In the history of mankind, the first evidence of a written law to protect our human rights was the Magna Carta of 1215. Ironically, it was created under duress. Threatened with civil war by the powerful barons of the day, England’s King John agreed to a charter of liberties that would ensure no one would be above the law, including himself and all future monarchs. Thus, the first written rights protecting our life, freedom and property were introduced. These cannot be taken from us without due process of law. That sounds right, I want it too. It is numbing therefore, to realise it took the world until 1948 to produce The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The atrocities of WWII hastened the need for a formal document to affirm the universal respect for and observance of our inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all human beings. Finally, a clear and undeniable right to amongst other things, freedom of movement, thought and religion; to be free of slavery, torture, degrading treatment, and have equal rights to education, marriage, property ownership, security and equal pay. Importantly, the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. Recently, gay rights have been won in many parts of the world. A right to be gay, a right to marry someone of the same sex or indeterminate sex. Clearly, this new right won by a “minority” has been given urgent priority over other rights such as the right to basic health care. It is a legal right that has been granted by many jurisdictions around the world. However, it is not a human right, according to the 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Neither does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights address the hugely important issues of health, happiness and harmony. I have preciously carried with me these three H’s all my life, wherever I go. It leaves me dumbstruck that the world did not consider them important. Have I been wrong all this time to wish them upon my friends and family, above all other wishes? Health, Happiness and Harmony. What do we have that can be of any relevance without our health? What is the use of equal pay and a gay marriage without happiness? Without harmony, what is the good of freedom of movement or freedom of religion if every corner is war-torn?
Human rights were first annunciated in 539 BC when Cyrus conquered Babylon. He freed the slaves and declared that all races were equal and everyone had the right to choose their religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history. Human rights is man-made, it does not exist in nature. In the wild, it is the fittest and strongest that rule. The ones with weak genes do not survive. We obliterated our distant cousins, the Neanderthals. There was no law in nature that compelled early humans to grant equal rights to others. The right to life belonged to the strong. Dignity did not exist either. Did Adam and Eve cover their bodies? Peed and pooped in their own private corner behind some shrubs? Rights to dignity exist today but try and use a toilet in a public place that displays a W4CO sign – washrooms for customers only. Two years ago, a Canadian woman denied access in a Tim Hortons store defecated and threw her faeces at employees. In early human history, I suspect the weak or dying did not demand a dignified death; they were very likely left to die on their own if their tribe could not fend off a marauding attack by enemies or predators. Slavery in America did not officially end until 1865. The Christian folk did not agree that black Africans had a right to freedom or that the rape and torture of the slaves were a deprivation and degradation of their dignity. After the defeat of Saddam Hussein, America lost their status as moral leader of the free world when they could not hide the inescapable facts of having lied to start the war against Iraq. They convinced very few allies about the imminent threat to the world from Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Did they ask the Iraqi people if they wanted or needed to be saved from their leader? Did they ask the Iraqis if they wanted a new government? Hundreds of thousands died and over 4 million displaced from their homes. A crime against humanity over weapons of destruction that did not exist. Later, they engaged in horrendous acts of torture and unlawful deprivation of freedom and dignity on suspected Al Qaeda operatives, captured in the War on Terror. Human rights are man-made and therefore can be easily revoked or ignored by man.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (22:37-39). A heart that is filled with love for God naturally overflows. Human rights is, for many, the natural right that flows from God’s love. For them, anything given by God cannot be denied. But, rather than man’s rights, it may be more appropriate to argue that only the man’s rights come from God. The woman’s rights are often excluded. Unfortunately, the Old Testament is littered with too many uncomfortable “truths” about the lack of human rights for the woman. In Exodus 20:17, Eve was told that Adam would rule over her. In the Ten Commandments, the wife is clearly the husband’s property: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.” Numbers 5:12-28. Just as harsh for the woman as a rape victim in Ephesians 5:22-23, if she were a single woman, the rapist shall give 50 shekels of silver to her father, and she shall become his wife. But her fate would be disastrous if she happened to be a married woman or was already engaged to another, in which case, she would have to be stoned to death. Today’s women would have to forget about the apostle Paul’s view on women. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak… And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.” 1 Timothy 2:13-15. and, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. In Job 31:10, the guilty man absolves his own sin with this statement, “then may my wife grind another man’s grain, and may other men sleep with her.”
The Australian Open proudly announced that they are the only Grand Slam event that pays equal prize monies to both the men’s and women’s singles champions. They may be the only sports event that does. But, how equal can it be when the women play best of three sets, i.e. often playing three sets less than the men? Advertising revenues commensurate with the length of live telecasts. More game time means more advertising dollars. Equal pay in this case does not mean equality is achieved. Many Australian companies have difficulty paying actual pays. Paying equal pays would be even harder. In recent times, many big firms have publicly apologised for wrongfully underpaying their employees. Coles today admitted to underpaying their staff by $20 million. Last year, it was the ABC, Bunnings, Woolworths ($300 million), Super Retail Group ($32 million), Commonwealth Bank ($15 million), Qantas and many more that cheated their staff. The principle of equal pay for equal work was recognised in the Declaration of Human Rights over 70 years ago. Yet, the gender pay gap persists.
