TED Conversations

Joanne Donovan


This conversation is closed.

What are human rights? How do we decide and are they universal?

Are human rights the starting point we begin with when looking at how our societies function, or are there more important issues? How true is this statement; 'when people focus on being ethical without being pragmatic they end up being neither.'


Closing Statement from Joanne Donovan

Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation. Some excellent threads. All the best to you and your families for the new year 2012. Peace.

  • thumb
    Dec 21 2011: I wonder if it might be clearer and simpler to think in terms of responsibilities rather than rights.

    Universal responsibility can be simply stated: Every human being is responsible to live in a way that does not cause lasting harm to people or our planet.

    Thinking in terms of rights seems to put us in individual frames of reference. People whose rights are not diminished seem to have difficulty expanding their frame to include others they do not know or understand. Modern culture tries to overfill our frames and crowd out perceptions of distant people may be suffering.

    Thinking in terms of responsibility creates an “us” frame of reference since the effects of our actions extend well beyond the context of our individual lives.
    • thumb
      Dec 21 2011: Bob: The idea that “every human being is responsible to live in a way that does not cause lasting harm to people or our planet” is very appealing.

      But then every time I take a long airplane trip I think “man am I exceeding my harm limit”. How can your principle be put into practice considering cases like this?
      • thumb
        Dec 21 2011: Hi Tim,

        The very fact that you ask the question "am I exceeding my harm limit" is a first step in putting the concept of universal responsibility into practice. The world can become a much better place to the extent we all ask, and then answer such questions. Working out clear and simple ways to calculate our carbon footprints keeps us from stepping on other's health and the sustainability of our planet.

        Imagine apps and websites that tracked the carbon footprint of every person, organization, business and corporation. Imagine Accounting systems that track and audit environmental and human costs Imagine economic, educational, and political systems that supported and reinforced the concept of universal responsibility.

        The concept of "rights" tends to be fragmented with much debate and disagreement over which or whose rights are more important. Universal responsibility is much simpler and clearer and can serve as a driving principle for developing systems and structures that serve humanity and sustain our planet.
      • Dec 22 2011: Tim,

        I once saw some unnamed activist on John Stewart, and when Stewart confronted him with the fact that he had flown from Australia, the activist responded, ( to paraphrase) "before I boarded the plane I had planted x amount of trees, which more than offset the pollution engendered by my fraction of the population aboard."

        I am not saying this would always work, but the idea of unrelated balance may be applicable in some of these situations.

        • thumb
          Dec 22 2011: Humans are so adept at rationalization, aren't they?
    • Dec 22 2011: This is very interesting idea. However what do you consider to fall in category of lasting harm and why only lasting?

      Harm seem to refer only to physical world? What about concepts such as freedom of choice or expression?
      • thumb
        Dec 23 2011: Zdenek Smith wrote "Harm seem to refer only to physical world? What about concepts such as freedom of choice or expression?"

        I would define lasting harm as that which prevents a person or community maintaining health and attaining their full potential.

        I recognize that our current educational, economic and political systems cause lasting harm under this definition, which is why I believe one of the most important things we can do at this time in history is to explore designs for systems that support and reinforce sustainability, health and personal development.
  • thumb
    Dec 19 2011: Mr.Francis -
    I prefer to say in other way :
    The devil whom all of us are afraid of it - lives in us.
    we`d better know him instead of denying him.
    Thanks for your attention.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Dec 19 2011: Pierre -
        You pointed out a complicated phenomenon which I didn`t understand and define to myself yet : Love.
        I think your meaning is some phenomena like a mother`s love or a soldier`s sacrifying for saving other soldier`s life or such things ............
        I have a justificatin for these happenings but maybe you don`t accept it ..........
        In one of the TED talks (paul zak : oxytocin) mr.Zak did a research about some feelings like trusting depend to some chemical materials ,etc.
        in this link : http://www.livescience.com/1955-love-hormone-improves-mother-child-bond.html
        scientists claimed that a mother`s love is because of this hormone (oxytocin).
        I accept that it can`t justify anything but ..........
        see : imagine you`re a soldier. you have two choices :
        1- sacrifiying yourself to saving other`s life.
        2- remaining in your shelter - seeing your friends` dying and feeling regret and uselessness for rest of life.
        In cases that soldiers are faithless to their mission we see the second happen , otherwise the first one.
        you see it`s still a trade : feeling uselessness and disgusting for rest of life or dying.
        I think other situations are the same.
        maybe some reactions seem loss in that trade to you - but you`re not the judge !
        surely values are different to that trader .
        Romeo killed himself because he thought he will suffer a lot in his life without Julliet so dying is better.
        maybe you call it loss but he didn`t !
        I hope I told my meaning well enough.
      • thumb
        Dec 20 2011: Pierre ...
        I think you used to asking hard questions ...
        Ok - in this situation we investigate the trade :
        It demands to your value and the value of life to me.
        If your value seems more to me - and if I don't sacrifice myself for you- I destroyed the holly saint that I made from myself in my mind !
        I'll have a painful and regretful life with no hope.
        I can't love any other - because I know I'll betray to them because of myself.I will live such a zombie !
        Surely It's hard to decision, but it's a deal !
        Choices aren't always between two goods.
        May you should choose between losing more or less.
        And if you are one of my close friends - I'll make an insult to the world (!) and do sacrifice.
        And psychologically it's more possible when humans are young- because life's value increases by the age ...
        By the way - what's your conclusion about it ?
  • thumb
    Dec 16 2011: The issue with globalized ethics is that in our attempt to impose an ethic that applies across the globe, the dominant global perspective..that which wields the most "power" tends to be what we expect others to adopt--resulting in a colonial ethic that doesn't reflect or suit the local contexts in a way that can facilitate discussions globally. What we need is a commitment to true dialogic communication--- a commitment to valuing both the SELF and the OTHER equally--and a commitment to seeking out difference and allowing ourselves and our conception of the world to be truly shaped by that difference. We must allow meaning to emerge out of respect for viewpoints--whether we agree or not is less important than our willingness to remain open to personal and collective transformation.

    Too often we strive so hard to find common ground, we force it, and lose the beauty of the diversity that should comprise our perspective. We look for ways to come together at the expense of growing from the differences between and among us together. We share a responsibility for the creation of this type of world. I write about these kinds of issues here, for anyone interested in exploring my blog-- http://kathy-momphd.blogspot.com/2011/10/our-responsibility.html
    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: Much of what you say make perfect sense. Thanks for the link to your blog, I will pay it a visit. So Kathy, in your opinion their are no human rights or ethics which are universal?
    • thumb
      Dec 19 2011: Kathy,
      Good note (meaning I agree with most of it). The feverish urge to spread a democracy-engendered platform of "Human rights" around the world smacks of philosophical colonialism, akin to the west's religious missionary effort that unfortunately is still attempting to get the "3rd world" to see God our way. We might do better by letting "rights" find their own way.

      But I'll add a couple of quibbles. (That's what communication is about, isn't it?) You say that "What we need is . . . a commitment to valuing both the SELF and the OTHER equally."

