[Toot!] Index: 2.5
Communism Bit: On
Location: Job, of course
We were called upon to write about Human Rights on the 15th of May. Here's my piece. Rambling and laced with poison. I wrote it yesterday. Go with a good bladder. No guns allowed. Thank you.
So, it is the day when bloggers talk about human rights. I don't believe any one of them will say we should abolish the concept of human rights. And that is the problem. The uniformity of opinion, I mean. I've learnt to distrust uniform opinion. Uniformity, in nature, is the exception, not the norm. Chaos rules. Variety, difference, stand-out-ness. Until it comes to things like human rights. Somehow, we've been convinced that this Universal Declaration of Human Rights is, um, universal. Many people think that is rubbish, and I'm one of them.
At this point, I've lost all the world, and I'm left with enough readers—all two of us—to continue without censoring how I feel.
First of all, that Declaration has the wrong name. Which Declaration am I talking about? That's the problem: there is this other declaration that the Americans wrote in 1776, what they called the "Declaration of Independence". And the fact that this Human Rights Declaration borrows a name (and naming format) from the independence one is a major sign of the levels of Americentricism that infected it. I don't care if you think Americentricism is good or bad: that the Declaration was affected by any single culture so obviously is a sign that it is not meant for everyone. If you don't think this is wrong, you're infringing on my human rights not to have to live under forcible foreign influence. (This doesn't change, even if you shift the nominal blame to la Déclaration.)
Are we together? You're gone? :o( Okay, let me write to myself. Dear 27th Comrade ...
First, let me point out a couple of things I find funny or unrealistic in the Declaration.
I'm a fan of recursion. I like things that refer to themselves. But sometimes it's not funny, because you may never get to the end of the movie (for example) if, in its second minute, it starts showing (as part of the movie) what was happening at the beginning of the movie (probably as a character's memory). When you get to the second minute, the character will remember where she began remembering, and then you go back to the beginning, and keep spinning in that circle until you die.
Here is Article 2 of the Declaration: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration [...]".
And so, Mullah Nasrudin closed the Declaration and started reading again from the beginning, to see what rights Article 2 was talking about. Needless to say he kept doing this whenever he reached Article 2.
The most-interesting one is Article 13. It says I can be within any borders, and it's my human right. "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state." Okay, so let me map out my itinerary and go see the World! :o) It's my human right! No denying me visas on such stupid reasons as "You're carrying bombs, and you've expressed hate for this country many times, so we won't let you in ..." Human rights, oyee!
People celebrate that we have the Declaration. I mourn that we need it at all. Failing to just love one another, we rely on thirty dry clauses—just thirty to sum up something as fundamental as human rights for six billion diverse human souls. The problem with these thirty is that they summarise and generalise. In other words, they leak. There are holes.
Article 16 mentions "Men and women of full age [...] have the right to marry and to found a family." Well, way to make such grandiose statements, not even respecting culture. Incest, for example, is a human right. (I'm not against it; I'm just pointing out that neither is the Declaration—it is for it.) Oh, and it is against gay marriage, too. "Men and women," it says. ("Oh," you may say, "it doesn't say how the pairs are made, only which people can make the pairs, namely grown humans." But if we debate about what the damn paper is trying to say, try debating with the guy who disagrees with the clause on torture, when the Americans next get you.)
That's not to mention that this Declaration is nearly the most-invasive cultural imperialism. Ever. Like, it took Western attitudes and ideas and ideals and (naturally) they sound good to Western ears (or ears that have been influenced by the West), and painted them over the other parts of the World in a forcible "holy rape", the kind of "cleansing rape" it doesn't put any sentences out against (for cowardice/brevity), even though there are people who suffer it a lot. People, I'm facing the fact that the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" says nothing about what has been called the grossest form of dishonour: rape. Not even remotely. It's not like rape is a recent invention, people. (Can someone identify a clause that takes care of this? I'm hoping I'm wrong.)
But take the fact that Article 16(2) is against arranged marriages. I hate them, too, but if you agree that it is good to impress upon other peoples what we deem good (because we were raised that way, not because we would think differently had we been in their place), you also, then, agree that the Declaration is biased. In short, you agree that the Declaration infringes on peoples' rights. Maybe it is a case of upholding the rights of the human above those of the humans (among whom the human is living), which is self-defeating.
