Human Rights

I’ve always had trouble with the idea of ‘human rights’. Who gets to choose the rights and whose ideals do we use? Japanese culture is built around the group while most western cultures are built around the individual. Neither holds a monopoly on right and any attempt by one group to impose their values on the other would meet with catastrophe.

Most of my peers see medicine as the right of an individual, giving them the chance to live full lives despite genetic defects, illness or accident. I see medicine as weakening the human race by increasing the chance of genetic defects being propagated to future generations. I see it as removing the onus of responsibility on individuals to eat well, remain vigilant of surrounds and act sensibly. Why would they, when they know that they can simply get patched up after illness or accident? I’m terrified by the idea that someone would force surgery on me and claim it was my right.

The UN has a human rights program directed at aiding those who live on less than $2 per day. Bhutan has many families in this category, yet neither money nor abundance are values they hold. Happiness is more important to them and many who are hungry appear happier to me than Bill Gates.

The only truly human rights that I can see are the rights of any group of people to identify problems by their own values and to address them using their own methods. If the Arab nations are infighting, it’s up to them to solve the problem. Many may die in the process, but that’s a price they need to decide to pay. When the US walks in and sets things to ‘rights’, what else can the people do but resent the intruders. They gather their resources and turn the fight against the West.

People should have the right to solve their own problems. Yet even this right runs into trouble when you broaden the circle. When another country flies planes into buildings in the US, the ‘group’ suddenly comprises both the attacker and the attacked and their very different cultures. There are compelling arguments (eg risk of nuclear war) to say that such situations become global and then we need to find global values to base our actions on. The UN was trying to do that when the US lost patience and invaded Afghanistan and now everyone’s paying the price.

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