Sunday, February 27, 2011
So if it is imminent that the regime will fall and the people of Libya will no longer support him as the ruler, then why can't the UN or US military intervene directly and help stop the loss of more unnecessary human lives. Or to some degree have our past failures in Africa, notably in Somalia or the reluctance to subsequently intervene in Rwanda, have combined to limit the degree the West is willing to commit to intervention.
So suppose that the UN or the African Union sent in a military force it would be soon a huge issue of Sovereignty, if they were able to beat back the remainder of Quadafi's army, did he violate any international territories beyond Libya, but he is still not protecting the citizens of his nation, which does in part dissolve Quadafi's claim to rule. At the very least the United Nations should help in the elections. Still the AU should help stop the needless killing as well.
DO you think it is realistic that a military force could intervene and help or would it interfere with the states sovereignty and the rights of the citizens to choose a destiny for their nation (As was the case in Iraq or Japan, where we had great command on who wrote the constitution and granted them military protection.)?
Can Libya not be helped by other neighbors also in revolution like Egypt and Tunisia, both nations that are adjacent to the county in transition?
Finally, if there becomes evidence that a genocide does occur out of the Western Worlds failure to act are we held responsible by the UNDHR or because we never committed to helping them we have not culpability?
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Our question in class about gay marriage revealed our tendency to blur the lines between civil and human rights. The distinction between human and civil rights embodies several characteristics. First of all, while civil rights are related to the constitution of each country, human rights are considered to be universal. Civil rights are hammered out by the founders and creators of new societies, while human rights are gifted to us by virtue of being born a human. Civil rights are individual rights which exist by virtue of legislative action and a state government. Human rights, on the other hand, are universal, and (supposedly) cannot be violated by anyone, not even a state government.
When I think about the significance of the differences between these two rights, I am reminded of the question of universality and particularity. As emphasized in our reading from Donnelly concerning intervention, "The moral universality of human rights, which has been codified in a strong set of authoritative international norms, must be realized through the particularities of national action" (181). In the case of civil rights, the particularity of the state takes precedence; rights are determined and enforced by one government with presumably one predominant set of cultural beliefs and practice. Universal human rights, however, are inherently within each person (the United Nations just wrote them all down for us), applied to each person regardless of culture or belief system, and are enforced by… well…
Let's look at a simple example where civil and human rights may clash: An imprisoned felon in the United States no longer possesses the civil right to vote, but he still has his UDHR Article 28 human right to participate in his government. So is the United States government violating his human right? Other instances of opposition between civil and human rights include rights of women in many states, and others (If you can think of another example or a better example of civil rights and universal human rights in conflict with one another, please post it!)
Clearly, as Donnelly points out on numerous occasions, the enforcement of rights—whether civil or human—is most often upheld by the state, not the international community. If this is true, have we not established a system in which civil rights will always trump human rights in practical application? Is this acceptable to you? Should the international community recognize this fact and allow states to uphold their civil right above "universal" human rights? Or should civil rights take a backseat, and would you advocate that the international community intervene in instances where human rights are being violated within the bounds of local civil rights? Or are human rights and civil rights not as distinct as I've made them out to be?
With the nearly exponential rise in social media over the past few years, public domain on the Internet is becoming more and more integrated into the selection process of employers, graduate schools, colleges, and even high schools. To me, public is public. What is accessible to anyone and everyone over the web is exactly that—accessible to all. If I post a picture of myself on Facebook chugging a pitcher of beer, I am in essence taking full responsibility of that picture, I own it. Once I put it out there in the depths of the Internet, I should fully expect that picture to be accessible to anyone—even the aforementioned institutions.
Where this story differs, however, is in accessing this man’s private sphere. Now I realize that many people hold it to be true that there is no private space on the Internet. I for one, as part of this technological generation, do believe that private space should be respected online. Checking one’s personal e-mail accounts, for example, is a gross invasion of this personal space. If we are to shift from physical mail to electronic mail (which we certainly are), then we must also be willing to shift the privacy that comes with physical mail to that of electronic mail. The mail-of-old, as I’ll call it, is carefully protected by federal laws. This one for example, clearly states that the unlawful acquisition of mail can leave the perpetrator in prison for up to five years.
While Officer Robert Collins may not have been subjected to a clearly human rights violation, his rights were certainly violated. So where do we go from here? Are we to continue treating the Internet as an opportune forum for public space, or can we recognize it as an increasingly modernized way of doing the very same things that we used to do? In the latter case, as the Internet becomes more and more central to our lives, we must also respect it as such.
Friday, February 25, 2011
The release capture and release of these prisoners bring up several human rights issues associated with both terrorism and freedom of speech. One of the questions to be asked in this situation is what truly constitutes a terrorist. I think that most of us would agree that simply protesting the practices of an oppressive government does not constitute terrorism, but at what point do we draw the line when we compare more violent protestors to terrorists? Are there occasions in which terrorism would be acceptable so long as it is limited to an attack on government officials (and likely members of the public/government security forces that protect them)? Perhaps prior to that question is the question of who exactly gets to define terrorism or label particular groups as terrorist networks?
