Western countries talk alot about “human rights”. It has become the “go to” subject, when western leaders are in front of the cameras. We hear western Presidents and Prime Ministers talking about “freedom” and “democracy” and how everyone must have these. That is sort of true, in a limited way, but the sad state of American democracy doesn’t exactly fill oneself with the joys of that system, and the urges to copy it.
At any rate, there is FAR more to the human rights story than the sole concept of democracy and its equally impossible to define concept, freedom. But you will only hear western leaders talk about freedom and democracy because they want you to think that democracy is simply about having an election. Which is nonsense. That is what you tell children.
Elections can be unfairly influenced and rigged by a raft of forces within society, which, shockingly, are often totally transparent. People sort of know this on some level – that is why so many people have abandoned the electoral process in America – or they voted for Donald Trump. As Trump said in the 2016 campaign, “what have you got to lose by voting for me?”…. simultaneously one of the saddest, most cynical and most highly effective electoral stratedgies ever.
The point is – there are 30 separate articles to internationally declared human rights and an expert comparison between say, America and China, on ALL 30 would be an interesting excercise. But we’re not doing that here.
In 1948 the United Nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human RIghts, made up of 30 individual rights set as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations to work towards. It set out and described, for the first time, fundamental rights.
Here they are. I have slightly shortened them for easier reading, hopefully without changing the nature or tone of each,
Article 1 – Equality & freedom at birth, universal brotherhood
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.
Article 2 – Discrimination
Everyone is entitled to these rights without distinction of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. No distinction shall be made according to the status of the land whether occupied or contested.
Article 3 – Liberty and Security
Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
Article 4 – Slavery and servitude
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5 – Cruel or degrading treatment or torture
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6 – Recognition before the law
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7 – Equality before the law
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Article 8 – Recourse to Remedial action
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him.
Article 9 – Arbitrary detention
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.
Article 10 – Free and Fair trial
Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11 – Presumption of innocence
- Everyone charged with an offence is presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
- No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence due to any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence.
Article 12 – Privacy
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
Article 13 – Freedom of movement
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
- Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14 – Asylum
Everyone has the right to seek in other countries asylum from persecution.
Article 15 – Nationality
- Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Article 16 – Marriage and Family
- Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality, or religion, have the right to marry and start a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
- Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
- The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 17 – Property
- Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18 – Freedom of Religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion and freedom to manifest his religion in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
Article 19 – Freedom of Expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20 – Peaceful assembly and association
- Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
- No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21 – Election of government
- Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
- Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
- The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote.
Article 22 – Dignity and Social Security
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and in accordance with the resources of each State, is entitled of the economic, social, and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23 – Employment
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24 – Leisure time
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25 – Adequate standard of living
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26 – Education
- Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.
- Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Article 27 – Protection of Copyright, intellectual info
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
- Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author.
Article 28 – Right to International Order and Stability
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29 – Rights Can be Impinged Upon Only By Law and Rights of Others
- Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
- In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
- These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 30 – Rights of Others Must Not be Destroyed
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
You will notice that “election of government” constitutes just 1 of the 30 human rights, Article 21.
Article 21 states that the authority of government comes from “the will of the people” and that elections shall be by universal and equal sufferage, meaning everybody is equally eligible to vote. One person, one vote.
By this measure, the United States did not become a democracy as recognised by the UN until 1965, 189 years after its declaration of independence and 18 years after this declaration of human rights. It can be argued that due to ongoing election irregularities such as rigged voting district boundaries, the disenfranchisement of millions of former prisoners convicted of even minor crimes and the reduced and difficult placement of voting booths in poorer areas, that America has still not achieved full compliance with this human right. Low voter turnout is another feature of American democracy which suggests this is true.
Most people would say that China is a one party state with no real democracy. That is probably true. China might not have a system like the USA or UK for example, but is the authority of the Chinese government based upon “the will of the people” as required by the UN Human Rights standard? Due to very low voter turnout, and the irregularities already mentioned, are the results of American City, Congressional and Presidential elections, “the will of the people?”
America’s election results are certainly “the will of the system”, but that is hardly the same thing.
Having visited China and travelled far away from tourist areas I believe the authority of the chinese government DOES come from the will of the majority of the people. I was amazed at how “free” I felt there. Before I left NZ, I had images of goose-stepping soldiers everywhere and red squad commandos around every corner. In fact, I wandered around by myself quite alot, in places big and small, city and countryside and never once felt threatened, spied upon, unsafe or controlled in any way. In other words, I felt very “free” and safe – in a country run by an authoritarian government. Maybe it was because it was run by an authoritarian government.
The achievements of China’s government mostly go unreported in western media whether they be technical or social. Even the technical advances are usually portrayed in a negative or threatening light. I didn’t realise that China invented 5G and has already been working on 6G for some time. No doubt we will hear the chorouses of “China Stole our 6G” from westerners, even though they have no idea what it even is.
I guess rapid advances like these are only natural in a country that graduates 1 million scientists and engineers every year. The Chinese don’t really care so much about creating new Lawyers and Economists as the west proliferates.
So let’s look at some of the other UN Human Rights that every country is supposedly working towards, like Article 25 – The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living.
It is universally agreed that what the Chinese government has achieved in recent decades constitutes the greatest improvement in their people’s social and financial living conditions, possibly in all history. That is, China has advanced human rights in their country in a hugely significant way.
These achievements gets little or no credit in the west, just fleeting references which pass by the attention of the average westerner – just as they are designed to do.
Citizens in the west, particularly the United States are experiencing an ever growing inequality that results in ever growing poverty and the dissolving of the middle classes – the entirely opposite process that is occuring in China. Babies born today in China – still a developing country – will outlive babies born in America – one of the richest countries in history. How is this possible ? Something is wrong somewhere right?
Article 26 – the Right to Education.
Again I think China outperforms the United States here. Teachers in Florida now have the legal right to carry guns to school. Mass shootings amongst young Americans are tragically common. There are more black 17 year old men in America’s prisons than in their high schools. Undoubtedly, these forgotton Americans are also the ones who have abandoned the electoral process or been forced out of it due to convictions for minor crime. Human Rights ?
Article 28 says that everyone is entitled to a safe and stable international order wherein all the human rights listed in this declaration can be realized.
I don’t think there is much argument which nation has been them most disruptive to the peace and stability of the world, certainly in these past decades, and maybe even for centuries before that. The United States of America.
Human rights and a semblance of stability that tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of citizens of the Middle East and of Central and South America had paid a great price to achieve under their imperfect governments this last century have been brutally ripped from their hands by constant American led war mongering and interference in their internal affairs. This angle of the international story of Human Rights is never told in the self described “propaganda media” of CNN and their crony friends.
There are too many articles of human rights to go into here and I’m not an expert at any rate. But what should become very clear very quickly, is that the subject of “Human Rights” is a complex and wide ranging one. A topic much too complex to be glibly passed over by 5 second media sound bites and provocative, misleading and frequently false headlines. Lieing about others to promote your own interests can only get you so far.
The most significant struggle happening today is between the competing messages of the American led West and that of China. Messages are words and words can be lies.
In the end, the outcome of this struggle, whatever that will be, will not be determined by words but by actions and outcomes. Outcomes as they affect ordinary people. No amount of propaganda from whatever source, Beijing or Washington, can change the outcomes of ordinary people’s lives. Only actions can do that.
I don’t know which outcome will be dominant in the coming decades, but judging by past outcomes, I think I have a pretty good idea.