      Perhaps you don't mean this quite literally, because in most contexts this must be biologically impossible. Humans, like all species, are equipped with a very strong sense of self-preservation, which makes "no.1" number one. "Love your neighbor as yourself," was a wish by a famous dreamer, but has no bearing on reality. It's just not possible to value your mother equally with other people's mothers (she wouldn't like it one bit), or yourself equally with other people. This would be destructive of family and group loyalties, and would undercut trust and in the end social organization. What is possible is being fair to other people, to take time to learn to understand their viewpoint, and I think that's all one can demand.

      By the bye, I note (from your profile) that you have high hopes for the "power of communication to shape reality." I agree fully, but think it's important to stress the danger that lies in this power. Great skill at shaping reality through mastery of communication was shown by A.Hitler, B.Mussolini, and Rev. Jim Jones, among many others of their ilk. Politicians, trial lawyers, evangelists, "yellow journalism" and salesmen use skill at communication, specifically tailored to shape the reality they wish to construct. Communication is, in a sense, morally neutral; it is its aims and methods, its degree of honesty and relation to facts and truth, that place it in each case somewhere on a good-evil axis.
      • thumb
        Dec 21 2011: Paul - It does seem that philosophical colonialism is prevalent today. The promotion of sexual equality in Afghanistan is a case in point. Obviously, our hope for humanity is the equality of the sexes. But I’ve heard several interviews from people on the ground in Afghanistan that without promoting economic development there will be no equality. So, for example, it might behove a poverty stricken woman to invest more in the education of her sons in order to advance the family economically. Is it the role of the “developed world” to tell them this is the wrong approach?
        • thumb
          Dec 24 2011: Colonialism is littered with tragic stories of one culture seeking to 'enlighten' another only to destroy its very fabric, creating unhappiness and disenfranchisement.

          So perhaps as Kathy has put so well, we can extrapolate from that, 'human rights' can be contextual rather than absolute. Are there any Tim, which we can describe as universal?
    • Dec 20 2011: Kathy, and others in this thread...

      I can only agree that the extrinsic rights conferred by the risen powers of the west are colonial in nature, but is that all bad?Jimmy Carter demand that the El Salvadoran government cease slaughtering thier own indigenous population or he would cut of thier finacial aid. William Wilberforces imposition of a very christian repulsion to slavery drove England to declare slavery on the high seas illegal, and thus enforced, cripple and eventually almost destroy that millenial old institution.

      A few examples that I think should be considered in any conversation that casts rights into a un-culturizing or relativistic roles, faith leaders teaching that inoculations carry disease, divorce by incineration in the Punjab,clitorectomies, gang rape as punishment for the female adultry among the Chimpayu and to many others, the exucution of homosexuals in Uganda, the degredation of the female gender across entire hemisheres.I know that no one here endorses this kind of brutality.

      Mazlov's pyramid of hierarchical needs teaches us that the man at the bottom, with nothing, cannot worry about the ethics of feeding his kids, only the practicalities. Those at the top have the luxury of analysis and theory. If we truely believe that an educated and free society is better, are we not, by virtue of our wealth and power, obligated to offer those advantages to each individual? That means every girl in Afganistan is offerd an opportunity to read. The reading matter, well that should be up to her, but the ability to do so... can we in good conciense refuse to act?

      I challenge, go read the Univerasal Declaration of Human Rights and find one of the 30 primary articles that you have a right to refuse any living person. And are any of them examples of seeking to oppress cultural differences? These are the human rights the "west" is trying to impose. I personally think it is for the better, and once thus empowered those now oppresed might agree.

      • thumb
        Dec 20 2011: Hello Ian,
        Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your concern with accepting relativistic views on ethics...I share that concern as well. I am not promoting relativism as a viable approach to ethics. There is a right and there is a wrong--I'm just saying that it, in my view, it is nonsensical for one culture to impose their view of right on another without being informed and open to alternative viewpoints on seeing the world. There is a major difference between saying "to each their own" and that anything can be justified and saying that we need to work, and work hard, at being open to differing perspectives as we negotiate a common understanding of what is right and wrong. Imposing one cultural view on global society is, in my view, egocentric and superior, and inhibits meaningful communication across cultures.

        The examples you cite are not limited to countries outside the westernized world. Much of what is considered normal in this part of the globe would be considered atrocious and morally wrong in another part of the world. The extreme sexualization of women and young girls comes to mind first--though certainly is not the only morally corrupt part of westernized culture. My point here is that no culture is without its ethical or moral problems, so to say one culture can and should impose their perspective on another without being truly informed by those cultures with whom they share the global stage is, in my view, short-sighted.

        It's essential that we do define clear ethical standards that are not relativistic in nature. The process, though, is complex, difficult work. I would argue that one must first recognize and publicly claim the limitations of one's own perspective and positionality and articulate how this inherent bias necessitates a dependence on alternative, often conflicting viewpoints to enable a meaningful discussion aimed at gaining a more complete understanding of the world.
      • thumb
        Dec 21 2011: England's motivation in passing the Wilberforce anti-slave trading act in 1807 may have been as high-minded as you suggest (based on a "christian repulsion to slavery"), but other motives may also have crept in. As the British well knew, the U.S. constitution, in force from 1789, forbade the Congress from interfering with the slave trade for 20 years. By 1805 it was clear that the Congress would ban importation of slaves on the very first day they could do so under the constitution, i.e., January 1, 1808. On March 3, 1807, President Jefferson signed the law that made this ban effective. This changed the economics of slave trading, and three weeks later the British Parliament duly passed Wilberforce's slave trading ban.
    • thumb
      Dec 21 2011: Good point Kathy. It does seem that “universal human rights” tend to have parochial interpretations (something like “common sense” being very culturally based). In reading up on this topic, the wikipedia entry on the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” points out that several Islamic countries objected to the wording.
    • Dec 22 2011: I think we need to carefully separate the concept of universal rights, that apply to all people regardless of which religion or culture they were born into, from diversity through culture as art, dance, music and celebration.

      I always see people to claim that rules that go against universal human rights but are endorsed by local culture or religion are rules that need to be respected. I think that is wrong.

      Why? People are born free from any ideologies or rules. The only needs they truly all have and share are embodied in universal rights and freedoms esp. the right to make own choices and right for freedom and equality.

      Some cultures and religions goes against those basic needs, typically making women less equal and oppressed and non-believers subject to limited freedom and speech.

      If I am born in a certain country I don't think anyone has the right to impose local cultures and religions on me. Many of customs are dated centuries and were introduced either as necessity to deal with harsh life or to gain power by leaders of the community.

  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: I think that Humanity already knows what Human Rights are. They are built into our DNA, and they are universal.
    Human Rights could be a good starting point for re-designing society: start with the basics, health, love, family, joy, and work from there.

    When people focus on being ethical, they are being pragmatic. Whomever said the statement above "they end up being neither" must have been feeling cynical. When people act in ethical ways, the rest falls into place. You can "take that to the bank"...but it's too bad we need banks.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: I am inclined to agree, and this is actually what I hope to explore. What is innate to us? We are essentially a hairless ape with a big fatty brain. Like all other apes we prefer to live in troops and work to cooperate with the other chimps in the troop upon which our survival depends. Perhaps the problem with many of our societies today is that we think we are not an ape afterall but something else, and consequently our troop is of no importance, only we as individuals are.