There is also the issue of freedom of speech. As we all know, there are limitations everywhere on what you can say and to whom it may be said. For instance, a man that interrupts a Obama in the middle of a national speech in order to tell yell a twenty minute profanity-laced explanation of why the current administration is the worst in history (I'm not saying it is) would likely be detained quickly and thoroughly. I don't particularly question whether or not it is right or wrong for the man to be silenced, but I do wonder if freedom of speech is truly a right rather than a privilege given the restrictions that we place upon it. While I understand that we all have the choice of saying whatever we like so long as we are prepared to deal with the consequences, which may sometimes include being physically detained or removed from an area, I question whether that is sufficient to call it a right. There are many things that I have the option of doing in any manner that I chose so long as I am prepared to deal with the consequences. For example, I physically have the ability to defecate anywhere that I like, but I doubt that many people would be willing to argue that I have that right. What is it that truly distinguishes the two from one another and how do I have the right to freedom of speech while only having the privilege to defecate in certain locales?
Indigenous peoples face many challenges in the modern world. Very frequently their lands are overridden by more dominant colonizers. Rather than seeing the natives as cohorts, most colonists, during the era of European expansion and imperialism, saw native peoples as savages in need of control and domination. This led to the justification of expansion and even the acceptance of slavery.
In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This document emphasizes the right of indigenous peoples to maintain their institutions and to be protected against oppression, hatred, marginalization, and exploitation. Some powerful countries have been opposed to this document, stating that no country should accept the notion of creating "different classes of citizens". While this does sound like a statement that is difficult with which to disagree, does this not somewhat ignore historic reality? This is not to say that some indigenous peoples have no recognized rights anywhere, because this is simply untrue. Some areas of the world do give the rights of the larger society to those indigenous to the region, but these areas are in the minority.
My question is this/questions are these: Were different classes of citizens not created upon original colonization when indigenous peoples were treated as second-class citizens and cleared out of their homesteads? Is the statement of those countries opposed to the document made in ignorance? It seems to me as though these countries see indigenous people as humanoids, rather than actual human beings. Is there any validity in the claims of the opposed countries?
While in some, very limited situations it might be morally permissible to attempt to ethnically cleanse a nation, I don’t think it is ever beneficial. Nickel suggests that perhaps to prevent a civil war between hostile ethnic groups a government would want to relocate the people of one ethnic group. He says, “The third goal, which is to avoid further ethnic conflict or war by creating a more ethnically homogenous state, may be plausible in some circumstances. Ethnic tensions in Lebanon, Belgium, Canada, and Sri Lanka illustrate that it is often hard for two or more large ethnic groups to coexist amicably in a single country” (Nickel 471). Cleansing may solve the immediate conflict, but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem. First of all, if there are two warring ethnic groups, how does the government decide which one stays and which one goes? Presumably the government is controlled by one of the two ethnic groups so it would most likely want to kick out the other. Most likely the responsibility for the ethnic conflict is not entirely on one group or the other, so you couldn’t just ‘get rid’ of the problem. Relocating the minority population might be less costly, but would it be fair? Each ethnic group probably has traditional ties to the land that go back generations, if not much longer. Separating hostile ethnic groups may stop the violence for the time being, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the problem.
Instead of simply getting rid of people you disagree with, it is often much more profitable to have them around. While it may be difficult for ethnically diverse populations to get along with one another, it is beneficial for everyone involved if they can learn to live together. The plurality of ideas in such states would help the entire nation grow. Homogeny within a population isn’t a good goal to have. We may not like it, but we can get a lot out of living in close proximity to people who are different from us.
Monday, February 21, 2011
"For the Bible Tells Me So" is a feature documentary about the intersection of religion and homosexuality in America today. Seen through the eyes of five conservative Christian families with gay children, the film highlights their efforts to successfully and peacefully reconcile family and theology. In addition, "For the Bible Tells Me So" interviews prominent Judeo-Christian scholars to reveal that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon significant (and often malicious) misinterpretations of the Bible.
I know that this isn't a class about religion, but I think this is a really fascinating documentary that many of you may be interested in, particularly after our talk with Dan.
