Category Archives: Human Rights

Are we truly free?

Capitalism is often espoused as an economic system that liberated people from Serfdom. Linear models of history tend to place it after Feudalism as the most free of social models. Fukuyama even went so far as to say it marked the end of history.

And yet when we compare 2011 with 1848, which looks more revolutionary? Neither resulted in the overthrowing of existing theories. Both spread ideas far and wide. And 2011 was a lot bigger! So if we assume that 2011 and Occupy was largely about Capitalism then it seems that many are far from happy with the amount of freedom that they have.

Your immediate thought may be that people are unhappy because of the Great Recession. At this moment there are more 16-25 year olds in the world who aren’t in education or work than there are citizens of the United States. These people clearly have reason to think that the system let them down. But what about those protestors with a job? What about those who wanted to protest but feared that they could be fired for doing so, or that they were working so much that they didn’t have time to protest? Movements as big as Occupy don’t result solely from recessions, no matter how big they are.

This now brings me to my main point. I saw a Dilbert cartoon some months ago, and it stuck in my head. Dilbert kept looking at various animals kept in captivity, each time deriding them for their stupidity in allowing themselves to be virtually enslaved. And then in the last strip he went to sit in an office booth and tapped away on a keyboard; a slave, or so we are to think, of a faceless corporation.

Capitalism says that it permits labour freedom of movement, so they can work where they want. But critics say that Feudalism at least protected one from being fired and/or unemployed. And of course you are only free to choose where you have a choice. Where’s your freedom to quit if you know that there aren’t any other jobs out there? After all how many people have you met who work in their dream career? How many people have you met who work for who they want to work for? In a Capitalist system you generally need capital in order to be your own boss.

So what is it that we have right now? Freedom of labour movement? Freedom to choose which company you enslave yourself to? Or worse still rigid slavery to an entire system that we cannot escape, and serves only the 1%? Are you truly free? Or will our grandchildren look back on these times with pity?

>Are there such things as "inalienable rights" & "self-evident truths"?

>An inalienable right is one that cannot be taken or given away from/by the possessor. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are supposedly such rights, as indicated by the US Declaration of Independence, which says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This second sentence of the declaration also refers to “self-evident” truths. So a second question is can any truths be self-evident?

>To what extent should places like China have the freedom to handle human rights issues as they want?

>Western democracies are liberal democracies. We believe in upholding basic human rights, and ensuring the freedom of the individual insofar as they doesn’t enfringe upon the freedoms of others. But would freeing people like Liu Xiaobo enfringe upon the liberties of others? Do we have a right to say our way is undeniably better, and that there are no disadvantages with ordering his release? Or is China right to suspect that violence and unrest might walk hand in hand with greater freedom to protest? After all China learnt a lesson from Gorbachev; and much of the reason why they keep such a tight reign on the country is because of the perceived lessons from that period of Soviet history.

>Are you for or against legalising Euthanasia?

>A few sites to help you get your head round the debates as they stand thus far:

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/against/against_1.shtml
  2. http://www.world-faiths.com/GCSE%20Short%20course/reasons_for_and_against.htm
  3. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/legal-euthanasia-does-not-increase-rate-says-belgian-expert-20101028-175u8.html
  4. http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Doctor+warns+against+legalizing+euthanasia/3642395/story.html

>How far should we push equality?

>Technological developers and workers are predicting machines will be as intellectually capable as apes by the end of the century, and also able to feel and empaphize as we do. Suppose a situation came to be where machines were more intelligent than us, and just as life like in that they felt emotions as we do. Would you accord them equal rights? If we accorded them equal rights based on our similarities then why do we have greater rights than apes? If not then how do we justify our ‘human rights’ being solely available to humans?

>When did genocide become ‘wrong’?

>Genocide has been a fairly common feature of human history, with some form of it in almost every country’s history. To give a few examples:

  1. Ben Kiernan, a Yale scholar, has labelled the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War (149-146BC) as the first genocide in history.
  2. Charlemagne, who is credited for starting the process of nationalisation and the creation of ethno-homogenous societies in Europe, did so partly through genocidal actions. 
  3. Hundreds of scholars label some of the Mongol conquests, particularly in the 13th century, as genocidal. Despite the positive light in which Mongols see Genghis Khan, people throughout China and the eastern Middle East still see him as a genocidal mad man to this day.
  4. David Stannard argued that the destruction of the aboriginal peoples of America was in fact more than just disease as we commonly think today. He says that there were “a string of genocidal campaigns”.
  5. Starting in the reformation there have been frequent genocides by Catholic and Protestant forces intent on creating religious unity within European states. The Cromwellian conquest of Catholic Ireland is often referred to as a genocide. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the British government undertook a ‘pacification’ of the predominantly Catholic Scottish highlands, which wiped out a culture.
  6. Reynald Secher argued that the actions of the French government during the revolt in the Vendée (1793–1796) was the first modern genocide.

This last week the Serbian parliament formally apologised for the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre in which 8000 Bosnian Muslims were killed, and labelled it genocide. Many countries around the world still seek to create ethno-homogenous societies through violent means in emulation of Europe. But now we have almost universal agreement that this would be wrong. Why? What’s changed? And when did it happen?

>Is ‘freedom of speech’ a natural right?

>The last few years have seen the words “freedom of speech” bandied around as if it were the most common phrase in the world. People fall on both sides of the debate in every country around the world.

Yet some journalists claim that the majority of people don’t even understand what ‘freedom of speech’ means. A Canadian journalist (Marni Soupcoff) published an article today saying that the majority of Canadians just “don’t get” freedom of speech.

What does ‘freedom of speech’ mean to you and to what extent should it be supported?

>Is the right to parenthood absolute?

>It is fashionable among modern politicians to say that the environment is the biggest problem facing our age. But many environmentalists argue that the planet is overpopulated. In fact one the most popular documentaries to ever be made, ‘Planet Earth’, features a quote saying that we need to limit the number of people to a level far below its current 6 billion in order to achieve a sustainable level of life.

Then there are all the abusive, and just plain bad parents out there. What gives them the right to be a parent? Is a child always better off with the natural parents?

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