Sunday, December 30, 2012

Human rights

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."  If you are introducing a document about important concepts, why on earth would you state at the outset that the concept that you are introducing it with is "self-evident."  Evidently it is not "self-evident" otherwise there would be no need to point it out.  Actually it should say "We believe all men are created equal, and if you don't believe this, too bad..."  But, rather than give any opponent the option of disagreeing with the concept of universal equality, the author, Thomas Jefferson, disarms opposition by stating that he believes that it is "self-evident."
Actually, it is not self-evident, all men are not in fact created equal.  Different men of different origins have different genomes and different environments and different degrees of wealth and opportunities.  Universal equality was a convenient construct on which to base the subsequent derivations of rational thinkers on the rights of man in the enlightenment. 
Until WWII it was considered appropriate to "sacrifice" men in war for the sake of the "fatherland" or "motherland" or whatever patriotism deemed right.  This was exemplified by such (anti-) war stories/movies of WWI as "All quiet on the western front," and "Paths of Glory."  Questioned about the difference between WWI and WWII, Gen. Montgomery, who fought in both, said that in WWII the lives of the men under command had to be considered in all military actions.  This focus on the right to life of the individual underlies the transition to the emphasis on human rights after WWII in the wake of the appalling and terrible mass murders that took place, not only the Holocaust of European Jews, but the massacres of Chinese by the Japanese, and millions of other civilian deaths. 
It is the change to anti-Colonialism and anti-Imperialism in the West that has largely driven the agenda of human rights as an international norm.  Such ideals are clearly still poorly accepted in some parts of the world, such as Islamic countries (Afghanistan), where women are definitely unequal and people of different ethnicities are fair game. In China the advent of capitalism and its focus on the individual must eventually undermine the top-down decisions of the Communist megalith that tramples on individual rights.   
The concept of self-determination has pushed the agenda of international relations.  It has enabled the Jews to establish Israel and has expanded the number of countries in the UN from its original of 50 in 1945 to 194 in 67 years.  Consider the Kurds, they are split between Turkey, Iraq and Syria.  In Syria they have now set up a separate entity in the NE, and in Iraq they have a thriving mini-state, that has the advantage of including the oil of Mosul.  But, would Turkey stand by and allow these entities to unite, certainly not, it could trigger a major war. 
In the past year, the UN General Assembly has passed 22 anti-Israel resolutions while passing NONE censuring Hamas for its missile attacks on Israeli civilians!  Nevertheless, the arrow is pointing in the right direction, like a weak magnetic field its direction is sure even if sometimes wavering.  Although it is not self-evident, eventually there will be human rights for all.   


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