This documentary is not just for people of Jewish or Christian beliefs; I'd recommend it to anyone desiring and willing to think critically about the relationships between homosexuality, religion, prejudice, and public policy in America.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Smith believes that international intervention should operate under the following principle: “Individual state sovereignty can be overridden whenever the behavior of the state even within its own territory threatens the existence of elementary human rights abroad and whenever the protection of the basic human rights of its citizens can be assured only from the outside” (498). Therefore, the international community should intervene in domestic affairs whenever there is a clear violation of human rights. Although this seems to be an appropriate guideline, it is only a step towards removing the ambiguity surrounding the concept of humanitarian intervention. The UN will be unable to endorse a general doctrine until the international community defines who is responsible for protecting human rights. Should the international community rely on specific nations to intervene whenever human rights are violated (the members of the Security Council, for example), or is it more plausible for the “defenders” of human rights to vary according to the situation? Furthermore, the international community must also define what humanitarian intervention consists of. “Is humanitarian intervention a rescue operation…or an attempt to address the underlying causes of the conflict?” (483). Until these specific issues are resolved, humanitarian intervention will remain in a cloud of confusion.
In the text Donnelly wrote, “In the short and medium run, there is no chance of anything even close to an international consensus on even a working text for a draft declaration of the rights of homosexuals.” While I understand that the International Document of Human Rights is largely one with fixed standards, this statement by Donnelly really bothered me. I feel like LGBT people have been denied these basic human rights for so long, that they should not have to wait anymore for their rights. I know that it is hard, especially when looking at cultural relativism, to make all cultures agree on an issue. But to deny someone rights purely because they are choosing to love someone that you do not agree with – that to me seems so backwards.
Amongst all these ramblings, I guess my main question is, is this really a long-term goal? Can we, in a relatively shorter period of time, actually come to some sort of global consensus? Furthermore, what steps have to be taken to get things such as Article 16 changed? Do you think it is possible to see this happen in the next generation?
James Nickel's essay on treads largely uncotroversial ground in its examination of the moral pitfalls of ethnic cleansing, but perhaps his somewhat guarded explanation of the grounds for permissible instances of ethnic cleansing offers a more interesting field for discussion. Nickel provides a series of criteria for evauluating such instances and suggests that certain forms might be "morally tolerable as a way of dealing with severely deteriorated situations".
In truth, Nickel (probably due to the senstive political context of the Bosnian War at the time of publication) probably gives short shrift to the effect of forcible population transfers in favor of political stability. The single largest such transfer occurred after the Second World War, as (among others) millions of Germans were expelled from Central and Eastern Europe and driven destitute into Germany proper. This was undoubtedly a brutal process, but it was essentially endorsed by Churchill and Roosevelt as an expedient to stable postwar political boundaries (Hitler, after all, had used the plight of the Sudeten Germans as a pretext for his annexation of Czechoslovakia). Indeed, the remarkably peacable state of modern Europe can be explained in large part by the relatively homogenous character of most of its nation states. By contrast, it's cliche to note the arbitrary, trans-ethnic borders of postcolonial Africa are responsible for much of the political instability there.
To highlight a more specific example, a Mideast peace settlement leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state (should that ever occur) would almost certainly require forcible population transfer from some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as already occurred in the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Given that this policy is essentially what most of the international community is demanding, it calls into question the moral objection to population transfer per se, rather than merely its nastier manifestations.
My specific subject this blog is spurred by the one of the few responses he gave that I found inadequate. I had wanted to ask this in our class and was thrilled when it got brought up in the general session. However, I think a combination of nervousness at the divisive topic, combined with the lecture moving to a close, led him to an unsatisfactory answer. The topic is the use of pejorative gay terms and how he feels about their use (fag, queer, etc...). While the individual asking clearly expected a clean-cut "Don't say that" answer, Dan was vaguely supportive of their use.
My best friend and roommate the first two years of College was and still is gay. We used gay slurs at each other all the time-sometimes jokingly, but other times only using the negative connotations, not the gay connotations. This has, by the way, caused me many problems later on in public since, instead of being trained against casual slur use by the friend you'd think would, I was encouraged. But I wonder if it is actually better to cut those words out of our vocabulary? I feel like that does the same thing as segregating swear words from the masses, it places their value on a pedestal. All of those words are symbols we place on other things. None originally meant gay (even gay). I think that use of them in more acceptable ways could actually diffuse their meaning, devalueing, rather than empowering them.
Now I'm not sure if this was Dan's reason for not disparaging these words. After all, as Dan loved to reiterate, he is a dirty sex columnist, and I imagine those words can be quite useful in that line. However, what do you think? Do we need to eradicate this language to help eradicate the thoughts often behind it? Or can we water the language down and steal its power out from under it?
Essentially Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign is about standing up for the violence and injustice against gay, bi, trans, and lesbian students. Hence, Savage is trying to reestablish those students’ human rights through his campaign. I am wondering if this campaign needs to try to further impact the ideology of the students who are the bullies. Because the campaign has grown so fast and effectively it might be beneficial for an even more powerful change to occur by creating a part of the campaign that understands and attempts to change the bullies’ mindset in order to rework this unjust system of continuous wrongdoings. Thus, my first questions stemming from Dan Savage’s campaign are do you think that the campaign should be gearing some small portion of its efforts into influencing those bullies who cause all the injustices? Also, do you think this will actually bring about a different and lasting, peaceful change in the lives of the GLBT students?
