One week in to my course and we are focusing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UDHR is a framework which acts as an ideal to which all nations should be striving to accept and enforce in their respective countries. There are some fundamental elements of the UDHR which I believe in completely. The right to life, the right to expression, freedom of movement, special measures to safeguard children and so on. However, the link between law and enforcement of these rights is tenuous and obtrusive - intrinsically by some of the rights themselves.
Today i spent some time describing to some of the Swedish students how instances of direct action have been pardoned in a law of court as acts on behalf of human rights in the UK: The right to life being the most obvious, and a protection of this right. The trident three, the decommissioners. I was asked what the point was of having laws against breaking and entering if they are just going to be broken.
I instantly thought to myself that it was obvious. The right to life is imperative and fundamental- the most important as it is the primary factor that enables human rights: to be able to be alive and live a life. But the right to private property is a capitalist notion... yet it is considered a human right in the UDHR. Surely the two are hugely differential in their importance and their application? You cannot compare the two on the same level.
Are laws created in the vein of the current ideology not there to be tested? Or else how does humanity grow?
As George Bernarnos says:
"Civilization exists precisely so that there may be no masses but rather men alert enough never to constitute masses."
How can law which is supposed to be created by 'the people' in a 'democracy' determine their rights? surely such legal positivism is corrupt in favour of the authorities who create and enforce such 'rights'? Rights are conceptual and idealistic, they are borne from humanity.
The UDHR is a westphalian ideal. It is capitalistic in its shape, form, ideology, economical focus, interstate relations, refusal to address weapons of destruction, ignorance of the arms trade, avoidance of the environment. It imposes the idea of what the capitalist half of the world demands for the rest of the world in order to operate. This is how the world works right now. And I am beginning to wonder if the UDHR perpetuates such a situation or whether it is 'trying to make the best of a bad situation', struggling to enforce the rights of the/a minority within an ideological system which systematically disregards their needs? After all it is the shape of the world today, whether we like it or not. Whilst we protest for change there are still people in need living each day to the next, trying to get by. existing.
This conversation was followed by a statement arguing that nations need weapons. they need defenses because of the way the rest of the world acts- to protect themselves. To which I was shocked. I was shocked on two accounts. firstly because I am a hippy by nature. I believe in peace and the use of force and violence against the person is something I disagree with because it scares me how much power is instilled within a country/person when they have the option to remove the right to life... for another human being or for an entire nation or group of people. I, niavely, presumed that the person i was talking with would also be a hippy, believing in peace through non violence. Perhaps they do believe in peace... But through a 'static' violent presence? I don't know.
Secondly I was shocked with myself. I had just raised a question concerning where the International Covenant for Political and Civil Rights has been drawn from. I used the example of Haiti disbanding their army due to a succession of military coups, ultimately leaving them vulnerable to attack. So the needs of the people as individuals diminished the needs of the nation. Yet the nation is active as a protector of the people. Again 'nation' is another concept, one which operates powerfully in the current world order. But I had not considered that I was myself highlighting the importance of military and armed protection to a nation. ooft.
some food for thought.