A Human Right — What Is It And Does It Really Exist?
Do we have rights as humans? And if we do, how is this established? Are these rights given to us by some governing authority? What is human right?
There have been several milestone accomplishments in establishing individual rights throughout history, the latest being the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I will touch on these later but for now, I’d like to dispense with all complexities and boil it down to one simple universal law:
We have the right to do as we choose without harming another or violating another’s same rights.
Many people instinctively know this as a natural and sane rule of conduct of mutual respect. It comes naturally to anyone who is not obsessively trying to control other people’s lives. Yet we have all accepted violations of this all around us, including in our home, our laws and our government. So this issue is certainly not resolved.
What is a “RIGHT” anyway?
Per the Oxford Dictionary, a “right” is:
“a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something”
But if we are talking about “moral”, then it would seem that rights could vary based on opinion, because people do not necessarily agree on what is moral. If we are referring to “legal” entitlement then this is merely what has been officially agreed upon by lawmakers. So then how can we establish what is everyone’s unwavering human right?
Mutual Respect or Survival of The Fittest?
Since morals can differ among people, we first have to establish a basic moral that the majority of the nation or the world can agree on. I believe it comes down to two basic value systems:
1. Mutual respect. This philosophy holds that everyone is equal, not in terms of competence or real worth to others, but in terms of personal choice and deserving of fair treatment. With this way of thinking, no one has the right to force upon or violate another person (unless it is to stop them from doing so to someone else).
2. Survival of the fittest. This philosophy holds that “might makes right”. This is the dog-eat-dog philosophy. In other words, if you can beat up your neighbour and take his belongings, then have at it! Or, if you can organize enough of a majority of like-minded interests and power, they can do whatever they want to others outside the group, including imprisoning or killing them, stealing land & property, restricting behaviour or activity, etc..
So which do you feel the majority of the world would agree with?
Seems pretty simple.
Now I’m going to go ahead and assume most of you agree with the first value system. I could be wrong and I will have to amend this article if the poll turns out differently.
But if you chose the first value system of individual freedom, you have to understand that for the sake of establishing every individual’s rights, the philosophy would have to be unconditional. This means we cannot make exceptions regardless of whether you find someone else’s personal actions to be distasteful, immoral, ridiculous, etc. The moment you say, “I agree with mutual respect EXCEPT not for women or gay people” or “EXCEPT if the person looks like a terrorist”, etc., then you are actually NOT in favor of freedom but in favor of the second philosophy where people should be forced to do things YOUR way for YOUR own level of comfort. If you consider you may swing this way as a guiding rule, then also consider that that means someone stronger than you, or a majority with a military force that is stronger than you, can thus make YOU do things THEIR way.
Okay so logically, for our own personal protection (and hopefully out of respect for our fellow man), the first way of “live and let live” is best.
Some might ask, “If we can’t make people conform to what is “right” by force, then how do we get people to change their evil ways?” If Person A doesn’t like what Person B is doing to themselves, than Person A is always free to attempt to enlighten Person B as long as Person B is willing to listen. If Person A’s approach and wisdom is worth anything, other people will get it and adopt the idea for themselves willingly. No force would ever be involved. You cannot force the world into becoming a better place by taking away people’s power of choice.
Are You Really For Freedom?
If you are still unsure about this point and where you stand, I suggest you check out this article that I found recently. This lawyer puts it much more effectively than me (don’t worry though — it’s not written in lawyer-speak). Don’t forget to come back though — the fun part is still ahead.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Before we move on to the fun part of comparing how this rule fits in with so many aspects of the real world of present day, I want to touch on the official human rights that have been established by important people with authority. After World War II, the United Nations hashed out the human rights that the nations involved could all agree on and issued it as a Declaration. This was not something enforceable by law but it was at least something agreed upon and established in writing which could then be disseminated to make into a reality. Check out this video:
So what is in the official declaration of human rights? There are 30 clauses each of which specifies a different aspect of human rights, expanding from the original idea of free choice over oneself and including one’s impact and interaction with society. It’s written in pretty simple language and you can read the full declaration here: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a1
Just to give you an idea, it breaks it down to include 1) that all humans are born free and equal; 2) that the rights apply to everyone; 3) right to life, liberty and security; 4) no slavery; 5) no torture; 20) freedom to assemble in groups, etc.. I will include a link to videos depicting each human right later.
