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Thread: Is the concept of universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism?

  1. #16
    Prophet of Telara Sarablu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macrocosm93 View Post
    In this instance you wish to replace parts of their culture that you perceive as being "bad" with parts of your own culture that you perceive as "good."
    But the "goodness" is irrelevant to whether or not it is cultural hegemony. The goal is still to replace ideas and traditions within another culture with those of your own.
    This is incorrect.

    You are making a value judgement here ("bad" and "good").

    Poster didn't not assert this. You are inferring the dichotomy when it has not been made.

    What is being advocated is replacing elements of a culture that conflict with the UN's Declaration of Human Rights.

    Those actors working to assert the premise of the Declaration of Rights may indeed individually hold that dichotomy. But as agents they are asserting it because they (by membership in the sponsoring body) are a signatory to the statement.
    Last edited by Sarablu; 05-24-2011 at 06:31 AM.
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    Equality is a lie…A myth to appease the masses. Simply look around and you will see the lie for what it is! There are those with power, those with the strength and will to lead. And there are those meant to follow—those incapable of anything but servitude and a meager, worthless existence.

    Equality is a perversion of the natural order!…It binds the strong to the weak. They become anchors that drag the exceptional down to mediocrity. Individuals destined and deserving of greatness have it denied them. They suffer for the sake of keeping them even with their inferiors.
    Equality is a chain, like obedience. Like fear or uncertainty or self doubt.

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  3. #18
    Plane Touched Macrocosm93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarablu View Post
    This is incorrect.

    You are making a value judgement here ("bad" and "good").

    Poster didn't not assert this. You are inferring the dichotomy when it has not been made.

    What is being advocated is replacing elements of a culture that conflict with the UN's Declaration of Human Rights.

    Those actors working to assert the premise of the Declaration of Rights may indeed individually hold that dichotomy. But as agents they are asserting it because they (by membership in the sponsoring body) are a signatory to the statement.
    The value judgement was certainly implied.
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  4. #19
    Telaran Neferakhen's Avatar
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    Cultural Relativism FTW!

    I actually agree with both sides of the coin.

    Yes, I think that there are certain things that I view as unjust and violent (female circumcision!?). At the same time, There are many women in different cultures that will go through the process *voluntarily*. It is an unsanitary and dangerous process. At the same time, other people might make the same judgment about other practices that I hold: playing rift at night and trolling boards during the day is definitely unhealthy (although most of the time sanitary and not really dangerous).**

    I think the Western world usually sticks their nose where it doesn't belong though! Sure, there are certain situations that DO get out of control. And it would be nice if we could help out things. Of course, westerners only seem to intervene when they can get something out of it, which usually means intervening with ways of life, for better or for worse.


    By the way, thinking that the UN is an objective party and not part of the hegemony is naive and silly.
    Yes, there are many countries involved from all parts of the world. But:

    1. Not all countries are heard equally!
    2. The countries are represented by the members of the hegemony!

    Also, there are many ways to define a culture and an Empire (go go Hardt and Negri!)

    ---
    **Disclaimer: I'm not trying to compare female circumcision with Rift. I just thought it was a funny comment!

  5. #20
    Telaran Neferakhen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neferakhen View Post
    Cultural Relativism FTW!

    I actually agree with both sides of the coin.

    Yes, I think that there are certain things that I view as unjust and violent (female circumcision!?). At the same time, There are many women in different cultures that will go through the process *voluntarily*. It is an unsanitary and dangerous process. At the same time, other people might make the same judgment about other practices that I hold: playing rift at night and trolling boards during the day is definitely unhealthy (although most of the time sanitary and not really dangerous).**

    I think the Western world usually sticks their nose where it doesn't belong though! Sure, there are certain situations that DO get out of control. And it would be nice if we could help out things. Of course, westerners only seem to intervene when they can get something out of it, which usually means intervening with ways of life, for better or for worse.