Dan Savage’s campaign’s and talk’s provocative quality made me wonder what exactly we are fighting when we are correcting any human rights violations? By this I mean, when we advocate and begin to fight for change in regards to human rights violations, the point is definitely to defend the victims and punish the violators. I completely agree with this method because of the level of immorality that comes along with human rights violations. However, by applying my previous questions to a bigger scale I further inquire by asking, should there be more of an effort made to influence the mindset of the violators? Would trying to influence the ideology of the violators transform the way violations of human rights are globally handled?
It is very easy to write about influencing the violators than it is to actually execute this theory; however, I wonder if the purpose of fighting human rights violations is to bring about a systemic change through shirting the ideologies of the violators or continuing to instill a sense of fear in the violators through means of punishment so that such actions will not be repeated? Perhaps, the point of challenging human rights violations is a combination of both of these purposes?
Friday, February 18, 2011
Joseph Conrad’s Victory displays vividly the elasticity conception of “humanity” we now cling to so dearly. Written in 1914, the novel takes place in the Euro-infiltrated Far East coast. Certain European hotelkeepers privilege the their race at a distinguished table d'hôte. World traveling Brit Mr. Jones keeps a hairy indigenous from the Mexican coast as a bestial servant and a sidekick who regards him as a gentlemen. The trio gives little consideration to an idea of common humanity.
My point is that the affinities we have toward common humanity are abstractions of our feelings of care. We may assume our actions should be targeted at humanity, but this completely ignores our actual surroundings. Just as Mr. Jones denies rights to Pedro, so too do we do so with “simple” beasts when we harvest forests. And clearly this term is relative, for it is not too far off from how American natives were originally treated. The idea of humanity is not innate to humans. Before our species evolved into the mono-conglomeration of humanity we understand today, several related but distinct species of Homo dug dirt together. What obligations have we to indigenous creatures or “wildlife” in our cohabitation? Mr. Jones treats his like a beast, but are our furry natives not as just as much Memphians as we are?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
My post this week is going to be a little different than usual, because I want to focus on a controversial topic that specifically and typically applies to students, the topic of bullying. I chose this topic because this past week we heard from Dan Savage and his thoughts about gay rights and his project “It Gets Better,” and also our class has started to touch on the issue of bullying. In Savage’s talk in class as well as his lecture, he gave us numerous ideas and influential points, statistics, and quotes to think about, but the one thing that really stuck with me when Savage spoke was the idea of kids getting bullied, and more than once, bullied to death. Listening about the suicides of the children who were facing a tough time in discovering their sexuality, and hearing that the students in their schools who were brutally beating them up not only physically but mentally, was a difficult thought to digest.
On that note, we talked vaguely about Rhodes College in particular with bullying and degrading words to people who are LGBT. It seems that many people in the class had known someone or heard phrases from people here that are degrading and could be considered bullying. Do you think that Rhodes College is a place where bullying goes on, especially in relation to LGBT youth? When we discussed in class, we also mentioned how people can use derogatory terms that could or would offend many LGBT people. Some of us admitted that we have either heard phrases that would fit this category or used them ourselves. So my question is why do these phrases get such little recognition as distasteful words? If they are offensive, why do so many people find them acceptable to be used with friends or in general? Do you think that these words are just used among students or do you think they are used by all ages? Moving beyond the schooling realm, do you think that bullying continues into the work world?
Dan Savage really opened my naive thoughts and has made me question bullying and its impact on people of all age. I know that I have asked a lot of questions in this week’s authors post, but I really enjoyed the conversation in the last class and I want to continue the conversation through the blog.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
If I'm correct, the concept of cultural relativism claims that since each culture has its own values and practices, we should not make value judgments about cultural differences or assert our conceptions of morality on them. Each culture is a unique specimen of the historically formed collective personality of a people and consequently, rights of individuals are culturally specific.
If we consider something such as genocide or ethnic cleansing, however, it seems unlikely that even the staunchest cultural relativist would argue that this could be acceptable within certain cultural or traditional contexts. But as we saw in class, other practices such as female circumcision present harder questions of culturally relative morality. Where do we draw the line? When there is a choice between defending human rights and defending cultural relativism, should we choose to protect and promote human rights? How can an international body such as the UN do this without imposing their Western views of universal rights?
In addition to this question, I take issue with cultural relativism in that it seems to perceive cultures a black boxes—individual, specific, well-defined and exclusive societal organisms in which traditions and beliefs are uniform and universally agreed upon. Within “cultures”, there are countless amorphous sects, groups, and individuals whose opinions, experiences and belief systems are constantly changing, shifting and evolving.
The problem with cultural relativism, then, is that the supposed consensuses prevalent within cultures are exaggerated if not manufactured altogether. Differences of class, sect, caste, gender, ethnic origin and so on are present in all cultures. For example, the “norms”, beliefs and perspectives of Brahmin priests in Indian culture cannot reasonably be the same as that of the lower orders of Hindu society.
With this in mind, how can we designate specific “norms” to different cultures? In order for a practice or belief to be considered a norm, must it be upheld by the entirety of the society? The majority? The majority as dictated by a supposedly-democratic state? If so, then cultural norms are nothing more than what has been clearly established or institutionalized. Does this really represent and reflect the beliefs and practices of a “culture”?
Now only of of these actually is in a league of their own for Egypt: It is the Torture, Cruel imprisonment and the numerous cases of extraction and rendition. In the pre Mubarak years, in the wake of the assassinations of Sadat and attempts on Nassir both lead to huge crack down on radical islmasist groups and most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Members of these organizations were whipped with electrical cords, attacked by dogs, shaved off their beards and hair, water boarded, starved and kept in extreme cases of isolation. These men many times were scholars like Syed Qubt whose imprisonment lead them to radicalized against the government and the west, the very roots of the terrorist groups that America argues we should torture to gain information. In the 1970s, men like ayman al-zawhiri, the mastermind of 9-11, was arrested and dehumanized to the point that he made it his life mission to destroy the society that had created this unjust world.
It has been speculated that it was the very poor, cruel and inhuman conditions that pushed many of groups and individuals to radicalize, not entirely, but if they had been respected as humans maybe they would not have reacted through the violence of needless terrorism. Egypt has now been given a new opportunity to act as the new paradigm for a region that is know for its abysmal human rights record, but how can their new government and America's sway in the region help?
Well I think there are four things that could be done, first and most obvious would be the establishment of transparent and fair courts and prisons in Egypt. Even in this crisis, the police were arrested journalists and human rights activists, this will only limit the free speech allowed for the nation, and the security people feel.
Secondly, Egypt needs to stop doing the dirty world for the Arab world and the US, they need to stop torturing suspected terrorist and focus on creating a functioning multicultural society. If they don't stop these techniques they will still be seen as the servants of American imperialism, and we need to promote less cruel ways of extracting information because not all suspected terrorists are actually terrorists, innocent men and women are affected by our policies.
They need to keep a secular state to protect the religious minority inside and around Egypt. With a Coptic christian population of about 8 million, their security could be a major issue if the government does not help promote a religiously open culture.
And finally, countries like Egypt and Tunisia need to help their neighboring people to actualize their dreams of revolution and to bring the government back to the people, not held in the hands of an intransigent elite.
How can the Arab world and the UN or US help promote human rights in this region in this new time of political upheaval? Or would it be better to leave them alone to arrive at their own moral conclusions?
While there is no specific right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about this specific type of lending, Article 2 does state that everyone is entitled to their rights regardless of race or color. Given the statistics, it seems like a disproportionate number of these subprime mortgages were given to African Americans. Does this necessarily mean that the banks giving these subprime mortgages are privileging white people over black people? The banks argue that it isn’t, saying that the city is accurately appropriating blame.
More fundamentally, are these subprime mortgages and predatory lending practices a violation of human rights regardless of race? It seems like this type of lending practice is taking advantage of people who do not know much about mortgages or borrowing money in general. If the bank tells them that there won’t be a problem, they tend to believe it. To what extent does the bank have a responsibility to inform the people it is giving loans to about what the loan entails? Obviously the bank shouldn’t be able to lie to its customers, but if the homeowners looking to get a loan are ignorant of banking practices, is it the bank’s responsibility to inform them of the ramifications of taking out a high risk loan? Someone who is trying to own a house should probably be at least familiar with the process of taking out a loan and should know the benefits and risks of having each kind of loan.
To what extent are the potential homeowners responsible for these types of predatory lending? To what extent are the banks responsible? Do white and black homeowners have equal opportunities to invest in homeownership? The statistics seem offer evidence against this idea of equal opportunity.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Today's water crisis isn't an issue of rarity, but rather it is an issue of access. In a world where more people have access to a cellular phone than a toilet, and as cities and slums grow, the issues of fresh water access is an ever increasing problem. Only 62% of the world's population has access to a sanitation facility that ensures security and cleanliness in local waters. When projects for clean water are undertaken, according to the Blue Planet Run Foundation, almost half of the projects fail due to lack of funding or other means of support. Less than 1% of the sanitation facilities in the world have long-term monitoring to ensure quality water is delivered to the people.
So, clearly, water and sanitation are essential to life. Water and sanitation have been formally recognized as human rights as they are indispensable for the the right to life, the right to health, and the right to dignity. In many countries, the people own the water. The state simply distributes the right to use the water so as to increase social capital. Conventional wisdom has stated that "water flows towards money". This saying perhaps provides hints to the real issue here: countries with weak infrastructures, muddy politics, and deeply rooted corruption often play a part in this fight for clean water. Thus far, seventeen countries have amended their original constitutions to include a right to potable water.
