Human Rights

I read in a Brazilian blog that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is about to complete 60 years: 60 years of massive, universal praise, and of equally massive, universal oversight. I wanted to start a topic here about this. About the institution of torture in the US, about the persistent slavery in Brazil (interestingly enough, no link for an article in English anywhere to be seen — it’s pretty damn serious, believe me), about the touristical apathy towards the mothers of May in Argentina, about Blackwater and 24 and Queen Rania of Jordan. About how each and every article of the Declaration of Human Rights has been persistently, consistently — forgive the word — raped for the whole 60 years of its existence.

I didn’t want to just bring despair, by all means, but to discuss solutions, culture, attitude. Because this is a young forum: a forum full of young people; but also a very mature forum: not only because of its key members being experienced adults (yes Moogle, I’m looking at you :tongue:); because in this forum like no other there’s this sense of respect and civility in discussions.

Instead, I’m just going to post a link, a link which I originally found in one of the comments to that blog post which prompted me to make this topic (well, to be fair, all links in this post except for one come from that entry). A video recording of a brilliant speech, delivered by Chilean novelist Isabel Allende: a video that took me aback, for being so powerful, so true, so honest. Here’s the video. I hope you guys watch this and come back to this topic: write, write what you think, share your opinion, your hopes, your fears.

In LD4all, there have been many discussions which were locked or removed because, being controversial, they had degraded into flame wars. Well, this is just not the case. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is commonsense: if anything, it’s the one value that we all have in common, no matter what country we come from, the one dogma that is common to all of us. And the fact that the Declaration has never been put to practise anywhere — that by its standards we all, regardless of our involvement in it, live in barbaric, inhumane civilisations — is not really a mystery shared only by initiates in a secret tradition: it’s out there for anyone to see, it’s evident, it is — if anything — painfully obvious.

This has got to change, and I believe we can change it. So! Thoughts? Feelings?

I am at the work now, so I cannot watch the movie, but your post definitely sparked an inspiration to post, so I decided I will.

Yah it’s a real shame all that stuff is going on in the world. Being in America I feel ashamed reading about the standards of torture and the way we are being represented on a global scale. Unfortunately I cannot think a way for things to change. The reasons for these actions to so deeply seated into our cultures fabric as a world society.

I mean the fact that someone had to come up with a piece a paper declaring what are and are not “human” rights is pretty ridiculous to begin with. You’re absolutely correct that it’s common sense. Treat people nicely. Don’t take advantage of others. Plain and simple.

My honest and true feelings on the subject is I am not going to expect change to happen in my life time. While I think that it would be great to occur, I don’t see anything pointing in that direction at this time. I do try to compensate as much as I can for the negative-ness in the world by treating everyone around me with kindness and respect. Trying to give to the needy as much as I am able too. Prevent myself from spewing un-needed negative emotions into the world, etc.

But other than that, I don’t see what we can do as a whole to stop things from heading in the direction they have been heading, well, since the recording of time.

Haha, I must say I saw this coming. And I have to admit to something: your attitude scares me about as much as that of those security bureau guys who think torture is okay. Because their opinion would not matter if there weren’t people backing them up with apathy. Alright, here’s the deal: apart from your post, I’ve got a PM saying something along the lines of “not posting in the topic because it won’t change f—”* (the PM then proceeds to ranting at me for having said something that I actually didn’t say to begin with), and a most appalling number of topic reads without a single word to be shared in reply.

What scares me is exactly this, the ease with which people can “move on” to the next topic as if human rights were not much of an issue. To that extent, I hear a lot “listen, I already have a lot of worries and stress a lot to make my living, I think I deserve to not know about what’s going on”. I agree with them, that’s the whole concept of freedom in a nutshell, but of course I proceed to saying that in that case I hold them responsible for the misery of other people. At which point people usually feel I’m being aggressive, or violent, or insulting, probably because having the right to choose apathy doesn’t work if there’s no tacit agreement to brush it under the rug and pretend we are, for better or worse, not responsible for not doing anything.