      Are concepts of human rights an extension of what is natural for us? To care for the people in direct proximity? What do you think Thomas.
      • thumb
        Dec 19 2011: I think that is an excellent way to describe human rights. "an extension of what is natural" and "to care for people in direct proximity"...the trick is for Humanity to understand that from here-on-out, all 7,000,000,000 of us are in direct proximity with each other.
    • Dec 16 2011: Well said sir. I agree with everything except for the ethical part in: "When people act in ethical ways, the rest falls into place."

      Perhaps you meant to use the word moral instead?
      • thumb
        Dec 19 2011: "Moral" would be a better vocabulary word; however, I try not to use the word "moral", because throughout my life I have noticed that "morality" is associated typically with religion or sex. It seems that "morals" are imposed upon others. I do not like imposing anything upon others, other than making them stop hurting others.
        On the other hand, a child can learn to be virtuous, or shaped to be ethical, and there are "ethics courses" in colleges...
        Is it possible for a person to be ethical, or is the word ethical only used for groups?
        Thank you!
    • thumb
      Dec 18 2011: Thomas - I take it you feel that it is cynical to believe that all behavior is motivated by self interest. One definition of cynical is “distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.”

      If one trusts that people act out of self interest and don’t disparage this fact, are they being cynical?
  • Dec 27 2011: Well,
    When individuals do things we find abhorrent, we take away their rights! But, there are no rights!
    I still think so-called human rights should be looked at as needs. We all have needs and the most important ones, off the top of my head, are the same for everyone on the planet. These are needs our environment has to supply or we die, or live lives of constant struggle, slavery, poverty, and worse, if we don't die. Education. Some say it isn't a right, but it is a need, whatever that education may be.
    I agree with this David Hamilton about having the right to kill. The real power of life is that one can do whatever one wants. And I do not believe there is such a thing as karma. People will try and exact karma upon you, that is true. But an existing power called karma, I don't believe in. Many, hundreds, even thousands, perhaps millions of people have done things to others and never been caught, accused, suspected, or stopped. They died without ever being held accountable for what they may have done. And, likewise, I don't believe there is a judgment after we die, the wishful-crutch many cling to concerning people who did "bad things" and got away with it.

    Until we have something like "Universal Needs Are Rights FOR Everyone", we will never have common ground for change, discussion or even working together. We will always only have platforms for arguing, resisting, fighting and war.

    I mean, why are so many people so fucking afraid of humans having rights? What is wrong with you people?
    I don't get it. Without our same-universal-needs being made into universal rights, those of you who are still young, will more than likely re-think your thoughts about having the right to kill when the way the world is going puts you into a kill mode to survive. The entire thing is rigged to make you fight with one another for survival. So many believe we are a higher animal but continue to support an "unspoken right" that we live like wild ones, fighting each other to live.
  • thumb
    Dec 23 2011: Human rights are something we all have the power to give not the right to take. When one takes, it is usually with conflict, one we give we give with the power to make change.
  • thumb
    Dec 21 2011: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights appeared and had the possibility of existing only in relatively recent times. Before the 20th century people discussed only the rights of different groups. The Bill of Rights of England, the Bill of Rights in the United States, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France are not the forms of universal human rights. They have constituted mostly the limited political and legal agreements within specific political circumstances without constituting of universal human rights.
    Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had any concept of universal human rights; slavery, for instance, was justified both in ancient and modern times. The impulses which led to creation of the concept of universal human rights occurred in 20th century during a time which is known to us as democratic. Within the democracy not only the philosophers, but all people became able to accept a thinking concerning the question of what the human being is, and about the meaning of this in a universal sense.
  • thumb
    Dec 19 2011: Hi Mr. Colgan! nice to meet you on this forum!
    I would use the definition of cynical as "distrustful of human sincerity or integrity" or better yet "bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic" with pessimistic being the better word of all. Maybe I should have used the word "pessimistic" instead of "cynical"...oops...

    I think Humanity needs to find a balance between "The Narcissistic Self-Indulgent Individual" and the "Borg Collective" I will have to look up the definition of disparage, but if one acts out of self interest, without consideration of others, they may have some cynicism...

    Thank you for asking, I really need to practice thinking and writing, Mr. Medina above helped me understand the difference between "ethic" and "moral".
    • thumb
      Dec 21 2011: Hi Thomas. I’m about to passionately address you as if I were controlled by a need to be right. But don’t take it personally. As you say I also need practice thinking and writing. Plus, debate is just such good fun!

      OK. So if we trust that humans are sincerely concerned with their self interest (and by extension, THEIR family’s interest and THEIR community’s interest) and have the integrity to admit it, then are they cynical?

      And if they are optimistic that if everyone honestly concerns themselves with this self interest that the world in general will benefit, then where is the negativity in this viewpoint?
      • thumb
        Dec 21 2011: Yes....no....maybe...wait....I'm confused. Humans that are concerned with their self-interest (and by extension their family's interest, and their community interest) and have the integrity to admit it, then they are the good guys.

        People who act in their own self-interest with-out consideration of others may be cynical...

        If people are optimistic that the above viewpoint will benefit the world in general, then there is no negativity.

        I disagree with the statement that "if people focus on being ethical without being pragmatic they end up being neither" Vocabulary definition aside, It seems that if people focus on being ethical, that is being pragmatic as well. (I know I am right about this...;)

        But alas, if someone with bad ethics think they have good ethics, then I just changed the whole subject didn't I ? (do I win this debate yet) (I really need to be right about this, or my daughter will laugh at me.)
  • thumb
    Dec 17 2011: Human rights is in my opinion one of the most disagreed topics in world politics at the moment and one of the trickiest yet unescapable issues imaginable.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by UN, 1948) says in it's first article: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." The Declaration has been critiqued to be a "declaration of western values" for example when it comes to equality of men and women in muslim countries or child labour in South East Asia or Africa etc. In my opinion it is cultural relativism to, for example, claim unequal power relations between sexes acceptable just because that is how it has always been in that particular culture or religion. That something has been some way doesn't mean it should be or that it's acceptable in any way. In my opinion religions with their usually quite strict ethical and moral teachings have blinded people of the ethics of just being a human. If we strip human kind off of cultures and religions, we're all pretty much the same. If you know the basics of global political economy and it's history, you will understand the power relations of today's world a lot better. It's very important to question these things and to ask yourself who benefits of this kind of a world order, who tells us what is ethical and what is not and how do we know our ethics are better than someone else's?
    I believe in human capacity of compassion, empathy and caring. I believe we are all the same, all equal and all worthy of other people's respect. Cultures, religion, power relations, a divided world with nation-states and their nuclear weaponry has ripped our human kind apart and caused a great deal of suffering. So for me human rights really means a right to be a human, to be free to make one's choices and live one's life without constant fear and oppression and it's a human duty to help everyone have that.
    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: you nailed it Emma, thanks for your wonderful comment.
  • thumb
    Dec 16 2011: Hi Joanne, as usual great topic for a debate.

    Regarding human rights, I have seen that there seems to be consensus on most areas, and some divergences in a few. Right to property is one that usually causes sparks, as we have discussed at great lengths in other ted debates.

    I think that the issue is not in the definition of what human rights are but, as your question hints, in their implementation.

    First, my bias: I think that the very basic point must be to agree that we are human beings, who share the same basic needs: food, water, shelter, non-hostile human contact. Another point we must agree is that we are social animals more than hermit crabs. If we cannot agree on these two, there is bound to be problems agreeing down the road.

    Now, we can build on top of that, always keeping these basic human needs in the back of our minds as our guide.

    Being familiar with John Locke's unalienable rights, or the U.S. declaration of independence, and even after reading the International Bill of rights (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet2Rev.1en.pdf), it appears that the same topics are repeated over and over: life, liberty, property, no slavery, no discrimination, privacy, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, etc.

    They all make great sense. I like them all.

    If the world population was 100 and there were 1000 acres of productive land, plenty of sunshine and a river accessible to all 100, it would be quite easy to grant most (maybe even all) of these rights to everybody.

    But what if the population was 100,000? Human interaction almost ensures that there will be conflict when trying to satisfy all human rights for all individuals.

    Such being the reality we live on, I think that not all rights are born equal, some rights are more right than others, I think we should prioritize them and use the prioritization whenever conflict arises between them.

    Ethics should give us destination, pragmatism should build the path to it
    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: I am out of my weekly ration of thumbs up for you Andres, but what a great response. I think your remark; 'Ethics should give us destination, pragmatism should build the path to it' arrives at the point.

      I am interested in exploring whether or not you think that a concept of human rights is innate to us as social creatures, as Thomas seems to think, or whether it is a social construct, a political trade off, as Amirpouya suggests.

      I agree with you that as soon as competition for resources comes into play, conflict results. Are we naturally inclined to follow a system of ethics as regards our fellow man, or is it imposed on us?

      I believe there are studies which show the number of people who shoot to kill iin times of war, is fairly low and that it has been shown that most people shoot to miss about eighty percent of the time. In fact, it is quite difficult to train a person to kill, which is why most armed forces basic training is so harsh and dehumanasing.

      When Hitler trained certain personel among his SS to man the death camps, a careful screening programme was put in place. Young SS were recruited to work in the medical facilities he used to wipe out the mentally ill and infirm. When an recruit was not able to commit euthanasia as was required, he was simply reassigned without any dishonor or demerit. Thus Hitler's team managed to find the small percentage of people who are indifferent to the suffering of others, or who actually enjoy it. These men were sent to run the death camps.

      These examples seem to suggest that human beings do seem to have an innate sense of care for their fellows. This leads to the question; is it the stresses of civilisation which lead humankind to acts of brutality or neglect? Is a sense of ethics toward our fellow man innate to us? Or are human rights something which must be claimed and defended as Amirpouya says, and are just another power construct.
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: Hi Joanne,

        In a nutshell both Thomas and Amirpouya have a point.

        In the case of Thomas: humans are innately attuned to other humans. Babies cry when other babies cry, kids get worried when they see another kid suffering. The secret for this capacity lies in our mirror neurons, a mechanism that evolved long time ago to help us read the mind of another individual to understand their motivations. Another great example is the complex hormonal and brain structure change in the parents of a newborn. Humans that had a weaker attachment to their offspring probably didn't have many grandkids or great grandkids to spread their genes. Humans with a stronger attachment saw more of their offspring grow up to reproductive age. Some rudimentary moral feelings helped people maintain group structures.

        In the case of Amiropuya: The basic, more ancient brain structures that we share with reptiles, still have a lot of influence in the way we react to other individuals; territorialism comes from that ancient drive to scare away competition from scarce resources, food, mates, nesting places. As humans started grouping together in order to survive, distrust of "others" (xenophobia) was a mechanism to maintain cohesion and improve life expectancy. Mechanisms evolved that discouraged individuals from drifting apart: group rejection triggers areas in our brain related to physical pain. Submission to leaders and a drive to climb the social scale is also embedded in ourselves.

        There is no way to turn off those genes. They are part of what makes us human.

        So each individual is a collection of conflicting drives that amazingly finds equilibrium every day.

        I think our best shot at defining human rights is to understand what it means to be a human, to accept ourselves as such. The next step as Kathy points out is to reflect that acceptance outwards to other humans, see them as equals.

        And yes, this means consciously fighting all of our ancient human drives, every single day
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: Andres, thank you for your fascinating post. Where does that leave us? We can conclude, based on that, that some ethics are innate to us, but also that we have powerful drivers out of which counterproductive conflicts arise. Some of us reason that it is the second group of human characteristics which will ultimately protect us. Other people think societies are better places when we are governed by our innate sense of ethics and use reason to over come the drives which make us territorial and xenophobic.

          It seems that people are polarised into these two camps, which have been the nucleus of many TED debates, and more yet to come, no doubt.
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: And since i didn't want to leave you on a low note... please watch this video (is in spanish but requires no translation) about an experiment that was performed with young kids in Spain. It is very much related to some of those innate drives that Thomas aludes to:


        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: I did not find you post a low note, quite the contrary. I'jj enjoy taking a look at the video. thanks.
  • Dec 16 2011: In regards to universal human rights, if they are being conceptualized through our moral framework and not so much our culture specific ethical systems, I guess that would make them universal enough to be considered universal. However, "human rights" can embody alot of different ideas that various cultures won't agree on, i.e: democracy, freedom of speech, etc. Also, cultures have different aspects about them that influence our views, i.e: some cultures reflect a strong presence of personal accountability and are less inclined to feel bad for ppl who put themselves in bad situations. So i guess, as far as universality, I say it depends on the actual "human rights" subject and details surrounding it.
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: I suggest you to read the "Leviathan" by Thomas Habez .............
    I didn`t read it completely but my idea -which is inspired by that book- is the current society is in basic conditions which there`s no right and everyone should fight for his/her right.
    And if a government or a king or even a person claim for respecting to human rights it`s just an arrangement to gain some benefits -for example make people calm for taking taxes from them- and every time which suits for them they can break any right -like what we see in wars unfortunately-.
    This was my idea .
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Hi Amirpouya, you seem to be saying that anything done in the name of human rights, a constitution, or a judicial system, a social welfare project, are just further constructs of a capitalist system, designed only to keep the majority from rioting and overthrowing the people holding the reins. Do I have it right?
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Hi Joanne
        As I understood from nature and society till now- unfortunately yes.
        but as I said it is my idea.
        I don`t deny that we had -and have- some men and women like Gandhi or Cyrus the great -one of the ancient rulers of my country who wrote the human rights charter- who believed that humans should have some basic rights without wanting any money or power for themselves- but ......
        Leviathan -and another famous book : "Z"- changed my idea from an idealistic world to a real one.
        we have a famous idiom which means about : "Right is not givable.It is takable." or no one gives your right- you should get it.
        so everyone has the right which he/her fought for it before.
        • Dec 16 2011: You said - ""Right is not givable.It is takable." or no one gives your right- you should get it.so everyone has the right which he/her fought for it before."

          Here in the United States, we equate that to a lawless Wild West, with cowboys and whatnot, heard of it? This sets the stage for serious abuse. And in all honesty, to put it roughly, when you consider how govts create and/or support their own religions (ethical standards), as a means to an end, they are influencing "human rights" - regardless.......
        • thumb
          Dec 19 2011: I think you are quite right about "rights," Amirpouya. They are basically taken, not given. A person's rights are similar to, for example, an antelope's rights. They are defined by the flock or group. It's in the flock's interest to protect its members, so the members can count on a right to be defended. Of course humans have carried this somewhat further than antelopes, and more and more "rights" are claimed here and there. But in the end you get the rights that the society is willing to give, and the history is that every such right had to be fought for, or "taken." The reason is usually that ensuring a right for me involves an obligation on someone else or on the group as a whole. Perhaps it even intrudes on someone else's presumed rights.

          (By the way, we spell the author's name Thomas Hobbes in English.)
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: sorry but it was impossible to reply to your last comment .......
        you can equate my idiom to wild west or even the cavemen ages - but nature is always constant.
        And if your last sentence was about the current conditions of my country - you`d better know I`m a victim of these conditions and I agree with you.
        but I believe that the world everytime and everywhere have the same ruler: nature.
        and nature`s rule is power.
        It is what I understood from Leviathan.
        and we have another idiom that I think suits this place : (no cat catches mice for God sake.)
        sometimes in history the people had some rights which didn`t benefit their rulers apparently -Gandhi and Cyrus the great- but it was because of they loved their people.
        and that was not a "right". it was because of they benefited mentally by people`s happiness.it was an "arrangement" which everytime everyone could break it.
        I know what you and Derek have in U.S but see what your gov did in hiroshima - Iraq - Afghanistan - Pakistan -Vietnam - Iran and long before it to Indians in America.
        I believe that those genosides was because they didn`t benefit them as much as you are.
        I hope you to forgive me for my frankness.
        and I suggest you again to read Leviathan. I think It`s a dictionary rather than a philosophy book.
        • Dec 16 2011: My comment was not directed at your country or your situation - what ever that might be.

          Anyway, are you proposing that no good deed can be done out of pure love for another? If not, why do you assume that Gandhi and Cyrus created the human rights charter as a means to an end (their own happiness) as opposed to love?

          The author sounds to me like a moral Nihilist.
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: moral nihilist .....
        Thomas Habez didn`t say what I say exactly.
        I said my thinkings are inspired by him.
        Even in some fields I disagree with him. so I think those words suit me !!!!!
        I believe that every right is giving because of a trade.
        for most of situations the trade is "right - power(or money)" and in rare ones (Gandhi and Cyrus the great) is because of love or "right - mental satisfaction".
        It is my thinking honestly. you can call it everything.
        And in all of types of government "democracy-monarchism-aristocracism-feodalism-anarchism and ...." always there is a trade - especially in feodalism and current societies : capitalism.
        If the matter of trade is love - it`s still a trade , but the society will be more happy and active.
        and if not - the society will be like a group of lambs that if the shepherd give them more grass - It`s because he wants gain more money from the butcher.
        yes - it`s totally nihilism - but could you call it False ?
        • thumb
          Dec 16 2011: Unconditional love is not a "trade". It demands nothing and gives everything.
        • thumb
          Dec 20 2011: By Helen's definition of unconditional love... Women should continue to love men who beat them. No offense Helen...
        • Dec 20 2011: David,

          The loving can be unconditional in action, but not in state. I may love my brother unconditionally, and be willing to go past the line for him, but let me find him abed with my wife, or daughter, and then watch the state change.

          The unconditional love she refers to seems to be more primarily unconditional, as in resting on a percieved firm foundation, than perfectly unconditional, as in just plain dumb.

          That some spouses actually do continue to love thier abusers is, methinks, another matter and more the latter.

    • thumb
      Dec 16 2011: Amirpouya,
      1. what country do you live in?

      cuhs in the US, we have rights guaranteed in a constitution that, except in very extreme cases, can;t be infringed upon. I'd say those are the greatest human rights you could ask for. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

      2. I have heard plenty of people say what you said in some shape or form

      Usually, those people do not reside in the continental U.S. To be honest, the writer of that book sounds like a conspiracy theorist. Because I haven't spent one ounce of energy fighting for my rights, but I still have them. They aren't something tangible that can be taken or abused. Yes, our troops have gone in and it was a little shady. Sure, off the records ops and what not.

      The only reason I can't agree with you is cuhs I'm not seeing that in my life.
      • Dec 20 2011: Derek,

        The trade Amirpouya mentions is self evident in my society, and I am next door in Canada. I Daily trade mutual rights, such as not butting into line ( right to space and equality) , I do not steal others goods though I am trained to want them (right to property), I don't insult others religions or sexuality,(right to freedom of expression), etc...The union movement of the '20s, the civil rights movement, womens liberation, right to abortion, gay rights, are more glaring examples and all within living memory.

        Thomas Hobbes is a 17th century political and moral phisolsopher hailing from merry old England. In political philosophy he is held in the same reverance as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Kant, etc...Hobbes examined the then current concept of the "Social Contract", an Idea that individuals in a society have an underlying agreement of what rights are accorded to what individual. Whereas Rousseau ( 18c.)used the social contract to support very liberal arguments for governing, Hobbes followed the same concept to a justification of absolutism, such as monarchy.

        It seemed to be his feeling that man's natural state was conflict, over resources, mates, security, etc... In doing so he also recognized mankinds rational nature, and thus his desire to gain peace if possible. He thus theorizes the best course is to not do unto others what we would have them not do to us.

        Notice the difference between that and the adivce, do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The first is passive, the second active. Say we each have an apple.To Hobbes, the passive, - I don't take your apple, because my act would then legitimize your attempt to do the same to me. while the proactive - I should offer to share my apple, and you in turn might share yours. The former casts us as adversaries, and the latter allies..

        You decide which you preffer.

    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: Thanks Amirpouya, you have given me an interesting point of view, and I have been thinking about it for most of the day. I find that I disagree with you. I think we are born as loving whole complete entities and a sense of human rights comes out of this natural state of completeness with the world. Of course civilisation is a story of conflict and power struggles, so an individual's grip on ethics becomes distorted or in many cases. lost. Yet the closer an individual is to his original pure state (Ghandi, Mandela, Mother Theresa) the more connected to a natural sense of ethics, he or she will be. What do you think?
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: Joanne -
        I'm not sure but I think you didn't understand my meaning very well.
        I think that our utopia are not so different : a city which what politicians say happens !
        what Thomas Habbez drew in Leviathan is a picture from basic situation of a society:
        a situation which we can see in wars or some movies like "gangs of New york".
        A situation which anyone fights against anyone else.
        Or as a philosopher -I forgot his name- said : kill your enemies and if you could your friends.
        My utopia is a place that everyone love their society and the purpose be society's benefit.
        But see the reality : everyone trade. Physically or mentally.
        As Helen replied on my comment the real love unconditionable - but who can claim he/she loves someone who hates him/her ?
        I believe that love is a phenomenon that converts pain to joy.
        But still lover gains something instead of giving something.
        When we are born , we have a clear and pure mind and full of love -
        but what nature teachs us is this : you can't love lambs and love hamburgers too.
        And I believe that if everyone believe to human rights like a religion - it becomes a respectful thing in that society - but we should wait for a renaissance ...
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: I can see why, Amirpouya, you would look around you and form that conclusion. Yet I am interested if it is the only possible reality, i.e. if the current reality was inevitable and thus belongs to us humans completely, or if we have it because of a highly complex set of circumstances that began around ten thousand years ago.

