How you react to the title of Dr. William Schultz's new co-authored book may depend on who you just voted for in the presidential election.
That said, the main title, “The Coming Good Society,” doesn’t really begin to say what this book is about. Rather, this book, as its subtitle — "Why New Realities Demand New Rights" tells us, is about rights. And this is a particularly pivotal time for Americans of all stripes and colors to be thinking long and hard about rights. Particularly future rights, about which this book raises some very provocative questions.
But first, this book takes us through an A to Z of the history and evolution of rights. Human rights, women’s rights, racial rights, privacy rights, religious rights, the right to bear arms, the rights of civilians and soldiers in war time, legal rights, LGBQT rights, and, moving into the 21st century, a whole new raft of rights the world must address as technology changes the world.
Schultz, a longtime Gloucester resident with an even longer history as a leading advocate for human rights, is an ordained minister and former CEO and president of the Unitarian Universalist church. Married to the Rev. Beth Graham, also a Unitarian minister and chief development officer of Gloucester's Pathways for Children, he served for 12 years as head of Amnesty International USA.
Schultz's co-author, Sushma Raman, also a human rights activist, is executive director of the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
As both authors are scholars, it's not surprising that the 328-page volume they produced, published by Harvard University Press, is a somewhat scholarly tome. But it is also very readable, jam-packed with anecdotes from which we are reminded, for instance of the role the United Nations, played in establishing global human rights; and learn, for instance that Napoleon thought soldiers existed to be killed, and that the new British five pound note is under fire from animal rights activists because it contains trace elements of animal fats.
As the authors move into the 21st century, technology propels us ever faster into uncharted territory for future rights, which, just to name one of countless instances, may need to address the rights of robots.
Together, Schultz and Raman leave no possibility unexamined in their voyage into the future of rights, including the need for new environmental and ecological rights of the planet itself.
One prediction, that by the year 2025, “the U.S. military could be largely robotic at a tactical level” shows us just how close that future is, and how, by “taking the human out of the loop” we are unleashing unprecedented moral and ethical human rights issues.
So how do we then deal with all the rest of the challenges wrought by technology and bioscience? Nonbinary gender rights? Fetal rights? Cloning? Genetic coding? The ubiquitous, myriad, and ever-expanding privacy invasions of the digital age? How do we get from here to that coming good society the book's title promises to deliver ?
With nothing less than a "rights revolution," the authors tell us. "Entirely new rights" that "must adapt to new realities ... to preserve and promote the good society ― that protects its members’ dignity and fosters an environment in which people will want to live.".
A 328-page trail-blazing map through the new frontiers of rights, "The Coming Good Society" is meant to "equip us with the tools to engage the present and future of rights." It is also a surprisingly good, and at times —especially as it explores the seeming infinity of new challenges technology is creating by the day — a downright riveting read.
ABOUT THE BOOK
What and who: "The Coming Good Society: Why New Realities Demand New Rights," by William F. Schulz and Sushma Raman.
Pages: 328 pages.
Publisher: Harvard University Press.
How much: Available on Amazon, $21.77 hardcover, Kindle, $20.77.