Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Paper guarantees

In recent internet surfing, I came across this well-meaning statement on the website of a midwestern university:

"Human rights are rights that all humans have, just by virtue of being human. Human rights documents guarantee us the right to live, freely and securely, without discrimination, and with the social and material goods required for a dignified human life. Human rights violations threaten and diminish us all."

I wish that statement were true. I really do.

But the truth is, no "document" - no piece of paper - guarantees us anything. All you can do with paper is write things down.

No, the "Declaration of Human Rights" of the U.N. does NOT guarantee any rights.

No, the Constitution of the United States of America does not guarantee any rights.

I hope this university ALSO teaches its students that, in reality, it is soldiers with guns that guarantee their human rights.

It is fine to write down on a paper that food and housing are basic human rights. But until there is enough food and adequate housing in the world, everyone is not going to get fed and housed. The most anyone can say is that all human beings "deserve" to have certain things.

True rights come only when one is strong enough to obtain those things and then protect them. In short, your "rights" exist at the pleasure of whomever has the power. Usually that is your government. Therefore, make sure you have your government doing what you want it to do.

Please don't misunderstand me. I DO believe in natural rights that all humans are born with. I am only saying that rights are meaningless if they are not capable of being enforced. Simply being agreed to and written down officially on a piece of paper doesn't make it so.

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