    By the way, thinking that the UN is an objective party and not part of the hegemony is naive and silly.
    Yes, there are many countries involved from all parts of the world. But:

    1. Not all countries are heard equally!
    2. The countries are represented by the members of the hegemony!

    Also, there are many ways to define a culture and an Empire (go go Hardt and Negri!)

    ---
    **Disclaimer: I'm not trying to compare female circumcision with Rift. I just thought it was a funny comment!
    I tried to edit but 5 minutes had passed.. BLAAAA

    I agree with many things from Hardt and Negri's Empire and Multitude books, but there are some things that I do not feel comfortable with. I don't want to argue it, I just think they provide a very very interesting perspective in "world' politics and economics. In which an Empire is not one nation state, and the enemy of the empire is not another nation state.
    The Empire is the law (the G8, and other international organizations), the Enemy is a crime (terrorism?).

    I keep thinking how this forum can be translated into the terms of the books. I need a mental break.. It's summer.. I'm supposed to not be thinking and just enjoying the sun!

  6. #21
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    The UN Declaration on Human Rights is clearly written from the point of view that democracy is the only legitimate form of government, and that could certainly be viewed as a form of cultural imperialism.

    Beyond that, however, it simply doesn't make a strong enough statement to be considered in any way imperialistic because it doesn't list absolute rights. They should have called it The UN Declaration on Things We Sometimes Do Anyway. To make a list of "rights" that includes things like life and liberty and put those on the same level as protection from slavery or torture is just an absolute waste of time: If the UK decides that it's going to set aside the right to liberty when dealing with prisoners, then why can't another nation decide that it's going to subject political dissidents to arbitrary arrest or torture? They can make the same case for public order that's permitted by 29(2).

    Rights that can be taken away are not rights at all, but priveleges. Things like liberty should be considered priveleges: we live in societies where our freedom is not absolute and we may be lawfully detained even while we're still considered to be innocent people, as in the case of prisoners awaiting trial. It has no business being on the same list as things like protection from degrading treatment, which should be an absolute protection. If you want to make a rule about liberty then you need to be a lot more specific.

    Lastly I would say that individuals speaking up against things like genocide would probably be doing it with or without the concept of human rights. We don't think such activities are wrong because the UN made a declaration.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erex View Post
    Lastly I would say that individuals speaking up against things like genocide would probably be doing it with or without the concept of human rights. We don't think such activities are wrong because the UN made a declaration.
    Those individuals who choose to speak up still have a concept of human rights; a subjective construct of whatever society they come from. In the case of the UN, it still has Western bias.

  8. #23
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    The concept of human rights arises out of our basic compassion towards each other as human beings, not the other way around.

    Specific protections might be culturally biased in some cases, but not the concept itself... and in cases of things like genocide, I would agrue that's a "peaceful compassionate human" thing, not a "liberal western" thing.

  9. #24
    Rich Aemry
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    I have several friends in Rwanda who lost their entire families to the genocide. I don't think any of them would argue that the declaration of universal human rights is in any way imperialistic. The thing I hear most often is, "America knew about our plight and did nothing. How can you call yourselves humanists?"

    We in the West have the greatest resources, and with that the greatest responsibility. We have profited off of this world and it's peoples, and are morally obligated to ensure that our profits made from these peoples and places does more good than harm. To this point we have definitely done more harm.

    Many of these human rights violations are spawned by hundreds of years of Western European and American, colonization, imperialism, and domination. We are morally obligated to do everything within our power to restore control of these peoples lives to the people themselves. The concept of human rights is essential to that justice, and is necessary if these people are to ever become the masters of their own lives.

    I watch nature documentaries every night to fall asleep, and in the conservation-centric ones I have lately been struck by how the leading conservation workers in Africa, and Asia are as white as I am. They speak in European, American, Australian, and in some very rare occasions Afrikaner accents, but they are almost all of European decent.

    Why is this? To some degree it's these same concept who were the white civil rights workers who still strove to be in charge to some degree. My grandfather was one of those people, and although they are well-meaning and largely necessary European descendants to propagate imperialism even in their attempts to help these third world countries. It may even have some dormant racial undertones unfortunately.