          I think it is the latter, and therefore, I too wait for a renaissance.....
    • Dec 20 2011: Amirpouya,

      If you have not, I would suggest a reading of Rousseau and his concept of the Social Contract, and the rights of the governed, which were in active debate with Hobes and his Leviathen of a book. I might also reccomend Erasmus and Voltaire, as representative of liberal philosophy in the period. Hobes I think, isolated the individual and it's complex relationship with rights, overlooking the fact that rights require a community in order to be pertinant. Without a cohesive group you have simply anarchic rights, i.e: those that you can take. In this model, effective groups are much less likely to form, as there is less benifit to the individual members.

      Hobes, we must recall, wrote during the rebellious years which ended aristocratic absolutism in Europe and his concepts of real-polotik were based on his time. His period, and it's associated value system are incredibly removed from that which is common today, in that I despite being in the lower classes I find life to be anything but, "...nasty, brutish, and short."

      • thumb
        Dec 20 2011: Ian
        To be honest with you I love to read those books -especially mr.Rousseau whom I read nothing by him- but since I came to this university (PUT) I couldn't even finish Leviathan...
        I will thank you if you explain your thoughts here.
        But I want to add something :
        I give an example from what mr.Hobbes said.
        Imagine we're living in a society.
        Have I any right about your life -to taking it- ?
        Mayebe you answer no - but mr.Hobbes answers yes !
        But you have this right about me too !
        So it's the deal : I forgive my right to you because I want you to do it too !
        And if you break this deal and harm me - there's no more deal. It becomes anarchy.
        So do you really think that safety has a meaning here ?
        Could you tell me what can I be sure about it ?
        And please care about the concept - not who said it.

        • Dec 20 2011: Amirpouya,

          By "not who said it", do you mean the origional author of the idea?, because Icertainly cannot claim to be author to thier thought. I assure you I have nothing against Hobes, if that is your meaning

          As to the distindtion between Rousseau and Hobbes, well they start from the same foundation and build entirely different ideas. The Social Contract they both addressed is an idea that within society we have a series of agreements which inform us as to the rights and wrongs of a situation as well as to whom our duty lies.

          Hobbes and his exchange of negatives, i.e.: I won't do to you what you won't do to me does accuratly predict behaviors in many cases, but that does not make it correct. As I said earlier it is also a very lonely philosophy, because it portrays life as conflict at every level, even into the family, mankinds oldest institution. I preffer, do unto others as I would have them do to me, as this is proactive and communal, rather than passive and individualistic.

          We are, I would argue, a communal species, and as such a theory of rights is a theory of groups, not of individuals. An individual has all and every rights, as the only man on earth who is to stop him? It is groups that must build the social contract.

          The rights accorded to individuals among hunter gatheres, (perhaps man's natural state) are informative here. Within the tribe it is very much do for others as you would etc... , but with outsiders it is more like Hobbes, I am not going to feed you if you are an unrelated group, but I will not attack you if you in turn don't attack me. A lame man among the hottentots vollunteered to be left behind during a hard desert crossing, rather than slow, and perhaps kill the clan. That is doing unto others... and I assert, a better method of grouping than Hobbes presents. Rather than a market of exchange, consider it a community of equals seeking the same goals, and recognizing that sharing our rights is better than hoarding them.

  • Dec 15 2011: I think the broad nature of the current system of human rights reflects the ideals encompassed in them not so much the legal enforcement. If every human being could say they are being afforded the basic human rights we would be living in a very different world to the one we have now and, as the idea entails, a much better world.

    To call them rights is a bit lack luster, how can something be a 'right' when more people don't have them than those who do?
  • Dec 15 2011: Very interesting debate. I would like though to answer the more practical aspect of this question.
    Human rights "officialy" are the base of all democracies. A question i never understand is, how come corporations from the US, Europe or Israel care about human rights in there own country, but when it comes to poor workers in india or china, who cares about their rights.
    Yes, they should be universal. A farmer in Africa and a worker in Indonesia should have the same rights as a lawyer in NY or a start up bussines man in Israel.
    And this is the moral reasons why im socialist.
    • thumb
      Dec 16 2011: I'm gonna half agree with you. I agree that morally, a perfect socialist government would be the best. But tell me where this exists. Where everyone is treated 100% equal by the government, and the elite have the same rights as the poor. I hesitate to say human rights, and only say it for the lack of a better word.

      As for the corporations, they have to care about the employees in their country because of laws that protect the workers. It's as simple as that. Our (i live in the US) government protects us from the corporations for the most part. In China, or other 3rd worldly countries, the standards are much lower. so this brings my first point-- maybe human rights are just a product of government and civilized morals? And with all of the intolerance in the world, I'd say Universal human rights is impossible. Not a chance it would work. Thoughts???
      • Dec 16 2011: First of all, about socialism. Equality is like Osmosis. I agree with you there will never be a situation of 100% equality between people, but if thats your ideal you will always be close, and economic and cultural gaps will not be high at all.

        About corporations, "cheap work force" is one of the leading terms in capitalism. and when you think about it, "cheap workforce" simply means work force with out rights. I reccomend you to read the book "grapes of warth" which is happening in your country. a wonderful book that describes exacly what we are talking about here. If corporations would pay under the minimum wage to its workers [which happens with mexicans in the US and Africans in Israel], and not respect their civilians rights there would be raped by the media. But when workers in 3rd world countries have no rights we call it "cheap workforce". Dont you think thats an absord?
  • thumb
    Dec 28 2011: I give you bonus points for mentioning Monsanto, btw. Probably the greatest human rights violators on the planet. Their view of intellectual property, and their lawsuits against farmers who "save seed", a practice they are corporately responsible for outlawing... Is probably causing more human beings to starve, than any other power on the planet, including the US government.

    They also directly violate everything good about the American Agrarian economy, that Jefferson, and most good people here, always wanted.
  • Dec 27 2011: To me, our rights are simply an extension of the human person.As a living entity, and as one human family, rights are simply the duties we have as partakers of a community.Beyond that,our rights will be an abuse of our free will.Our rights can never be separated from our duties.
  • Dec 27 2011: Amirpouya, just because you do something doesnt make it a right. That is a choice not a right. If you choose to hurt someone that is a choice it is not a right. You have the right to speak your mind, the right to think what you want, but your rights stop when they begin invading anothers space. You will do what you want to do and I will do what I want to do, but in the end Human rights are what dictate if you did or didnt break anothers space, comprimising their freedom.
    As to being stronger, my friend you are only as strong as the next one, sooner or later someone stronger than you will come, they always do and you will have to submit to their choices (following your logic) which I simply cannot understand, that is a dictators mentality, selfish and egocentrical. TEDS is supossed to be an organization that brings people together so that they may share information, knowledge, not this illogical take on Human Rights. Too much sitting down behind a screen, not enough living...
    • thumb
      Dec 27 2011: Tiago,
      I didn`t say all of humans should fight and strongers should win -
      I just said the reality is this.
      I`m not the strongest person in the world - and if someone want to take what I claim is mine, I fight.
      And if the enemy is stronger - it`s not mine anymore.
      when Cyrus the great made the human rights charter - he was one of the most powerful kings in the world. so human rights became respectful.
      but during a war -unfortunately there are lots of examples- if you- as a soldier - talk about human rights , the answer won`t be pleasant at all.
      A right is a desirable thing that a stronger human promises to give to a weaker one - normally because of gaining something like power or mental satisfaction as I said in my recent comments in this conversation- and the right`s lifetime depends on the strong man`s honesty.
      So if you live in North Korea - you can`t say : I have a right to access to internet.
      In the end I want to add always we`re entering to each other`s space - not only geographically.
      And the only way to preventing a fight is trading.
      It`s my conclusion.
  • Dec 26 2011: Read this article, especially the five footnotes.

