Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thinking human rights

(Apology in advance. I'm still a bit fuzzy on this one.)

I've been toying with the thought of whether we should re-work the "human rights" discussion into a inter-relational, rather than individualist, framework. (Assuming Christians would argue the foundational component of society is relationship, not the individual nor the society as a whole.) So Christians would defend proselytisation as freedom to pursue agreement together and the freedom to differ.

The problem is, of course, that this inter-relational approach best fits a Christian viewpoint. We can advocate "freedom in relating to God" in place of "freedom of religion", but that's not what a Buddhist is even pursuing. It's not about relationship with God.

The value of the approach is that "rights" do immediately dictate the actions of the individual. They require certain manners of relating from a society, rather than insisting that particular individuals are always free to behave in a particular way without a view to the effect of their actions on others.

Probably lawyers will tell me it's unenforcable. And of course, any collection of rights will ultimately enter conflict. Whether it's worded as the "right to liberty" versus the "right to equality before the law" or the "right to relate" versus the "right to equality in relationship with officers and agents of the law".

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