    The only way to solve this is to help these people by giving them human rights and an education. The educators must be very careful to remain culturally neutral, and if at all possible be natives of the culture which needs the help. Through this higher level of education and increased human rights we will see world changing results giving these cultures the freedom of independence and cultural self determination these cultures haven't had since the first white colonies came to wherever they are located.

    I only hope we do this before the travesty of cultural annihilation, and extinction which has largely occurred in North America happens in to many other places. I feel no cultural guilt for the doing of my cultural ancestors, but having learned from history we would be guilty if we did nothing to avoid it's recurrence.
    Last edited by Rich Aemry; 05-25-2011 at 01:01 AM.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tygerus View Post
    As the title says. Are nations and non-state actors who intervene in areas of conflict where perceived human rights violations occur (e.g. Sudan, Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, etc.) imposing their own (largely Western) cultural worldview? Are human rights universal? Or is the concept simply a creation of the hegemon(s)?
    It depends on whether you consider, for example, the idea that treating women as 'belongings' is barbaric, is imperialistic or civilised.
    Last edited by Kerin; 05-25-2011 at 01:10 AM.

  11. #26
    Prophet of Telara Friar Tuck's Avatar
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    I ignored this thread, assuming it was someone's homework. I see others fell for it.
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  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Friar Tuck View Post
    I ignored this thread, assuming it was someone's homework. I see others fell for it.
    I'm in awe of your intellectual superiority.

  13. #28
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    It's a nice debate, as long as it doesnt slip towards the legitimity of such a declaration.

    Back to the subject
    First, i'd like to point out that such a declaration has been largely inspired by multiple texts, the french "Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen", the American Declaration of rights, but also the Cyrus charter from ancient persia, and other texts. Even the chineese believe it was inspired by Confucius texts.
    Remember also it was written after WW2, and the authors where far from promoters of cultural imperialism (hell some where even actively fighting against colonisation, like Stephane Hessel for exemple).
    I'll also say that it's accepted, or not, by every countries. Obviously, the choice has nothing to do with true acceptance or not.
    Anyway, there is an aspect that you do not seem to view in this supposition : western culture is clealry not one, especialy when it comes to Law.
    There are two types of philosophy of law, Civil law and common law. Common Law is the anglo-saxon system, while Civil Law is more a Latin system, but is used by the vast majority of the planet.
    The UN declaration of human rights has nothing to do with any of these two systems, and so is clearly trying to be "neutral" in terms of cultural orientation (and i believe personaly that it succeeds in not trying to impose cultural beliefs.).

    Now, if i strongly believe that this Charter is not meant to spread any kind of cultural imperialism, i must say it's a formidable tool.
    Like a "holy book", it's a powerfull tool for nations to interfere with their neighboors afairs.

    I'd say that western imperialism like to use that declaration of rights to impose it's views, and to legitimate their actions, but in no way do they sincerly try to enforce the application of such declaration.

  14. #29
    Prophet of Telara Sarablu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Aemry View Post

    I watch nature documentaries every night to fall asleep, and in the conservation-centric ones I have lately been struck by how the leading conservation workers in Africa, and Asia are as white as I am. They speak in European, American, Australian, and in some very rare occasions Afrikaner accents, but they are almost all of European decent.

    Why is this? To some degree it's these same concept who were the white civil rights workers who still strove to be in charge to some degree. My grandfather was one of those people, and although they are well-meaning and largely necessary European descendants to propagate imperialism even in their attempts to help these third world countries. It may even have some dormant racial undertones unfortunately.
    It may have those undertones. But I think it's more a matter of practicality. Highly industrialized societies have more resources available to devout to those pursuits.
    Cogito Ergo Femina Sum

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    Quote Originally Posted by Friar Tuck View Post
    I ignored this thread, assuming it was someone's homework. I see others fell for it.
    I can think of worse ways to research a piece of homework than asking a broad selection of people whether or not they agree with the question.

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