I’m not even talking about torture or sexual abuse or, say, world starvation here. I’m talking about the simplest things. Literacy, for one. Last time I checked, the only three countries with even ordinary level of literacy (and that includes not just knowing the letters, but also being able to read and comprehend) were Canada, Chile, and Cuba. In Brazil, where the problem is particularly serious, over 70% of the population is “functionally illiterate” which means they sure can write their names in a piece paper but that’s about it. How painfully hard is it, exactly, to give up a couple of hours in the weekend to give classes to a bunch of those people?

I’ve done a couple of messed up things in my life, in the past, which for better or worse ended up changing the way I deal with things. After that, I’ve been to the Amazon teach people way older than me how to brush their teeth (and their kids what exactly is a condom in aid of), I’ve been a part time assistant in an institution to help the blind, I’ve contributed to open source projects, I’ve conceived and developed with a friend, from scratch, a child literacy program in a slumtown in my city. It was always worth it, and I never felt I was wasting, or losing, or even giving up my time for those things. And believe me, I’m not proud of what I did — I could have done a lot more, I could be doing more right now.

And I don’t ask anyone to do what I did (which at any rate is not even half of what I wish I was doing). I just ask people to accept their share of responsibility for, well, letting their politicians go woohoo on torture and vote for anyone in their party the next year. I just ask for people to assume full responsibility when they switch to another channel at the very first chord of the News program’s opening tune. For choosing small talk over any form of critical discussion. So, put short, I agree with you. I don’t think this world is ever going to change. But I, for one, am not going to die thinking I didn’t at least try. I will not allow my last thoughts to be: I saw this mess and just let it be.

I hope there are other people like me in this forum, even if they’re as little as a couple. I’m making this topic to discuss solutions with them, to think of the possibilities, who knows, perhaps even to start something new. I’d love to hear that you, in spite of all your pessimism, are one of those people. And if that’s not the case, that’s alright. I hope that the contents of this topic will inspire you to change your attitude. As a last resort, I still wish you’re happy, because you are entitled to, but I still want you to know that I hold you, as I hold many many people — and, above all, as I hold myself —, partially responsible for this whole situation.

* I misread the contents of the PM. The interlocutor who shall remain nameless actually meant that his qualms don’t constitute a helpful post, reason for him to have chosen to PM instead. I’m sorry, very funny, I stand corrected. :smile:

" each and every article of the Declaration of Human Rights has been persistently, consistently — forgive the word — raped for the whole 60 years of its existence"

so incredibly true.

I was going to go into a political science rant explaining as to why human rights have had such a difficult time to be enforced, but I thought better of it. Besides, nobody really posts in my Circle of Sound. I don`t really see the difference here: Joni Mitchell vs. Human Rights. Pretty equal I would say.

In any case, what I was going to say is, in a shorter format, as long as states are the chief-holders of power, and relatively powerless and useless organizations such as the UN are the main international means of governance, (I love that word), human rights will not be realized on this planet. While saying this, by no means am I saying that I will pessimistically do nothing to fight the spread of injustice. All of us can do, at least for most of us, what we can to stop the spread of this.

At the same time however, I will say there are instances in which torture is justified. For instance, the usage of waterboarding was used on a total of 3 terrorists, all of them being top al-Qaeda folk, who released very important information as a result, which probably saved a lot of lives through the prevention of future attacks. If it was used more widespread, then I would say that it should be banned, but considering the extenuating circumstances in which it was used, I`d say it was justified. The only problem with this argument however is to what extent it will be abused. There are always abuses, just to the extent is the question. I suppose if this power were handed to someone, it should be held in check somehow, or just used to a limited extent in the first case, which seems to be happening at the moment.

Haha, now I’m scary! Watch out: I don’t just bark. :tongue: Alright. I promise last post was my last ad-hominem for the next… four months. What about that? Of course I still think everyone, especially those who are doing nothing because “there’s no use”, are very much responsible for the situation the world is in, but I promise not to use that card again. I prefer discussion to…

/me throws a trout at Jon

To people running away. :razz:

:lol: No, no. After much thought I decided I can’t apologize for that one argument. After all, it did it’s trick: it made you post. I was actually hoping to wake up and see a post of yours and one of Will’s, but still one is better than none, right? :grin: Perhaps you should try that at your Circle of Sound. :razz:

Whoa whoa wait, stop right there. The state is the chief-holder of power in many places in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Last time I checked, the chief-holder of power in the West were the people. :wink: My whole argumentation is based on that.

