Friday, February 23, 2007

Civil Rights & Human Rights

Human rights are universal, ascribed to all human beings. Civil rights are the rights accorded to the citizens of a particular society. There is no universal agreement on the extent to which human rights and civil rights are, or should be, the same.

The United States was the first nation to form the idea that all human rights should be civil rights, that the proper role of government was to guarantee that. Other nations which came to democracy later than the U.S., however, have also extended it farther, being far more comfortable with the role of government in assuring such human rights as the right to subsistence, education, and livelihood.

One of the dividing lines between what is called “liberal” and what is called “conservative” is over what human rights can and should be guaranteed by government as civil rights, and what are the province of other social institutions, such as the church or the family, to foster and protect.

Religious conservatives, and even some religious liberals, have historically given religious arguments for human rights, and even claimed that there are no grounds for human rights independent of religion. Most liberals, and even some conservatives, argue that in order for human rights to be universal, they must have a basis that all can agree on independent of religion, or any other cultural content that is not universal.

Another central question of our time, in a world of many different cultures interacting with each other, is what universal rights we can and should enforce.

All of these questions – what is the basis for human rights, what do they consist of, how should they be enforced, and to what extent – are related.

If human rights are truly universal, attributed to something that all human beings share in common, then all human beings who claim human rights are natural allies against all human beings who would deprive any of their human rights. All social institutions, including government, must respect and protect human rights; and if they do not, it is the responsibility of all human beings, even those of other nations, to reform them. Liberals tend toward this view.

If human rights are based on an element contained in only one culture, then only those who adopt that culture can exercise human rights, and no other culture can be expected to provide human rights for its people. Conservatives tend toward this view; they vary between those who feel that the culture that best promotes human rights (their own) should take care of its own and let others choose to join it or not; and those who believe that the culture that best pro motes human rights (their own) has a moral obligation to spread itself across the Earth.

What do you consider to be “human rights” and what do you consider to be “civil rights”? What is the basis for them? In what way can & should they be fostered and protected?

One of the central questions of the modern era has been what values to enforce universally in a world of many individual, and sometimes conflicting, cultures.

In my opinion, all freedom, all rights, all values, are created by affirmation. There is no value, no freedom, no right, inherent in material reality. We decide what we want, and then we make it possible. By our own actions, we open up new options, and close off others.

We are as free as we make ourselves.

The only way to really know that someone is free to do something is if somebody does it. If you want the freedom to travel, then you act on that, creating the means to travel, and overcoming obstacles to traveling where you wish to go. If you do not travel because of illness, because of lack of transport, because men with guns guard the border between you and where you want to go, or because you don’t want to go anywhere, the result is the same: you don’t travel.

Humans will have rights, if we choose to have them, and structure our society so as to make them possible. We will only have the rights, however, that we guarantee for everyone else.

We may structure our government so as to foster individual rights, or we may use some other social institution to do so. Since every human society is going to have some political process to resolve conflicts between us, decide what we shall do as a group, and define the accepted use of force, it seems to me fitting and necessary that the fostering and protection of human rights be a fundamental objective of that process.


Dr. Wes Browning said...

Rights are mythological substances that adhere to people and things. The myth that rights sustain is the myth of justice, that there can be or will be a world in which everyone is treated fairly, or that such a world is making itself emerge. In ancient mythologies there were gods representing such worlds and myths that talked about the births and struggles of such gods. These days we can't imagine a god of justice because religious fanatics demand with threats of violence that any god we try to imagine for the purpose of furthering our understanding of our relationships has to be another version of their one big all-purpose god who does everything and who by virtue of his bigness can't be imagined, thereby defeating the purpose of imagining gods altogether, thereby rendering the exercise futile. So instead, we sneak past the religious zealot censors by talking about rights adhering to this and that. Of course, the religious zealots aren't really fooled. They know you're trying to make the gods accessible to human imaginations again, and that were you to succeed entirely they would lose their power over their nations of zombie followers.

Anonymous said...

I am fighting for Civil Rights of the Poor to have the courts decide if Human rights are violated by General Assistance, town aid, or general relief as it is called in other new england states,purposelly MISAPPLIED.

I argue this act makes my job of finding shelter near impossible. So I am personally injuried, by Un-American action of the government.

This May first known as law-day in Maine I will re-enter a complaint based upon a different legal premise. Last year was toss out of court without a trial, Because It was not filed by a lawyer. The Court was bold and foolish enough to proclaim "in other words,LightfootLane has no standing to complain,simply that their government is violating the law."

In a so called "LAND OF LawS" EVERYONE has the right to complain when their government violates the laws.

I am asking advocates to write to the Judges and tell them "I AM WATCHING THE OUTCOME OF THIS CASE":

Freedom hinges upon each of you taking 15-30 minutes to compose a letter saying- I am watching the quality of justice-or lack there of for the poor or the underpaid.
You do not need to take up arms- Just a pen.

Say I am keeping myself updated with the outcome of
"LightfootLane v. State of Maine, its towns and cities. Write:" Judges: C/O Clerk of the Court, PO Box 1007, Bangor Maine 04402":

Anonymous said...

I think that there is a huge tendency in the culture right now towards objectification of the human being with strong emphasis on idealization, as we work to subjugate and deny perceived weaker elements of human nature and character whether present in ourselves or the "other", supported and propagated by means of our communications and entertainment industries the strongest engines we have, serving the interest of the powerful, for the promulgation of myth and propaganda. I think that positions like this in our popular culture seriously undermine the debate for human rights or the protection of those "rights" when deemed formally granted. As has been said countless times you only have a right that you can reasonable defend.

Anonymous said...

Plus no one is that 'Real' about anything anymore. They...we...are always looking to the next person, to fuel the dialogue, to take the action or responsibility or the blame. People who dedicate their lives are increasingly becoming our "precious" weirdos and cranks. Equally liable to receive a token pat on the head as a blow, depending on who may be looking. Yet these are necessary folk and too increasingly rare, they swim against the tide in a toxic, treacly society in love with its toys and absence of complete sensual dialogue, where if I can smell you, its too real, whereas as I might chance a half million brain cells on a virtual simulacrum of same. Human Rights? Trying to redefine human, right? The homeless, Screw them, ok? We'll plug them in, tune them up and when this baby gets goin' they'll think they've just had the best can 'o Spam they've ever stolen. I hear ya.