    December 26, 2011
    The Roots of Liberalism and Conservatism
    By Paul Shlichta
  • thumb
    Dec 26 2011: Hi dear TEDsters and Joanne
    I know there is not enough time at all for continuing this conversation but I feel there is a huge gap which made this conversation illogically.
    I prefer to fill that with asking a question :
    what`s the exact definition of "right" there ?
    If I can do something and I want to do it - It`ll be done.
    And if someone want to stop me to do it - He/she should be stronger than me or change my desire with trades.
    If a trade tastes me - I`ll forgive one thing which I can gain or I have.
    what is "right"`s definition there ?
    • thumb
      Dec 26 2011: Sorry Amirpouya, I hate boiling things down to syntax. Is there a point? Anything can be discussed on this level, even the hair on your head can be argued out of existence like that. You still get up and comb it each day, don't you?
  • Dec 26 2011: I would like to finish by saying this: David you have done wrong through out your life, everyone has, you have hurt people and disrespected people and no one can say otherwise for no one is perfect. Now I leave you with this question. Say in high school you disrespected me, do I have the right to hunt you down and claim your life because you screwed up, because you were unperfect? Set the example! Stand tall and proud and shield those who have no hope. Dont speak from behind a screen, from a country that has given you everything, even the right to say such imature things upon the web. You want to be a hero? You want to one day for others to look at you and see Superman? Well then do something constructive, dont talk about murder, because the day you do, is the day someone you have done wrong to does the same...what a mess! I cant believe Im actually having this conversation on TEDS.
    • thumb
      Dec 27 2011: This sounds like an argument from moral relativism... I don't subcribe. You're trying to compare a man who murdered hundreds of thousands of muslims for no reason, and erased my bill of rights... to me disrespecting someone.

      I no longer have a bill of rights... I could easily be thrown in jail, in this country for what I have written. I have human rights to freedom of speech, and the right to evolve, an pursue happiness, seperate from the country I live in. I also admitted that this was one of my most horribly written, and least rationed out responses, so I tried to amend.

      I do not advocate violence... I merely suggest that if we don't punish George Bush for his crimes against humanity, what example are we setting for our children? Is a nutjob, the only thing that can fix this problem? I am not emotionally convinced that any of us should be this nutjob, I am merely stating intellectually, that I do not understand how a moral world can deal with such problems... The fact that I cannot find that answer in the modern world "keeps me up at night".

      It's called honesty. Also my parents were glorified servants, who are now debt slaves to the housing crisis, so the whole "country that has given you everything", is nonsense. I don't even have the right to say these things in my country anymore... I take it.
      • Dec 27 2011: Had you used this arguement the first time you wouldnt have recieved my input, because now you are speeking from a human rights stance not from one of anger based on a choice of murder. What you say now makes sense and brings true content to an arguement worth speeking about. Because when it comes to murder it is not based on an arguement of moral relativism, there is nothing relative about the subject the way you put it. Now when it comes to being thrown in jail for saying what you just said, that is a bit exagerated but I get what you are trying to say. I agree when you say punish but not when it advocates death as a form of punishment. I still believe that you live in a country that has given you more than you realise and that you once again are defending yourself from an anger focused point of view, which is relative none the less. Your parents situation makes it understandble that you are angry and hurting but there is more to life than that and I believe points of view should be based on a lot more than what we experience ourselves, especially when it comes to a topic as heavy and important as human rights.
        Go live in africa and then say that you are not privilaged, come here to Portugal and speak of not living in a country that still offers you more opportunities then young adults your age here...
        • thumb
          Dec 28 2011: I agree with you in part... but actually, personally, I am considering moving to Africa, for moral reasons, though it would be very difficult for me to find a country not more immoral than the US. I have actually taken a vow of poverty, which stops me from helping my parents, since the war in Iraq began.

          I would rather barely subside on a sub living wage, than contribute a single dollar to the indescriminate murder of muslims. If I knew of a place with a relatively benign government, but with much worse poverty, I would move in a second. Unfortunately poverty tends to correlate with abusive government.

          So far, I used to think my best chance was trying to become a Kiwi, strangely enough. Now, it sounds like they have similar abuses and problems in their public sector as we do... but at least they have a less violent and aggressive history. I think you deny how subtle the difference however is, between "are nutjobs the only tool we have left", and "I have every right to be a nutjob"... but I did write in an extremely inflammatory, and almost violent manner, on purpose, so I guess I have to cut you some slack.

          I wasn't ever suggesting that violence was the correct response, merely, since the government seems to believe it has the right to engage in indescriminate violence against regular people, can it really say that we don't have the right to organize against them in the same manner? Again, it is not that violence is the correct solution, but does anyone who kills people have the right to tell you, it's not a solution you have a right to pursue? It's not a right I'm interested in taking, but I think it's fair to at least talk about whether or not said right exists, in a violent society.

          It is an especially emotionally charged issue though, and I understand your instant negative reaction out of anger, which was similar to my own. "Is he crazy? Or are we, who remain unperturbed in an insane world... The crazy ones?" Akira Kurosawa
  • Dec 26 2011: There must be ethical before there can be practical...but that does not mean one is forced to be perfect. There must be a structure, ideals in which we can find the necessary basic laws that allow us to function as a society and a human being. Human rights do not represent the individual, they represent the mass and that is how it should be. If it represented the individual it would be a mess, total anarchy!
    However this means that certain laws do not yet exist, or are insuficent to meet the needs of some, but unfortunately and fortunately human rights is an evolving thing, it takes time, it takes thought and structure so that it may one day stand as a pilar of our existance.
    I am shocked David, and I apologize before hand because I do not want to offend anyone, but it is apaulling to hear an educated American speak in such a way. I take ethical over practical any day to eliminate such ways of thought that may one day lead to serious actions. Living is a right no one has the power to extinguish and the day they say otherwise my friends is the day we have gone mad! No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, that is for the law to handle, the most we can do is hold the law accountable.
    David you asked what can you do when all of those things continue to happen, well you can continue on, continue to demonstrate, continue to move forward with the help of others, but the day you choose to go "Ape" is the day you lose me as a brother.
    Heroes do not resort to violence as a choice, they do so because they have no other way at the time. Dont compare yourself to Superman which you will never be, and the fact that you think and say such things proves this. Dont tell me that someone is holding a gun to your head, dont dare talk about the torture to others when it has not happened to you first hand, ask anyone who was in a situation like that, and they would ask for justice above all, not more death and evil. Heroes are ethical not practical, they fight for the common good.
  • Dec 25 2011: Joanne, I prefer to think of rights as part of a fuller discussion on relationships. The Center of all creation is Paradise, the personal residence location of God. From there and extending are relationships with the Trinity, plus Sons of many different levels serving in many different universes. The total Universe (Cosmos) consists of many smaller universes and much of this is peopled or is intended for habitation. Many Sons of God are needed to manage and teach, to serve the many ascending sons such as us mortals who move on from our nativity spheres. The total concept is untold number of beings relating to one another in a virtual unlimited number of ways and purposes.