And, by all means, if the UN doesn’t work, just give up. Forget you have, say, Greenpeace. (Alright, I don’t like Greenpeace, but you get the idea). Hell, forget you have that lovely international non-profit community, what was its name come again?, LD4all. Where you are free to discuss solutions to such topics if you think the UN failed. :wink:

Besides, just because the document comes originally from the UN, that doesn’t mean it has to do much with it. All countries signed! Last time I checked, a treaty was the second highest form of law in most countries, only under the constitution (there sure are the weirdos like Brazil and the US, to whom treaties are just as important as the consitution, because, being republics, they see their own constitution as a treaty as well).

I agree with you that the Palestinians will not be granted article #16 (and by extension, all others) without a UN. And I’ll even agree with you that Israel won’t be granted the same right (with the same repercussion) if the countries around it are not put under control. For that we need a super goverment, and it would sure be lovely to have one that actually works.

But what about education, integrity, right to opinion, healthcare, food? Do we really need a UN for those? In that sense I can’t complain about my country without making a preamble. As much as I hate Brazil and its stupid politics and the whole isolation of states, which generates a real sociological abyss between the South, the Northeast, the West and the Amazon, I must say it scored pretty high when it, for instance, broke the royalties of big medical corporations on the AIDS cocktail, or how more recently it’s been working on freedom of information. We may be lagging in education, hunger and health, but we’re working on those, and no matter how slowly this country grows, I can at least see it growing towards human rights, rather than corporate rights.

Gah, we’ve been through that before! :nuu: You think torture is justified because you don’t think of who’s being tortured as a human being, because of your beliefs. Lets make a deal: you give me one objective criterion to decide who is OK to be tortured and who’s not, one that is absolutely independent of value-judgements and is grounded on logic itself, and I’ll let you “easier investigation > human rights” on me.

Ever stoped to wonder if the abuse happens because we let them have this kind of power to begin with? How hard is it to stick to the darn Rights? If people by principle don’t negotiate with terrorists even if that means the death of thousands, why don’t they by principle refuse to break Human Rights? Not to say I’ll ever justify the actions of the terrorists to begin with, but by being barbaric in our turn, we’re pretty much giving them all the reason they need to justify their own actions. It’s just as silly as negotiating.

Another thing. I’m not going to use ad-hominem, so I’m not going to let you generalize the matter to terrorism then argue against it. This is a topic about human rights, and last time I checkes, yes, they were supposed to be the most important values holded by civilization, and therefore just a wee bit more important than gathering information from terrorists in order to shower them with bombs.

I already did! hahaha, it worked somewhat, I got Willy to post.

Hmm, fair point. Still though, the decisions are less made by the people than the government that is said to represent us. The way I see that happening, is only if something truly serious were to happen, with people taking to the streets in an en masse protest. Unfortunately, we aren’t all French, in that we don’t have a tradition of protests every time something we don’t like happening. If it doesn’t happen after abuse after abuse, one corruption case after another by a majority government, I don’t think the protests in the streets are to happen. I suppose the main way we protest over here in the west is through electing a new government if it abuses it’s powers too much. All I really see that we can do is elect governments which support human rights, and try to get as many of our friends and families on our sides.

My only fear with an international government is that it would have to have checks and balances, otherwise we’d just be electing a government that would become an oligarchy of sorts, who probably wouldn’t care about human rights all that much. And that goes without saying that this super government would have to be agreed upon by all the countries that take part. It seems that the countries that do abuse human rights are usually more dictatorships than any other type of government, and I don’t really see them throwing in the towel and promoting a government that would lead to its own downfall. That or have a super government that imposes itself upon these countries, but giving a government that has that kind of power is not an idea I like to play with.

Those are probably the most important aspects of human rights there. Those must be fought for by the populaces if they are to attain it. The UN could help by putting economic pressure on the nations that are trying to gain these freedoms, but beyond sending in a useless peacekeeping force, it can’t do much else.

As Plato once said (paraphrased): “If a person is making progress, no matter how slow, do not criticize him.”

I would disagree with that statement, but I see no real point in debating it. I know what I believe, and that is all that really matters.

I would probably see that torture is only justified really when information attained can save others lives through preventing an attack of some sort. So basically, it is justified only in periods of battle who are known to possess very valuable information that would save lives, like the three al-Qaeda heads that were waterboarded for that information.


It is different in that negotiating with terrorists promotes terrorism. If a person were abducted in Iraq lets say, and the people were to negotiate with them for say, 3 million dollars for the release of this prisoner, should it be made? The money given to the terrorists will only fuel more abductions by them, and will also fund more terrorism in the future. So basically, the two things you mentioned are in fact very different things entirely.

Terrorism isn’t caused by the wests actions: it happens as a result of the fact that we exist and are not Islamic. I don’t really want to go any further than this, as this is a topic on Human Rights.

I’m not really concerned with minor attacks, more with the huge ones, like a nuke in New York lets say. And it should be stated that the three terrorists that were waterboarded were done soon after 9/11, when another, even larger attack was seen as imminent. It was probably done more for the fact that if another 9/11 occurred, and all that was possible to prevent it was not done, heads would’ve rolled most definitely. A nation in survival mode, as the US was when the waterboarding was done, probably don’t care as much about human rights of known terrorists as another nation would have.

Well, see? :lol:

I agree: in practise, theory is another. Perhaps we should be fighting for those rights too. Technology has evolved so as to allow for more direct forms of democracy: then how come they’re not being implemented as we speak? But this might be a matter for a topic in its own right.

But do you see protests working? Indirect politics is a b—, in that if you don’t have a protesting culture (like we don’t in Brazil or Canada), politicians push it one step at a time, so that we never see contrast clear enough to feel protest is in order. If there is a protesting culture, like in Argentina or France, on the other hand, protests soon become banal, trivial everyday stuff. They stop breaking the news, especially when you reach the point of France and Argentina, where several different protests take place every day.

The only solution I see is to elliminate indirect democracy altogether — anything further than this, in terms of implementation and whatnot, are my personal, highly controversial views, so I’ll stop right here. But I think we can establish here that one of the reasons Human Rights are abused every day is the fact that they’re designed for direct democracies. I don’t think direct democracy alone solves the problem (for one, I’d very much like to see universal democracy as well, and a less oligarchic judiciary system), but I’m fairly sure it’s a crucial requirement.

With the caveat that the West was built upon colonial system, which is oligarchic, and that to this day the American indirect democracies are some sort of bad-taste joke which would be better described as dymnasty dynamics.

Well that alone would be great for starters, breaking the political apathy that’s stuck the West, getting things rolling again, is… well, it sounds rather utopic, even, taking in consideration the current state of things, the whole anti-political, anti-debate culture.

Put short: you fear the UN will become a world-wide representative republic. :tongue:

To be fair, I don’t think measurements matter much here. Who’s “more abusing” of human rights, who’s less. At the end of the day, I can’t think of a single government in the world, today, which doesn’t abuse human rights to some extent — and I’m only taking in consideration the domestical abuse of such rights, if you consider how countries behave around each other you’re to helplessly conclude we are 6 billion people behaving like a mob of about 200 6-year-olds with the worst of manners.

But that’s exactly the catch: people will expect their governments to do this for them. Or the market. Or, hell, the gods, someone else, everyone is just too busy to care spending as little as a couple of hours a week helping change these social deficiencies.

I always thought those blue helmets were cheesy…

Well, sometimes Plato gets it wrong. Brazil might be developing towards a nice model in some aspects (many aspects even), but the fact that this is done on the grounds of massive corruption and serious regional inequality is a bit of a turn off.

Fine! :tongue: Lets agree to disagree, shall we? :razz: And for the love of Jardar, lets also not play the Hitler card in this topic — and the Hiroshima. Deal? We should be talking about the present and the future, anyway: we should be talking epidictic here — not judiciary, not legislative. :yes: