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

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    Shadowlander
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    Default Is the concept of universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism?

    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)?
    Last edited by Tygerus; 05-21-2011 at 01:04 PM.

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    Telaran Cull's Avatar
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    I don't think so. I think there are too many things accepted cross-culturally as universal human rights for your question to be answered in the affirmative, especially the mostly western part.

    See of course
    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

    And as to them being developed by a powerful hegemony, I don't think that could be farther from the case. For the declaration above, with so many countries of varying demographics, political, religious, and economic situations, I can't think of much more, politically, heterogeneous.

    However, most of these are, in my opinion, thinly disguised interventions of self-interest, having to do with perceived political and economic insecurity, oil, minerals, etc. and only secondarily, if genuinely at all, human rights.
    Last edited by Cull; 05-23-2011 at 11:26 AM.

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    Plane Touched Macrocosm93's Avatar
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    Yes, I believe so.

    Simply look at the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    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.
    This flies in the face of not only many religious teachings, but also many philosophical and cultural belief systems. Who are they to say that a caste system is wrong? What do they think they're smarter than Krishna? Yeah right.

    Not to mention that "equality" and "freedom" are not quantifiable states of being but are simply phantoms of ideas which look different depending on which cultural lens you are looking through. Is living a life based entirely around the consumption of meaningless entertainment freedom? Is wage slavery equality?

    The main problem with Western Humanism and its attitude towards the world as a whole is its narcissistic faith in its own righteousness.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macrocosm93 View Post
    Yes, I believe so.

    Simply look at the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



    This flies in the face of not only many religious teachings, but also many philosophical and cultural belief systems. Who are they to say that a caste system is wrong? What do they think they're smarter than Krishna? Yeah right.

    Not to mention that "equality" and "freedom" are not quantifiable states of being but are simply phantoms of ideas which look different depending on which cultural lens you are looking through. Is living a life based entirely around the consumption of meaningless entertainment freedom? Is wage slavery equality?

    The main problem with Western Humanism and its attitude towards the world as a whole is its narcissistic faith in its own righteousness.
    According to your first argument that means that there should be no advocating for human rights against any religious or cultural teachings or that they would be culturally imperialistic? The whole point of human rights is that everyone is entitled so a bare minimum of at least personal safety and freedom - this may fly in the face of many religious or cultural practices but that would be exactly the kind of oppression the Human Rights Declaration would be attempting to end. So, you wouldn't quality a woman who is beaten brustally by her husband on a regular basis because she fails to look at the ground or showed to much of her face a human rights violation?

    Also, you state that equality and freedom aren't measurable. The could be very measurable, it just depends on how well they are defined. This is the case of anything ambiguous in social science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airinya View Post
    According to your first argument that means that there should be no advocating for human rights against any religious or cultural teachings or that they would be culturally imperialistic? The whole point of human rights is that everyone is entitled so a bare minimum of at least personal safety and freedom - this may fly in the face of many religious or cultural practices but that would be exactly the kind of oppression the Human Rights Declaration would be attempting to end. So, you wouldn't quality a woman who is beaten brustally by her husband on a regular basis because she fails to look at the ground or showed to much of her face a human rights violation?
    That doesn't change the fact that its culturally imperialistic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macrocosm93 View Post
    That doesn't change the fact that its culturally imperialistic.
    Yes it does, so does the fact that it's not any one culture that is advocating for human rights. Not only are people within certain communities doing it themselves (see recent events in Egypt etc) but the Doctrine was adopted by the UN which is composed of many different cultures.

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    The basis of your statement, that you joke about how they think they are smarter than Krishna... remember, what we have today is the INTERPRETATION of religious tenets. When things are passed down, they are influenced by the desire to control and other things, like greed for power, etc. Rarely are they passed down pristinely. So the caste system... how does anyone know if the way it has manifested itself into the Hindu society is exactly what Krishna intended? You could read the original statement and interpret it completely differently.

    It's equal to the way the Christians quote and interpret the Old Testament, when in the New Testament it clearly states that Jesus said he came to eradicate that and establish the new law, known as the Golden Rule. Intepretation is the bane of religions.