How is restricting access to fresh water a human rights violation? Is it naive to hope that a right will lead to safely flowing faucets and wells in places where (in some locations) free speech can get you killed, where politicians give away state assets foolishly, and where sometimes police even solicit bribes from victims? Would society benefit from giving water to people in the form of property rights (i.e.- giving property rights to the water they already own as citizens)? And even then, are these rights vague or unenforceable? Why or why not?
Without the pro bono aid of appointed lawyers to ensure fair trials, these individuals, given severe disabilities, are usually unable to complete a trial and are detained until further notice—which, in the U.S. legal system, hardly ever comes. Subjugated and dehumanized, these individuals—even U.S. citizens—are literally left to further break down in already overcrowded prisons at no fault of their own. Multifaceted issues like these indicate inherent flaws within both the legal and the social systems of the United States. How can our legal immigration system allow the mentally disabled to be present at a trial unrepresented? To not, at the very least, treat these immigrants as United States citizens—to offer them lawyers and other necessities of a fair trial—is not only to violate the UNDHR, but it is wrong.
How can we begin to address issues like these? It seems to me that to jump into the “what’s wrong with immigration” pool with this issue is to skip many of the more basic flaws with our system, but to let these people, many of whom do not even understand what deportation means, sit in prison is unjust. I’m certainly not clear on many of the other issues of immigration, but the direct implications of treating the disabled in this way are unacceptable.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
During my year in Germany, a friend of mine and I researched and presented to our Women's Rights class some basic information on FGM. Though I certainly can't claim to be an expert on the subject, I thought I would share some of the more valuable sources we found for those of you who are interested in learning more.
First, this map shows the areas in Africa where FGM is practiced, and how widely it is practiced in those areas. My understanding is that, while FGM is most widely practiced in Africa, there are areas in Asia and the Middle East where FGM is a prominent practice.
This article, from Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute contains a number of journal entries from a researcher working in Northern Sudan. Though her original research related to the disability of women infected with Schitstosoma Mansoni, she witnessed a number of circumcision ceremonies during her field work, and I think her first person accounts, and her later reflections on those ceremonies can offer us some insights.
Also, the World Health Organization has a lot of good information on the health risks related to FGM that we were discussing in class. I found the 'classification' of the different types of FGM to be particularly helpful in understanding what exactly happens to these girls.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Please take some time to look into the It Gets Better Project and Dan Savage's other works in preparation for his visit to our class.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The last questions I am still having struggles answering, but in regard to the first couple I think there are a few issues that can be addressed regarding foreigners. First, there is the issue of perspectives. Nations want to keep their own identity and keep the security of their citizens in mind. This furthers the idea of the social contract and maintaining a political unity within a country. Citizens are proud of the success of their members and take pride in their country. These are contributing factors as to why foreigners would be interested in being a part of the country and why they would choose to move from their homes to some place unknown. It is through recognizing the foreigners perspectives that one can see why they chose to be there. Countries, like the United States, provide people with hope, a chance to succeed, and the possibility to contribute to society. Through first recognizing the human rights of foreigners, citizens can seem them as equal human being with the capacities similar to themselves. Once, this has been established, there must be some form of education that can teach the foreigners how to be a part of the nation. There are many differences that keep them apart, but through education, I am willing to say that foreigners will be more confident in trying to maintain a nation’s identity. If foreigners are willing and trying to contribute to the nation, the citizens will be more likely to accept them within their country. From acceptance, there will be a sense of respect and the people of the country will appreciate the originality that comes with foreigners while still identifying them as fellow citizens.
If this argument could be taken as valid, how is a country able to decide who would stay in their country? How can the nation be in accordance with the declaration of human rights, while maintaining a national identity?
The media gives us icons such as Lil Wayne, the perfect role model for black youth. Only in America can you make millions of dollars being Lil Wayne. He inspires aspiring rappers everywhere; talent will take you to the top. Really, these icons are discovered by people looking to increase the pile of money they are already in possession of. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few white people aren’t cashing in on folks like Wayne.
If left to its own devices capitalism is blind to human rights. Slavery and slave-like working conditions are products of fastening monetary worth on humans. Morality is an idea and often gets shoved to the side when actual material gains are to be made. One solution is government intervention. The government can establish laws to regulate working conditions. But as much as we would like to think that human rights are inalienable and self-evident, they are very much confined to what material conditions will allow. Increasing worker salary for example, drives up production cost, so the finished product might cost more, so what good is more money? Universal healthcare would be great, but what are the material ramifications?
