Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Short thought on human rights

I've been writing an essay on human rights, and just been intrigued by this:

Different societies and states value different kinds of rights. There are essentially two divisions:

a) Civil and political rights
b) Economic and social rights

They are ALL basic rights, and interlinked, inalienable and indivisible. Yet, no one single state had came to provide all for their citizens.

The United States of America value civil and political rights. Very much. Free speech and the right to vote for them first. Neo-liberalism ideas, the very epitome of freedom. Their people also do not have access nor rights to universal healthcare, nor education. The poor are blamed for being poor. The premise is: You have to work to receive. Welfare states are pooh-poohed. The downtrodden depend very much on charities and foundations for their needs. Tax money goes towards 'free' causes. Like, you know, wars? Also, to institutions like IMF and World Bank so that they have the biggest say. And...yet. One in ten...that's one in TEN, y'all! is living in poverty in United States. Poverty isn't just a problem in the developing and undeveloped world.

Zoom onwards to socialist and developing countries, and to a certain degree, United Kingdom. Economic and social rights reign. Universal healthcare and education for all. Limited free speech. Job security, pensions. In other words, all your basic needs are met. But I reiterate, your speech is limited, you have no right to carry guns (is that really a big issue?) but, it doesn't mean a complete blackout in political rights or free speech. You just need to pick the right apples. Filling the stomach is more important. Now, there have been outrage about the seemingly lack of political and civil rights in other countries. And there are studies saying people from say, China and Singapore do not have too much problem with that. Hmm. There should be censorship of sorts - in one source, a Singaporean was quoted as saying:

"I think that total freedom of speech might bother me more. I know that's the wrong kind of thing to say to you isn't it? But you read about total freedom of speech and how people can't stop - people in America for instance can't stop people getting up big rallies with the neo-fascists and holocaust deniers and anti abortionists and anti-gay movements. And you can't stop these people from saying things and sending out hate mail because they have freedom of speech. They are protected. And that I find more scary".

Two things really:

1. Civil and political rights are free to provide. In other words, the United States need not allocate any budget at all towards the provision of those rights for its citizens. Other countries spend gazilion bazillion on providing economic and social rights for their people.

To me, every unfortunate working person is taxed, no matter where they call home. What their tax money is used for...that is the difference. Starting to see something here?

2. Matt Bishop said this in class, and I don't remember the exact thing he said, so I paraphrase:

"What do you get with free speech and no food?"


Food for thought.

I can't believe I'm still thinking about this after submitting my essays. I may have oversimplified this though, so don't shoot me down for it (especially if you're American!).

Also, if you have the time, go here:

No comments: