Last time, I said that human rights do not really exist. I implied that the reason was because of human wrongs that overwhelmed our desire to create universal rights. This is one of those posts that can quickly spiral out of control. So I will narrow it down to three brief points. This is not intended to be an exhaustive, detailed list, but rather, a few broad strokes.
When Humanity Conflicts with the Cult of Self
Selfishness is a necessary part of self-awareness. It is inextricably linked to being human. Only a defective human, or a machine can possess a complete lack of self. Therefore, it is important to understand that I do not speak of selfishness in a derogatory manner. Selfishness only becomes a bad thing when it goes to extreme levels and causes societal harm. Otherwise, it is an essential part of being human.
The problem with defining any, universal, human right, is that at some point, it will always put one person or tribe in conflict with another. It will do so every time. An almost born baby will never have a right to life if it conflicts with the mother’s right to finish school or pursue a career. The laborer will never have the right to safe working conditions and good benefits if it conflicts with the Board of Directors’ ability to make obscene profits and keep their jets well fueled. You will never be allowed to pursue your happiness across my lawn. Get off my lawn! I am a vocal champion of your human rights up to, but no including the point where they conflict with my selfish needs or desires. That makes it very difficult to establish universal, human rights.
Rights are Taken, not Given
A sad truth about power dynamics is that power only listens to power, and only yields to more power. This means that the powerless will stay powerless until they find the will and a way to take power. Rights are an expression of power. We like to pretend that “rights” are a way for the weak to enjoy the privileges of the strong. That is simply not how the world works. I’m as much of a utopianist as anyone else, but I inhabit this world, recognizing the way it really is, not the way I want it to be.
In the real world, if you want a right, you need power. That is why human rights have devolved into special interest rights. Only those that have found ways to gain power have rights. Special interest groups provide power by proxy. A truly powerless person has no rights, and never will. You have all the rights in the world until the hand-cuffs are clapped on, and the prison doors clang shut. Let’s talk about your rights, now. Oh, yeah! You don’t have any!
Children have the right to obey their parents, eat their vegetables, and shut up. No power, no rights. Muslim women have the right to… hmmm… No power, no rights. The blind, deaf, lame, and mentally challenged have as many rights as they have been able to take by proxy through organizations that champion their cause. I contend that the wheelchair bound have been considerably more successful than the visually impaired in eking out some semblance of human rights. If I was wheelchair bound instead of visually impaired, perhaps I would see things differently.
There can be no universal, human rights because humans do not universally hold, or equally share power. If you are waiting for god to give you rights, you have a long wait ahead of you. If you are unwilling or unable to take the rights you want to have, then you will not have them. Eventually, there will come a time when the majority of people in power will see the benefit of empowering everyone. But that day remains in the utopian future.
There is No Hegemon
In a recent iPhone commercial, a teen activates Siri: the iPhone’s personal assistant function, and tell it to call him “Rock God”, as he has aspirations of become a rock music star. Here is a bit of insight into my personality that you didn’t want to know. My iPhone calls me Hegemon. As my brother used to say, if you’re going to dream, dream big. 🙂
I do not believe that utopia can be realized outside of some type of one-world government. I understand that the very thought of such a government scares many people half to death, and works others into a near insane frenzy. Yet, there it is. For us to all be humans and not islands of special interests, we must be one world, one people, one government, one currency and system of trade, one law, one set of humans with one set of rights. In 2012 CE, the year of this writing, we are still a tribal world. The United States of America is United only in the loosest of terms. I believe humanity must unite or die. The universe is too big, and does not care about our individual tribe or concerns.
I hereby run for the office of Hegemon. At least, then, we would have one voice that could speak to one set of universal, human rights.
I’m not holding my breath.
There is another human wrong that poisons the well of human rights. That is the fact that we believe that rights come to us for free, and independent of human responsibility.. Decoupling rights from responsibilities makes it almost impossible to talk about either with any clarity.
More to come.