    In my opinion, actors interfering and bringing attention to the travesties in other countries is a great thing that they do with their celebrity. It brings awareness and the intervention on behalf of those who are helpless in their situations. Rarely can or has a political entity ever accomplished any change, without a huge sacrifice of human life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airinya View Post
    According to your first argument that means that there should be no advocating for human rights against any religious or cultural teachings or that they would be culturally imperialistic? The whole point of human rights is that everyone is entitled so a bare minimum of at least personal safety and freedom - this may fly in the face of many religious or cultural practices but that would be exactly the kind of oppression the Human Rights Declaration would be attempting to end. So, you wouldn't quality a woman who is beaten brustally by her husband on a regular basis because she fails to look at the ground or showed to much of her face a human rights violation?
    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.
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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.
    Again, cultural imperialism is ONE culture believing their culture is superior to another and trying to, yes, change aspects of that culture. The problem with your argument is that the body that has created the Human Rights Doctrine is a coalition of nations and cultures. That's not ONE cultural group doing anything. It's a group of cultures and nations deciding what BASIC human rights are/should be globally. In addition, I'm very willing to bet they provided ample time for open discussion over matters that may infringe on cultural or religious rights.

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    Shield of Telara Kayden Fox's Avatar
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    As long as there are multiple view points, someone will always think every one but theirs is wrong, it just becomes a matter of whether they have enough nukes to actually exert global influence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airinya View Post
    Again, cultural imperialism is ONE culture believing their culture is superior to another and trying to, yes, change aspects of that culture. The problem with your argument is that the body that has created the Human Rights Doctrine is a coalition of nations and cultures. That's not ONE cultural group doing anything. It's a group of cultures and nations deciding what BASIC human rights are/should be globally. In addition, I'm very willing to bet they provided ample time for open discussion over matters that may infringe on cultural or religious rights.
    Do you seriously believe that? Sorry but no. The UN and other "international" bodies like the IMF or world bank for example are western creations, formed to further the agenda of the west.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Freida View Post
    Do you seriously believe that? Sorry but no. The UN and other "international" bodies like the IMF or world bank for example are western creations, formed to further the agenda of the west.
    Riiiiiiight, you take a look and let me know how many "western" member states there are. The UN isn't a governing body anyway so they can't require its member states to sign anything - just like the US won't sign anything on greenhouse gas emission reductions while many European member states have signed off on the 20/20/20 50/50/50 plan.

    http://www.un.org/en/members/

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    Well, here's the cool thing.

    If universal rights are purely a cultural innovation, not real... then there aren't any, right?

    In which case people have no basis for complaining if someone else's culture is imposed on them. Such as the notion of universal rights. :P
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    Plane Touched Macrocosm93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airinya View Post
    Again, cultural imperialism is ONE culture believing their culture is superior to another and trying to, yes, change aspects of that culture. The problem with your argument is that the body that has created the Human Rights Doctrine is a coalition of nations and cultures. That's not ONE cultural group doing anything. It's a group of cultures and nations deciding what BASIC human rights are/should be globally. In addition, I'm very willing to bet they provided ample time for open discussion over matters that may infringe on cultural or religious rights.
    This isn't true. "One culture" is not a caveat of cultural imperialism. A coalition of cultures can easily commit cultural hegemony.
    Not to mention that Western Liberalism can easily be abstracted as a single culture, especially by those outside of the so-called "coalition." The Human Rights Doctrine is just a manifesto of Western Liberalism.
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    Telaran Cull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macrocosm93 View Post
    Yes, I believe so.

    Simply look at the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



    This flies in the face of not only many religious teachings, but also many philosophical and cultural belief systems. Who are they to say that a caste system is wrong? What do they think they're smarter than Krishna? Yeah right.

    Not to mention that "equality" and "freedom" are not quantifiable states of being but are simply phantoms of ideas which look different depending on which cultural lens you are looking through. Is living a life based entirely around the consumption of meaningless entertainment freedom? Is wage slavery equality?

    The main problem with Western Humanism and its attitude towards the world as a whole is its narcissistic faith in its own righteousness.
    Who are they to say a caste system is wrong? Usually it is the people involved in the lower ends of the caste system that say it is wrong. And few countries have not made it illegal. India, of which the phrase 'caste system' is used made it illegal in 1950. (not that it is not still a big issue in rural areas).

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