On Human Rights - A Commentary


The news these days seems to be cluttered with "human rights" as a subject matter. It seems as though someone, some government (including ours), etc. is denying somebody, somewhere their "human rights". Hey, even the United Nations has a Human Rights Council to help assure such "human rights" are not violated.

And, after all, should anyone, anywhere be denied their "human rights"? Of course not; we are all humans last I checked.

We all know what "human rights are" - Don't we? Well, maybe not. Is there a list of "human rights", or are they just a concept that may vary depending on the individual or culture from whom/whence they are conceived?

The "human rights" some people in this country speak of seem to run a wide gamut of specifics: "The right to free healthcare", "The right to free women's birth control", "The right of an immigrant to freely enter our or any country", "The right to a free college education", "The right to litigate against someone having a different religious opinion", and a whole bunch more things just like these.

And, usually what is called "free" most often means "someone else pays for it" - not really "free". Nothing in life is actually "free".

Such as the above do not seem like "human" rights to me. They, in fact, seem to be what many people might desire; but, are they "rights" - especially "human rights"?

I had no clue.

So, I decided to do a bit of research on the subject. Where are "human rights" spelled out - exactly?

Well, our Declaration Of Independence certainly touches on this with the following:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, .."

It, however, goes no further in its delineation of such "human rights".

These "rights" seem very reasonable. But, I can find no reference in the Bible (Old or New Testaments), the Torah, the Qur'an, nor any other religious text where any definitive list of such "human rights" exist. They all contain rules that are desired for peoples to follow so as to live together peacefully and in harmony. But, not "rights", per. se., whether all peoples agree with all rules or not.

One of the above-indicated set of rules is The Ten Commandments. And one of these Commandments is :Thou Shalt Not Murder - most often mistranslated to "Thou shalt not kill". One could take from this there is an "implied human right" to LIFE. However, the correct wording only stipulates that murder is wrong; NOT that "LIFE" is a right, if the taking of it is justified.

So if, as our Declaration of Independence states, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are "endowed by the Creator", to whom did the Creator pass this information? They don't seem to come from any religious texts. Although, as stated, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness seem totally reasonable as "rights".

The United States Constitution contains the Bill of Rights - i.e., the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. These "rights" go further than just Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

But none of these 10 Amendments identify, stipulate, or even discuss the "human rights" I read so much about.

Now, Amendment IX states:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

These "other rights retained by the people" are nowhere delineated in the document, per. se. So, I have no idea what these might be. This article offers more on the 9th Amendment.

Now, of course, later Amendments were added to guarantee things like voting rights, freedom from slavery, etc. But, these additions do not seem to delineate such as "human rights", they were more of the "US Citizens' Rights" kind of thing.

As mentioned above, The United Nations has a "Human Rights Council". As such, the UN must have a delineation of what it defines as "human rights". And, it does; Click Here. However, the UN, itself, seems not to pay too close attention to its own definition set - further discussed below.

It has 30 such statements. Having read them all, none seem unreasonable - even if the specificity and limit of the meaning of each is somewhat ill-defined. Such ill-defined specificity and limit leads to varying interpretations. This is the problem with any such list - the meaning for application is in the "eye of the beholder". However, I suggest one read just the first 10 or so to get the flavor of the document. And, as you scan the entire document, look for the things listed as being "free". And, good luck with your search!

Now, consider this:

The UN routinely offers condemnation of Israel for "human rights" abuses. Israel offers similar rights as does the US to its people - and, enforces them; but, the UN offers little, if any, condemnation of the Islamic world - nor the rest of the world, for that matter. But, the Islamic world routinely violates ALL of the first 10 of the UN-specified "human rights" - and a whole lot more of them. "Human Rights", as we may conceive them anyway, are not a foundation principle of Islam, it seems.

As the UN so routinely ignores its own "human rights" pronouncements, it can hardly be afforded the luxury of being considered to speak "Ex Cathedra" on the subject. It is a living, breathing example of "human rights" hypocrisy.

The United States' current ambassador to the UN, Ms. Nikki Haley, unlike with prior ambasssadors to the UN from the US, seems to have as a positive mission to help "right the ship" in this regard. Personally, I wish her all the success in the world.

Also consider that if what you believe is a "human right" and the execution of that "right" denies someone else any part of their concept of a "human right", then there is a problem. One or both of what was considered a "right" is clearly not a genuine "human right". Two separate "human rights" should not be in conflict. If, however, both are considered "human rights", by definition, someone is being denied a "human right".

An Example - Health Care:

I know of no one who wants anybody to be without proper and adequate health care. And, I know of no one, were it within their capabilities either physically or financially, who would not ensure that a loved one (be it family or otherwise) was properly afforded health care or other support they needed.

However, if the government (any government) forces you to provide financial assistance to someone else to the point of obviating your "Pursuit of Happiness", "Liberty", or what you firmly hold as a principle, then one of your "rights" has been violated - "human" or otherwise.

NO. When it gets right down to it, any "right" you actually have, think you have, or think you should have ,"human" or otherwise, is only as viable as your government's (or other controlling body's) willingness to ensure by law, preferably, or by physical/financial force. Or, of course, by your own ability to assure them - The implications here are such that I wouldn't recommend such as a normal nor much less as a preferred means.

Consider my above statement a tad bit cynical? Just ask any gay person you happen to know living in a theocratically controlled, Islamic Country.

So, when we read of people demanding "human rights" such as free college education, free health care, free contraception, a "living wage" the limits of which only they can define, and the like, these are NOT "human rights". They are "benefits" that a government may or may not afford its citizens. More often than not, the costs of such benefits are being paid for by persons other than the people demanding them.

Should you, personally, decide to give to someone in need, that is called charity. Or, more to the point, "human decency".

However, consider:

Assume you want something you can't afford, or don't want to spend the money to have it. And, you DEMAND it be given you at others' expense. And, the government forces the "others", without their consent, to provide it. That denies the "others", i.e., the ones who must pay for the desired items, their "rights". This is called oppression.

After consideration, it seems that "human rights" are perceived differently depending on one's culture, mores, belief system, environmental factors, and any number of things.

There is no "list" of "human rights"; they are a malleable concept of decency. So, if you're looking for "human rights", may I suggest you define for others the "human rights" you would wish for yourself.

Here is a suggestion. "Human Rights" are those things that conform both to an offspring of the Code of Hammurabi combined with the immortal words of "Jiminy Cricket", together, operating as one.