I want to emphasize that despite this official declaration of human rights, human rights is still just an idea thought up by people. But ideas are the most powerful thing there is. That this declaration is in writing and agreed upon by official representatives of our countries goes a long way as a foothold to getting everyone to agree. The value of this declaration is NOT that any authority has granted us these rights. No one has granted anything. But these agreements can now be referred to as a point of influence and possible agreement among more people. As they are communicated and become broadly agreed upon, we will obviously see more and more physical change in how people treat others on this planet. I would consider it a first fundamental step in achieving any universal law and ultimately a goal of “peace on earth”.
What Is NOT a Human Right?
The terms “right” and “human right” can be misused and abused. A positive idea that would benefit everyone is not automatically also a right. Just because someone thinks it would be good if everyone experienced nights at the opera, doesn’t mean someone can establish it is everyone’s right to be provided with a night at the opera. If this were granted by some “well-meaning” government, then people would have to be forced to perform for free (a form of slavery) or tax-paying citizens would have to pay for those that can’t afford the opera (which is another form of slavery since everyone works for their money). We cannot have a right where one person MUST be served by the other since this obviously strikes against the right of the other fellow.
Therefore, while people have the right to work (article 23 of the UN Declaration), this doesn’t mean that employers are forced to employ or don’t have the right to choose their workers. There are even a few “rights” in the UN Declaration that need re-wording in my opinion (i.e., the right to a certain standard of living (set by whom?); the right to holidays with pay, etc.). The most basic human right needs to be very simple, basic and unwavering so that ALL can agree.
Human rights cannot be created, modified or used as a way to accomplish one’s own personal agenda, however well meaning that agenda is. Human rights already have an immense uphill climb just to become established and accepted and practiced in reality. To distort this most basic right will only make it more difficult or even impossible.
Seat Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Law
I want to start with something minor and seemingly inconsequential. This is actually a pet peeve of mine. In my country, it is a law enforced by fine, that seat belts must be worn by all occupants in automobiles. Let’s put this law through the test:
Am I hurting or violating anyone else by choosing not to wear a seatbelt?
Then this law and the enforcement of it is a violation of my human right to freedom. The law does not protect anyone’s rights and only enforces someone else’s arbitrary standards of acceptable safety on others. It also costs every citizen in terms of tax dollars to enforce.
Now some people immediately start to argue about how much safer it is to wear a seat belt. No matter how true that may be, it doesn’t give the government the right to FORCE me to wear a seat belt nor to extort money from me because I choose not to.
This may seem unimportant and not worth debating but establishing human rights solidly as an unshakeable stable foundation IS important. If we can’t agree and instead give government even this little precedent, then we have opened the door to any number and severity of human right infringements based on “big brother” knows best — the whole concept of human rights starts going out the window and it becomes a meaningless arbitrary thing based on changeable opinions. When you look at the consequences of violations of human rights across the globe, you realize that peace is frail and so the line distinguishing human right must be drawn clearly and held firm.
Some may argue that this law protects the tax payer from paying for higher hospital bills. While this is debatable, the argument isn’t valid because we don’t “have to” pay for others’ hospital bills. (Besides, the better way to reduce injuries and hospital bills is by putting the influence in the appropriate place – with the medical insurance coverage. The government and Insurance companies can simply declare medical coverage is reduced significantly if it is found the driver was not wearing a seatbelt. Then people can decide for themselves with appropriate incentive.)
Does one man (or woman) uniting with another man (or woman) and officially declaring this marriage in society harm anyone else?
Preventing gay marriage is thus an infringement of our human right.
Now the common argument is that “marriage” is by definition a union of man and woman under God but this is an argument about terminology. Would it make any difference if we invented a new word for it and granted it the same status as “marriage”? Regardless, as a modern society, we have to concede that we have been using the word “marriage” for some time now without the inclusion of God. Non-christians and atheists marry and it has nothing to do with the Bible. Marriage does not even have to include the purpose of procreation. Marriage has a new definition for the purposes of our society — the legal/official registration of two people uniting and thus establishing rights and obligations between the spouses (sharing income, taxes, benefits and authority of next of kin, etc.).
With examination against the human right, two women or two men can do this without harming anyone else. So no one else has any grounds to enforce their will on them to prevent it.
Now, an important question to some of you may be: so how can a God-fearing christian act to salvage people from this “abomination” if they can’t control them by force? How else do you achieve a better world? You enlighten and inspire those who are willing to listen; without force, without threats, without inciting hatred, etc., perhaps something along the lines of what Jesus would have done. I’m not saying this will work in this case but if it doesn’t, then perhaps there are deeper issues and causes to look at and perhaps you can just love people despite their apparent aberrations.