actually selected for service, therefore, their duty ends after a short time with the completion of the jury selection process. For those jurors who are selected to serve in a jury panel, the judge and the attorneys may be able to estimate how long that particular trial will last.

    Unfortunately, prospective jurors who appear and participate in the jury selection process will spend a great deal of time waiting. Although the courts make every effort to avoid delays, they sometimes will occur.

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    If a delay occurs while you are present for jury service, please try to be patient with the court staff. Rest assured that there is usually a valid reason for any delays and the judge is aware that you are waiting. Also, try to keep an open mind about your jury service and remember that you are playing an essential role in our justice system. At the conclusion of all the evidence, the judge may give you a written charge that asks you some specific questions.

    Because you will need to consider all of the evidence admitted by the judge, it is important that you pay close attention to the evidence as it is presented at trial. You will not be asked, and you should not consider, whether one party or the other should win. Note that jurors and others can be called upon to testify in open court about acts of jury misconduct.

    As a result, you need to follow all of the jury instructions given by the judge throughout the case very carefully. If you have questions about your jury summons or jury duty, please contact the appropriate court or judge as indicated on the jury summons. The information contained on this web site is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge or the court concerning any aspect of jury service. In the event of any conflicts, the instructions and procedures given to you by the judge or the court should be followed.

    About Texas Courts. Site Search. Texas Judicial Branch Web. About Texas Courts Home. Jury Service in Texas. The Selection Process Juror Selection Receiving a summons for jury duty does not mean that you will actually serve on a jury. Juror Oath At some point during the jury selection process, prospective jurors are given an oath by which they swear or affirm to tell the truth when answering questions about their qualifications as jurors. Qualifications for Jury Service You do not need any special skills or legal knowledge to be a juror!

    To be qualified to serve as a juror you must: be at least 18 years of age; be a citizen of the United States; be a resident of this state and of the county in which you are to serve as a juror; be qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which you are to serve as a juror Note: You do not have to be registered to vote to be qualified to vote ; be of sound mind and good moral character; be able to read and write; not have served as a juror for six days during the preceding three months in the county court or during the preceding six months in the district court; and not have been convicted of, or be under indictment or other legal accusation for, misdemeanor theft or a felony.

    Exemptions from Jury Service You are not required to claim an exemption from jury service. However, you may choose to be excused if you: Are over 70 years of age You may also request a permanent age 70 exemption. This does not apply if the jury wheel has been reconstituted since your service as a petit juror. Exemption from Jury Service You must follow the instructions on your jury summons or contact the judge to find out what you need to do to be exempted from jury service.

    Exemption for Physical or Mental Impairments or Inability to Comprehend English A district court judge may permanently or temporarily exempt from jury service a person with a physical or mental impairment or with an inability to comprehend or communicate in the English language that makes it impossible or very difficult to serve on a jury.

    Advice for your First Day of Service Be sure that you know where you are supposed to report.