TED Conversations

Joanne Donovan


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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.

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  • 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.
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      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?

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