As Americans we believe our country is the best in the world. Our country is the most forward thinking, the home of model citizens, and champion of freedom and human rights for all. I find these ideas a bit clouded. America has been involved in a war in the Middle East for several years now, I hope those Iraqis appreciate all we’re doing strictly on behalf of their freedom. As an advanced nation, America is able to impose base standards on working conditions that are much higher than many nations. Johnny makes $7.25 an hour scooping ice cream, not bad Johnny. But whereas service jobs require workers on site and thus must conform to federal standards, industrious capitalists (God bless them) have actually determined that it is cheaper to send their manufacturing jobs to cheap unregulated labor overseas and simply ship products. The alienation of one’s labor is nowhere more apparent then in factories in India where $1 a day salaries make Nikes that go for $100+. Billionaire capitalist tycoons are completely entitled to the fortune they make; it’s called playing the game—right? Or are they? Marx criticizes private property for fostering self-interest. One solution is a heavy taxation for the wealthy. Is this fair? What responsibility to human rights do these big shots have?
Friday, February 4, 2011
I've been ruminating on our last class discussion on Marx, a philosopher that provokes uniquely strong reactions, given that his uncompromising indictment of capitalism provides a focus point for our own criticisms the existing social order. Given the manifest and manifold shortcomings of American capitalism, particularly in regard to the least fortunate, the question was raised: We don't we revolt?
There are the relatively prosaic answers, of course: Americans are too comfortable, some will say, though this very fact seems somewhat at odds with Marx's prediction of the growing misery of the proletariat. Alternatively, one may take the globalist view that the real proletarians of today are to be found in the developing world, though these are typically precisely the places that are experiencing material improvements at the fastest rate (as Hans Rosing's data will indicate below). Others have argued that the myth of the "American Dream" creates unrealistic hopes of fabulous wealth for the downtrodden (Marx would call this "false consciousness"). More fundamental however, would seem to be the question of whether a radical alternative to capitalism is at all plausible. For all the miseries that exist in modern society (and I would not deny they are many and grievous), it makes a great deal of difference what the character would be of the system with which we would propose to replace it.
I will not waste time by pointing out the hideous shortcomings of past and present socialist states; it is true enough to say that no nominally "communist" state has perfectly replicated Marx's ideas. Marx's view of communism itself, after all, entails a gradual "withering away" of the state in favor of a classless worker's paradise. The perrenial argument among various stripes of Marxists (Trotskyites being the most insufferable) is that if only the right people had taken power, if only the revolution had not been sidetracked by Stalinism, or revisionism, or dogmatism, or nationalism, etc., etc., , then things would have come up roses. They miss the point. It is cliché to remark that communism "never works in practice", but the truth is that no advanced society could ever reach the blissful state of Marx's worker's paradise, (and it has not been for lack of effort).
The reason is relatively straightforward. Economic activity in a modern industrial society involves countless interactions among people with no personal connection to one another. No one individual can possibly know what everyone else in society wants or needs. Yet we still manage by and large to secure these wants and needs through the coordinating effect of the market. Of course, it doesn't have to be done this way. Instead, a central authority can use its supposed expertise to mandate what will be produced and consumed. Naturally, such an authority will require coercion (actual or threatened) to maintain its ability to issue binding decisions on the economy. Such regimes are typically human rights disasters, but you can indeed run an advanced society this way (the Soviet Union did it for 70 years), however badly.
These are the choices: supply and demand, or state control (in reality, nearly all countries operate under some combination thereof). What is utterly impossible is the existence of a sophisticated society operating without either private property or the state, as Marx imagines communism. Under capitalism, self-interest determines economic behavior; under socialism, obedience to the state. In a society lacking both motivators, there is no force able to coordinate economic activity beyond the individual and his immediate neighbors. One may indeed labor purely for the benefit of his or her fellow human beings, but only if one knows who they are. If each is to recieve "according to his needs", there must be some way of knowing what those needs are and providing for them. On a large scale, this is utterly beyond the power of the individual without either the "invisible hand" of the market or the sterner hand of the state.
Marx's vision of communism would essentially require a sort of spontaneous collectivism in which everyone works purely for the benefit of their fellow human beings. It would be, in essence, an economy based on love. But this is precisely the problem. No one can love (in the active, agape sense) a person of whom they have no knowledge. Our ability to act out of charity is restricted to the limited circle of persons with whom we may actually have some kind of meaningful interaction. But as already noted, an advanced industrial society requires commerical interactions among people who are otherwise total strangers. It requires specialization, and a means of conveying those specialities to the customers who desire them. Individual altruism simply cannot accomplish this.
Communism can indeed work in practice; it occasionally works satisfactorily in communes (not to be too obvious), kibbutzes, etc. However, such projects are possible precisely because they involve communities small enough to maintain personal contact between members. An agrarian village can accomodate communism; an automobile plant (with thousands of workers and suppliers of goods like rubber and steel from around the world) cannot. Rejecting both private property and the state means a return to medieval economic conditions.
