Not long ago in casual conversation the subject of human rights appeared. For some reason I asked a question I’d not bothered with before. “Where do human rights come from?” They are of frequent social and legal concern, but what might the origin of human rights be? Our first thought was politics, as in the Declaration. But then we switched to human rights coming from nature and the universe itself. Grand and good as that sounds, that turns out to be s a very poor answer to the question.
If we look to nature as a source of human rights I don’t think we’ll find any. Nature doesn’t beam more sun on us because we’re human or make our falls easier by reducing gravity if we stumble. A human has essentially zero rights in nature. A colony of amoeba can take us down as easily as a grizzly might. The only thing in nature that seems to set us apart is our own egos believing we are special and worthy of earthly dominion. Individually we may suspect we don’t actually have the universe by the nose, and that may explain why people attach to the greater power of God, Gods, etc. or form into aggregable groups where assumptions (such as where rights come from) aren’t brought to question.
I’m sure some will say that human rights and specialness comes from God. But among the variations on that theme there is everything from diabolical deities demanding human submission and total obedience to spiritual concepts of an existence outside our human view. Among gods popular today are those remorseless and intolerant of failure to those who are assumed loving in their remoteness. It seems if we look to religions as a source of human rights we end up having to consider the condition or fate of being a follower. If your main right is to be a follower you’re limited to whatever width the theological path provides. Stray from the path and rights are gone. Blaspheme and die is alive in parts of the planet where the true follower dresses, acts, and prays as they’re told. Get off the path and your head can end up on a pole and your remaining human right that of serving as a warning to other followers of the cause.
Ending the preceding sentence was “cause” was deliberate in that the next candidate as a source of human rights is political, a cause as varied and volatile as religious belief. Politics is a damn good mirror for all the issues involving human rights stemming from gods. But whereas we can’t argue with a god we make up for that arguing politics, which seems about all we’re doing lately in a wheel spinning frenzy worthy of the highest-finest religious observation. With religious belief dogma usually sides with the god, something politics usually avoids but at another cost.
The more generous a political system is with human rights the more conflict gets generated. A simple cause such as gender equity runs upon the shoals of reason if you have three jobs and recognize dozens of genders. How do we work that out? What happens with social cohesion if politics gives vegetarianism and cannibalism equal standing and equal rights? I guess we could say their area of commonality was in eating dead things whether plant or people. Human rights in political systems can easily land us right back to the model in nature where we have only the rights we fight for. Nature, religion, and politics obey no law other than survival of the strongest.
That was hardly uplifting, but what is lately? How ‘bout a switch of topic to something a bit different. What do you know about the Ukraine? For most of us (I’m included) it’s not much, but a few insights are possible. Like Lithuania and Poland the Ukraine spent much of its history off the map, blotted out by neighbors who forbade the use of its language, etc. The socialist took their first stab at perfecting human order by punishing Ukrainians with the Holodomor genocide of the 20’s.
A century past but not forgotten. Would your grand or great grands forget if their family was near starved out of existence in the midst of an agriculturally rich nation in order for a point to be made? Probably not. The modern Ukraine is culturally divided Russian and Ukrainian, similar but not identical cultures and languages. Good way to grasp that divide is ask a Finnish friend their view of Russians and possibly mention Karelia. When even your recent history is full of being stomped on you have pretty good soil for problems because even the more idealistic has trouble being so in the midst of opportunism and corruption. How quickly does a nation recover from centuries of trauma? How much healing takes place when decade on decade a nation is used as a pawn?
I’ve been to the edge of the Ukraine, beautiful fertile land with interesting onion top (Orthodox) spires marking every village. Before people zipped around in cars sight of church towers was a local anchor. Got to say it saddens me to so often hear of Ukrainian corruption and so little of how that came to be and the sad events that bred it. There’s just enough left for a few observations. What kind of noncommittal wimps ban plastic straws? Ban plastic yogurt cups and water bottles and then I might take them seriously. (We know why those things won’t be banned, don’t we?)
Wild Cards. On the state level it was Jesse Ventura. Nationally it’s Donald Trump. Evolution theory is excellent on developments but quite lacking in origins. Evolution makes the very difficult argument that given the right conditions and ample time a bowl of primordial chicken soup would develop into an eagle. (Gaps in Evolution doesn’t mean Creationism.)
Seems to me significant portions of talk about justice are more reflective of retaliation, revenge, retribution, and potential reward. Little is heard of reconciliation; not newsworthy as a nasty fight. Forgiveness doesn’t grab attention the way anger does.