A major failing is that the Declaration does not define who a human is. It just states the rights of this human. Now, I know I'll lead the colonial party that will subdue the Martians and bring Mars under servitude of the Crown, and run the Flag up on the red sands of that untamed savage planet. (Rule, Africa! Africa rule the stars!) And I'll enslave all Martians and basically just trample on their Martian rights. They are not humans, are they? No.
Now, did you know that Americans, by being Americans, forsake being humans, and that these rights do not cover them? Well, now you know why I'll throw them all down the lake of sulphuric acid. I hope this had the shocking effect it was meant to have. I hope you realise that human rights couldn't save you, if you fell in the hands of good rights-respecting people who are convinced that humans can't look/act like you.
Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression [...]," so far so good, "and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," where it breaks down. You see, it is too general not to contradict itself. Before, these people thought everyone would be preaching their gospel. But now, Azzam.com was struck off this information-wants-to-be-free internet, and nobody can invoke Article 19. Because the Declaration picks a side, in the face of slogans like "Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogues."
If you want to blame the implementors, rather than the specification, tell me if Azzam.com should be allowed back. Sign your name, that we may know you.  And then read why it is self-contradictory, in Article 30.
"Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in [things] aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein." As in, you shouldn't interpret any Article, like the one that guarantees freedom to push out information of our liking, to mean that you can infringe upon another Article, say like Article 3 ("right to life"), by stopping the global censoring Azzam.com.
Also, I hate the supremacy that Article 30 assumes. It kind of sets itself up like a sort of final god, and seals everything. Sadly, the seal is contradictory, but you are not allowed to call it that, because you'll be violating it and therefore being anti-rights. It's a blasphemous kind of YHWH, really, for its recursive delusions of grandeur. A blasphemous I am the Alpha and Omega, for its finality.
I've never been told that human rights have a dark side, and I bet you have never, either. And that is largely why we defend (even love) the idea of human rights. We are told that everything we like is guaranteed to us by the human rights, and that everything bad is against them. What we believe in is not the Declaration, but rather a certain (I dare say instinctive) idea. It's not some Western ideal, and what we fight for, when we fight for our rights, is not what the Declaration talks about. We fight for that, um, Thing, that can't be summarised in thirty articles, in less than one hundred sentences.
The Declaration was preceded by other documents like it that spoke of rights, and it was not ground-breaking in any way. Indeed, I prefer earlier (less famous) documents, and some that come after, because they don't have these problems above. They are merely expressions of that Thing within all of us that craves its rights. They don't make broad, cultural-imperialist assumptions.
Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, is like my favourite. 1920. Oozing with spirituality. It's beautiful. The thing even packs a whole hymn for those interested and gifted with a voice. While Westerners have lively blog orgies over Burma and Tibet, citing the Declaration, for example, a 1920 document still holds out an empty bowl at their countries. Nearly one hundred years of pointing out the speck in the other's eye, and not noticing the tree caught in your own?
Then the more-recent Draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. It's still a draft, but it addresses a more-crucial point than human rights. You see, human rights are not in the danger everybody pretends they are in. It is the way of humanity to steer communities towards more respect for human rights. (Our generations are allowed to think they invented the idea, of course. This may be instinctive, and necessary to keep the passion for rights among humans burning brightly millennium after millennium.) However, indigenous people's rights are, almost by default, threatened. When your land is conquered, part of the conquest is an erosion of your dignity. You know what these British did to us. What the Conquistadors did, too. What the Americans are still doing. Even down here in South Africa. The case of indigenous peoples is definitely more-urgent than any sort of human right. We are talking about existence right, in their case.
I also like the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which is basically the answer to the cultural assumptions in the Declaration.
I mean, consider Article 18, which has "[...] this right includes freedom to change his religion [...]". That is flat against the Sharia Law, you see. One who changes from Submission shall be an Apostate, and shall be treated as an Infidel.
So, how to reconcile the freedom to practice Islam (which bids the previous sentence) and the respect of Article 18? Well, create a Sharia-respecting Declaration! And so they did. Besides that, the robust spirit of sensible dissent that is embodied in the Cairo Declaration, I don't much align myself with it. I'm not a mussulman.
