Wednesday, December 10, 2014

For Human Rights Day that is happening today:

From "Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry” by Michael Ignatieff (2001, p.9):

Global human rights consciousness, moreover, does not necessarily imply that the groups defending human rights actually believe the same things. Many of these NGO’s espouse the universalist language of human rights but actually use it to defend highly particularist causes: the rights of particular national groups or minorities or classes or persons… The problem is that particularism conflicts with universalism at the point at which one’s commitment to a group leads one to countenance human rights violations towards another group.

Ignatieff is claiming here that a noble term which was supposed to uphold an ideal of universal justice, the kind that safeguards the equity and inviolability of all human beings, has been devalued by different interest groups to the point where it is nearly worthless. Politicization of an ethical principle can only lead to the kind of confused, dislocated application of the term “Human rights”, where some NGO’s use it to justify their support of terrorist activities.

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