    Considering this, not one of us mortals (or angels) could claim rights to do anything one wants to do without affecting others and therefore a divine concept is to be learned, discovered, yielding increasing peace and harmony. The Creation is too big for us mortals to see all these relationships.

    Again, if we earn our rights, we make an effort to harmonize for the betterment of all. Rights is a thing we learn; not demand. Rights is achievement and if we are in harmony with God, we are graced with peace while yet discovering even more of life. When a person is in a peaceful situation with another, there is no demand for rights because we serve each other with love. In this situation, we give to each other by allowing, by self restraint, by self control, by self mastery. Rights, then becomes a condition and not a demand. There is nothing left to covet. In short summary, we discover and accept divine nature. As a planet and nations, we have a long way to go! Individually, there is no divine requirement to wait on others to grow. We can have heaven now!
  • thumb
    Dec 25 2011: every time i try to pick my point on this i keep finding a way to contradict my own thought, but ill try and make one any way. we have an individual right to try and maintain our own life. by observing nature and society it seems that co-existing in groups helps beings to do this. there are ever changing sub rights that are specifically determined by an extensive algorithm that has evolved with the developing brain over an individuals life. the right to take life might be true when all the variables show that the individuals life is going to be compromised. with in the same parameters the right to steal can be possible to sustain life but doing so the individual accepts that the other then has obtained a right to kill. with out rambling on and on i think you can see what my point is (hopefully). The only concrete born right is the right to live, situations bring forth and take away non concrete rights. um on a lighter note i just saved a bunch of money by switching my car insurance to geico!
  • thumb
    Dec 25 2011: Human rights, God given rights, inalienable rights, bill of rights, etc ... mean nothing if they cannot be enforced. In some countries women walk behind men, cannot drive, cannot vote, female children are put to death. In other countries there are equal rights for both male and female. We have dictatorships, socialism, Republics, democractic republics, and all sorts of other governments and religious based governments. Each of these countries express rights differently. Throughout most of our history we had the rights of Kings and those of royal blood. By the overthrow of royality we now express leadership in terms of power. Governments are maintained or overthrown by militaries. Until there are established long term governments rights are transitory. The United Nations has attempted to establish "rights" but lack the enforcement arm to assure this occurs. Therefore I do not believe rights can be universal. Even God given rights would not be consistant. Is God Lord Budda, shiva, Jesus, Allah, Jehova, (please excuse spelling)? Each religion proclaims different rights. Constentine attempted to bring all religions into alignment. A great attempt but not successful. Rights cannot be the starting point due to the wide variations and therefore cannot be universal.
  • Dec 24 2011: Food for thought for everyone here: Rights may be considered privileges granted by higher authority. The lower the level, say, individual vs national, the more levels of granting persons or agencies above. It seems to me the highest is God. People use the term "God given rights', so it is there I think this discussion should begin. God grants man privileges: life, discovering life and its values, commerce and economy, reading, love, procreation, work, wage, food, fun, entertainment, time off, recreation, ad infinitum. We could complicate the discussion by asking, "Does God grant the right to be lazy without consequences?" Or does God grant the right of reward for work?

    I don't know how we decide what is a right. The concept of "rights" is developed in the mind of a person who wants something or who feels he's earned the right to have something.

    Are rights universal? Well, if enough people accept a certain concept as universally valuable and agree to allow it as a normal, then it is universal when the majority votes to accept. Law may be an example of granted rights, but also is involved in preventing someone from driving 100 miles per hour on Main street.

    It seems to me that rights are indeed privileges when one has demonstrated ability for good behavior, good management of oneself and ability to learn and develop skills. Passing tests, achieving requirements, and demonstrating abilities are basis for states to issue licenses. Rights are given upon demonstration.

    God given rights? Prove yourself to others you are honest, loving, willing to work, and do not intend to harm others. Then enjoy life and its rights!!!!

    What say all?
    • thumb
      Dec 24 2011: Hi Mark, as attractive as this idea might seem on the surface, granting us the ability to nominate any human right as 'god given', I can see a huge downside. Mainly that some people might begin to use this power to the detriment of others. For one example; God says your wife is your possession, and must obey you no matter what. God says it is your right to kill your neighbour if he has harmed you or stolen from you.

      Who decides what is a god's law? Human beings.
      • Dec 25 2011: Yes I agree, but not what I intended. I take a dim view of anyone who claims something as "my God given right" to do something. It is the earning of rights that I give credit, but also, life is by the grace of God. Rights are given; not automatic. When someone demands something based on his understanding of his individual automatic right, then a good review is justified. My humble opinion.

        Also, there is no guarantee mankind has properly understood all that God has said or intended. I am not convinced that all which has been attributed to God is actually from God. Man is far from omniscience and therefore not all he understands to be true is full or replete.

        You do well to get us thinking about rights. I suspect we have a lot more development, evolution of thought to go before any nation will have a divine ideal Constitution. The USA Constitution is far better than dictatorships of old, witch doctor rule etc of far gone years, but regarding rights, we likely have a lot of adjustments yet to experience.

        You have a good topic going here! Congratulations!
        • thumb
          Dec 25 2011: I appreciate your participation, and you have opened up an interesting perspective. I like your idea that rights are more often actually privileges.

          Perhaps the whole idea of human rights is something we in the wealthy countries have dreamed up and is a result of our extreme privilege then?
  • Dec 23 2011: Hi and hey Joanne! :)
    When it comes to " human rights" , there is nothing more important. When it comes to being, ethical, it is as important. This world, has neither. Ya all can debate and put your fancy words into it. This world has neither. So, you said neither too? Take care!! :)
  • Dec 23 2011: Human rights are a standard of living that delivers basic needs in which fulfill requirements of life and happiness. And no they will never be universal because for most of us, personal standards differ from ourselves to our neighbour let alone between people in other countries...
  • Dec 22 2011: I think the basic concept is pretty simple and straight forward. Individuals are born free of ideologies, customs, rules etc. They all share basic needs, including the need to have control over our decisions (choices), freedom to express ourselves and our thoughts, and have equal rights as others do.

    I think these basic needs are the foundation of universal human rights. United Nations created a declaration of human rights and majority of countries signed the treaty:

    This notion of universal human rights should be valid regardless of whether how people, during their childhood, are raised within certain culture, religion and customs. People might decide to follow certain ideologies and voluntary restrict their personal freedoms. However people in their community and nation should not be forced to do so as well.
  • Dec 21 2011: Suggested universal ethical framework

    1. Life is the universal process of self-directed growth
    2. Life's creative power must be channeled appropriately in order to sustain an ever-more complex and diverse community of life
    3. All life has the privilege to choose how it wishes to contribute to this community of life
    4. By choosing to contribute to the community of life you are responsible and accountable for the consequences your actions have on the community
    5. As you create more life, treat others as you wish they would treat you