(By the way, the British were still slaughtering the Kenyans in warm sputtering fountains of thick, sticky, bubbling blood, when their people were waving this Declaration around. The blood is still invading a child's lungs, rushing out of opened jugulars into severed wind pipes, blocking off the dying call to a dying mother, the scene playing out in the telescopes of the American shooter in the killing fields of the Middle East, while the Americans are calling us to blog about humans rights.
One reason to hate the Declaration is for how much it affects those who ultimately have no effect, and is effectively ignored easily by the people who command the attacks.)
I like some parts of it. Many parts of it. My favourite, though, is Article 25(2). "Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."
So, this is my entry into the whole blog thingy. I like memes and fads, especially around now. I'm having a dizzying change to my life, and a long, long, half-thought-out post could help with it.
The alternative to a post like this, though, would be a single sentence summarising what I think about blogging about human rights: "It's stupid from the core, and only done by people because they perceive it to be a cool way to identify with something that has near-universal acceptance (and therefore carries no risk of banishment from the cool club) while maintaining the semblance of rebellion and dissent, which are (apparently) cool."
That, frankly, is how I feel about all this human rights stuff, and especially the arm-chair revolutionaries that we are (me included, though I double as a Kalashnikov revolutionary, as well). This idealist outrage is cool, yes, and that's why we do it. It is uncool, to, for example, blog that Jihad websites should be allowed free rein and be linked to in news items, and that America should stop terrorising terrorists and let them go mano-a-mano with their adversary as is the case in a fair fight, and to call for America to stop bullying perceived dictators because (and only because) they don't speak English with a Western accent, and to say the inconvenient truth that the World's environment and continued existence of humans is in more danger from the West than from six thousand bin Ladens, so nobody sets aside a blog day for that.
But try something like press freedom. Everybody gon' jump and express some plastic rage (that they even believe to be authentic).
So, while this fad lingers, I'll check the blogs to see how many people are convinced that African countries have the worst (or even just bad) human rights records. And I'll see how many Americans are looking outside of their country to see the speck. And I'll see how precious few there will be who note that the West is the shocking, unsurpassed worst perpetrator of human rights under the Sun. And I'll see how many have survived the calculated propaganda that is being pumped out of the West about who is, in fact, responsible for all those Bad Things.
Africa is a paragon of human rights, by the way. We uphold them, and not after some crappy piece of paper, but after our own principals that are as African as their names. Ubuntu, for example. Mato put, for another example. Ah, but this kind of thing is not cool, so it would be laughed out of any journal or blog.
You try that, you get a whole load of bulverism thrown your way. Try saying the Burmese are evil, and you get cookies. Say that Africa has the worst human rights record, and you get fifteen minutes on the BBC. Try saying that China should ape the West's models, and you get laid.
And because our human rights codes are not written on some dead tree, they are easier to revise. This Declaration is sixty years old. Not a single revision, and no hope for one. Let's not pretend it was perfect, and on the first attempt. It can get better. But it won't. Bad, bad Declaration. Sit down, Declaration. ("Declaration" is a good name for a dog.)
And I can't get the right not to want to recognise these human rights. I know this paper is not binding, but still. Isn't it my right to flick a digit at this Declaration? Oh, wait, my basic right in the face of this Dictatorship of the Perceived Correct is not guaranteed by the Dictatorship. How can it? It's the nature of dictatorships to quash people like me.
Article 26: "Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages." Provide the bloody money, before you open that trap. And why not beyond the primary? Because the "models" weren't doing it in their countries. Them guys were so out of touch with reality, and this is what happens when you want succumb to the temptation to trust ivory tower idealists to shape the way for a whole fucking planet! Sheesh.
Okay, enough said. I'm feeling better by now.
 And when you're done holding up human rights banners for Azzam.com, go get started on campaigning for Maktabah.net (shut down), Waaqiah.com (shut down), Qoqaz.net (changed to route back to your local box IP address), and others. It's unfair for the Mujahideen to be muzzled into total silence, while their enemies get 24/7 access to minds all over the world. Nobody has ever heard their side. If you feel that this conflicts with Article 19, start a blog campaign to end the censoring. What's worse is that these Mujahideen have real grievances that should be addressed before we use the communications upper hand to silence and demonise them, trample on their Article 19 human right, and keep waving the fucking banners for human rights.
You can see the death throes of Azzam.com in its struggle to stay online, at the WayBack Machine.