It seems odd to me at first that the West is not disgusted by India’s caste system. Their caste system is extremely discriminatory. Introduced over 2,000 years ago to categorise peoples’ occupations, it became hereditary – one was born into a particular caste and could not alter their social status. Pity those born outside the caste system, they are the condemned, the untouchables. The untouchables are deemed so vile that even their shadows must not touch the other castes such as the Brahmins. When a Brahmin walks past the untouchable, the latter must lie face-down on the ground. India, with a comparable population size as China, will eventually rise to be the other economic powerhouse. Currently, their economy is 1/5th the size of China’s and as yet, poses no threat to the US. This may explain why there is no uproar nor furore in the West about India’s caste system, such is the obvious abuse of human rights.
Human rights have been in the news a lot, of late. But, it is not about the threat to wind down the hard-won basic health care in America. Ever since he won the presidency, Trump has attempted to overturn Obamacare, yet his supporters do not seem perturbed by the loss of their health insurance should Trump get his way. After all, health care is not a human right. It is also not about the nearly 70,000 children held under detention without their parents in America, at the Mexico border. In addition to the rights as human beings, children and their parents enjoy special rights due to their relationship. These special rights are also ignored, if not forgotten by the Americans. Today’s news is no longer about the invasion of our privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA) as revealed by Edward Snowden. The NSA collected 5 billion phone records a day in their surveillance program of their citizens as well as foreign dignitaries and just about any world leader of note including Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ban Ki Moon and François Hollande. Do we not have an alienable human right to privacy? We frequently read about Trump and Pompeo strutting the world stage, feigning abhorrence as they allege that Huawei is obliged to spy for the Chinese Communist Party. The presumption of innocence is a human right, but conveniently ignored for the Chinese. Boris Johnson, say no Chinese 5G or there will be no Five Eyes! A study from the University of Michigan, Rutgers University and Washington University found that police is the sixth leading cause of death of young black men in America. One in 1,000 black men will be killed by police during their lives in the land of the free. Meanwhile, black deaths in custody have worsened in Australia also. But, there is hardly any furore about it in mainstream media. The right to life seems to have been conveniently forgotten in many parts of the world. Yet many, especially in the West, seem very concerned about the lack of human rights in China. America has been especially busy protecting human rights of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, all territories of China. The US House of Representatives last month overwhelmingly passed the Tibet Bill, providing a plan to sanction Chinese officials who “interfere” in the Dalai Lama’s succession. A month before that, they passed the Uighur Act, requiring Trump to act decisively against Chinese officials who purportedly issue crackdowns against the Muslim minority in Xinjiang. At the height of the riots in Hong Kong which many in the West refer to as pro-democracy street protests, the US House passed The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, a US federal law that requires the US Administration to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials who commit human rights abuses against student protestors. Tibet has been part of China for 750 years since the Yuan Dynasty ruled over it in about 1270. It was British troops that invaded and conquered Lhasa in 1904, leaving the holy city in ruins. It was only after the Qing Dynasty collapsed that Tibet declared independence. They signed a treaty with the British who recognised them as an autonomous region. The meddling Brits were of course acting on self interests, even though they were so far away from home. Before the Chinese took back control of Tibet in 1950, no Western country ever accepted Tibet as an independent country. It is only very recently in Tibet’s history that the West has shown a desire to defend their human rights. The question must be asked, why have they decided that Tibet is now a separate country from China? The cynic will see that human rights is merely a tool for some Western countries to wreak political havoc and social discontent on countries that they are against.
According to statistics from the China National Tourism Administration, over 131 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas in 2017. If we hear frequent news of defectors or Chinese tourists refusing to return to their homeland after their holidays, it would be logical to deduce that perhaps the accusations about human rights abuse in China were true. But, we hardly hear of any defections. So really, how unhappy are the Chinese about their lack of human rights? China’s top priority in promoting human rights is the eradication of poverty. The World Bank reported that over 850 million people have been freed from the scourge of poverty in just over three decades. China’s poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, a feat no other country has emulated or achieved. Whereas in 2017, the official statistics reveal over 39.7 million Americans lived below the poverty line, a poverty rate of 12.3%. Australia’s poverty rate of about 11% is on the rise also, even with our relatively generous social welfare packages. A whopping 20% of British people live in poverty, some 14 million of them in 2017. Why is it not a human right to be freed from poverty? Quite easily achievable, considering the US and UK will spend over $980 billion this year on military weaponry. Just funnel half of the military budget for social benefits instead. The Brits call it Defence spending, but the Americans call it their Military budget. Quite clearly, they are not for the defence of their country. Why do we humans not have the right to live in peace and harmony? Too many urghhlings around, that’s why.