Some of course, would gladly give up the inequalities and neuroses of modern capitalism in favor of a simpler lifestyle. Such a desire is perfectly understandable (and no one looks down upon, for the example, the Amish, for living out of synch with modern social and economic mores). What must be abandoned is the notion that all the material wealth produced by capitalism could be fairly distributed and society would eventually bask in harmony if only the common man would rise up. Such uprisings reach the "socialist" stage of development but never quite seem to manage to obtain communism, precisely because an advanced society is incompatible with it (Pol Pot seemed to have figured this out, oddly enough). There is no escaping the trade-offs that define human existence; communism is the ultimate free lunch.
To recapitulate, the choices are capitalism, socialism, or medievalism. Marx has much to say that rings true about the cruelties of the capitalist system, and nothing in my argument is intended to urge quietism in the face of real injustices that may be corrected. But what must be repudiated is the utopian revolutionary project. Communism is a chimera, one that has left a trail of blood in the wake of every attempt to advance it. Anyone who wishes to advance human rights ought to recognize it for the malignant illusion it is.
I am a product of SCS schooling. In my senior year of high school , there were some slight changes in the organization of the district lines and new students were entering my high school that school year; many of these students happened to be African American. My high school administrators noticed some negative changes in the student body as a whole. The entrance of the new students was said to be the cause of this change. The students who were integrated were from the MCS system; thus, the concern as to whether SCS educational standards will be negatively affected by letting MCS students in is a pivotal issue that is seen in the current consolidation debate. I do not think that the integration of the new students the reason why my high school changed in the manner it did during my senior year; furthermore, I am for the consolidation to take place between SCS and MCS.
Here is my concern though, we are debating over a decision that will affect the students’ right to education. However, because most of the students are legally minors they do not get to vote in a decision that will affect their own education directly, negatively or positively. Diversifying SCS schools might be a good thing in the long run but in the short run it will be quite an adjustment that causes me to wonder how the current students in both SCS and MCS feel about the matter.
If you were still a high school student in your own hometown, what would your stance be on such a debate taking place in your city? I want to know how you think the students can be better incorporated into the decision that affects their own right to education? Additionally, do you think that the school systems could work around the borders of "race and class" if the consolidation were to occur; if so, how?
See the link below for the full article:
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
"Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable. We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all."
Check it out.
Peter Singer. For most or many of you, this name rings a bell. Peter Singer is a highly recognized Australian philosopher of the modern day. Singer is an interesting man who has had concentrations in several highly debated topics and written several books that concentrate on those various topics. It is not uncommon to find Peter Singer’s works in a college class and especially on a college campus. Peter Singer’s philosophic viewpoints are both challenging and fascinating to think about especially in comparison to other older philosophers, as well as ones own perspectives. My freshman year at Rhodes College, I was enrolled in Professor Shade’s “Medical Ethics” course and we were assigned to read Peter Singer’s Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of our Traditional Ethics. Now the reason I am sharing this fact is that Peter Singer’s book is a challenge to a common ideal of what we tend to consider rights on human life. Peter Singer presents several old school commandments and flips them to fit our new technology dependant society.
Singer’s book has several incredibly important parts but one of the most shocking parts are the “New Commandments,” which is where, as described previously, Singer takes an old ethical view on life and death and completely revamps the entire system in order to more appropriately fit the situations that are more fitting for a technology dependant world of 2011. The first commandment Singer challenges is, “treat all human life as of equal worth.” Singer changes this old commandment into the new, “recognize that the worth of human life varies.” The second old commandment is, “never intentionally take innocent human life,” and is turned into, “take responsibility for the consequences of your decisions.” The third commandment is, “never take your own life, and always try to prevent others taking theirs,” which is thus turned into, “respect a person’s desire to live or die.” The fourth commandment is, “be fruitful and multiply,” which is changed into, “bring children into the world only if they are wanted.” The final commandment is, “treat all human life as always more precious than any nonhuman life,” which is changed into, “do not discriminate on the basis of species.”
Although this may seem like a really tedious long list of commandment changes, for this post I only want to focus on one, the third new commandment, which is “respect a person’s desire to live or die.” Do you think that people have a right to live or die?
A highly controversial topic in recent years is the “right to die.” The “right to die” is so notorious because it deals with each individual’s wants and desires and then an individual’s quality of life. Singer believes that each individual has a differing quality in his/her life and depending on their quality of life, the individuals should be able to decide their own demise if they so choose. For example, Singer describes individuals who are in a permanent vegetative state (pvs) as having a very low quality of life. Singer believes that people in this state may not even have the desire to live and he then brings in another philosopher to back up his statement. Singer describes how John Locke believes that a person is a being with reason and those who are in a pvs cannot be assumed to be beings with reason. Singer attempts to challenge any and all who would argue that his new commandment “respect a person’s desire to live or die” is not a right that should be observed by all. Do you think that this is a right that should be observed? In our technology-obsessed world do you think we need to have our old ethical medical commandments challenged to fit the rights of our current world?
On a side note, I’m still looking for a match with a group for the project, that is if anyone is still looking for one more person please let me know!