I missed out on posting something on the United Nations Human Rights Day (Dec. 10th), but figured I’d give at least a peep to show that a) I’m not dead and b) I care about human rights issues. I have at least one other human rights post in draft, but it’s not done yet 😛
I’ve been listening to some talks by Member of the Universal House of Justice Paul Lample lately, in which he speaks about the degeneration of language—and how, instead of representing or describing reality, language has come to be used to manipulate reality. He used the term “human rights” as an example. For example (to paraphrase), one nation (Nation A) may speak out in a global forum, decrying the violation of human rights in a certain other nation, and demanding redress or international condemnation. Said other nation (Nation B) could very well snap back and, instead of addressing the allegations leveled against it, decry the human rights abuses occurring in the accusing nation—since there are generally some form of human rights abuses occurring in every nation on earth at any given time—and demand that international condemnation be focused on the accuser rather than the accused. Remind you of anyone?
Human rights are not subjective; they’re very clearly and specifically laid out in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The problem in the above case would seem to be that, since there are human rights violations occurring at some level in all parts of the world at any given time, Nation B may feel entitled to reframe Nation A’s allegations of Nation B’s human rights abuses as hypocritical and unjust. In debating terms, this is known as ad hominem tu quoque, or the “you too” fallacy—changing the subject of debate by accusing one’s opponent of hypocrisy, thereby ignoring the original question.
Human rights is a question of justice, and goodness knows there’s not much of that to go around nowadays—although I feel we can safely say that some places have a little more to go around than others. Let’s just say that a nation whose government goes around today bulldozing cemeteries and systematically targeting the members of particular sections of its population for arbitrary arrest, detainment, property seizure, unwarranted expulsion from employment and from educational institutions, denial of pensions, harrassment and execution, isn’t a place you would go to find shining examples of the respect of human rights. and it’s always informative—and sobering—to read up on what human rights groups worldwide have to say about such places. If only we could put ad hominems aside for a day or two and face reality…