Author: Maria Santana
I do not mince words. There is a reason why ‘human rights’ is written in quotation marks. I want to explain what is the goal of the ‘human rights’ program in my college. I am not going to mention the name of my college for obvious reasons but it is one of the few colleges in New York City that has a ‘human rights’ program at the undergraduate level. The ‘human rights’ program is for students to either earn a minor or for the more advanced a certificate. A few months before transferring to this specific college, I went to a transfer student fair. There was a wide array of tables filled with many majors and programs being offered by the college. I was immediately drawn to the ‘human rights’ table. My intentions were good when I enrolled in that program. I was aware of many injustices going on in the world through my news subscriptions which included Vice News, Huffington Post, The Young Turks and others. Do notice how I mentioned the world and not the United States of America. I will make a point about this later on in this post.
My first semester I took two ‘human rights’ courses as required for the certificate. One was called “Introduction to Human Rights” and an English course titled “Utopian Fictions: Human Rights and Literature”. The intro course for ‘human rights’ was heavy on reading human rights cases, reading international human rights laws and learning the history of the laws of war. On the very first day of class, students were required to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UDHR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and is not legally binding. I have no complaints about the course overall. The course was great and very leftist bent when cases were discussed. I met people in that class that made me wonder about their mental health. One person in particular was a girl from Tibet who expressed throughout the entire semester her hatred of the Chinese government and its relentless program of committing cultural genocide. This young woman told me that she wanted to slit her wrists in front of the Chinese consulate. I told her that will not free Tibet or receive attention from the Chinese government. It will land her in a psych ward or on a hospital bed. However, this was the course where I criticized and attacked the BLM movement in a final assignment and the professor did not penalize me for it. I was shocked and grateful for the fact that he liked my essay and appreciated a different view of the movement.
The Utopian Fiction course was also great because I read a lot of literary works. When I enrolled in this class, I automatically assumed that my class was going to read the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut and others. That specific work of Vonnegut’s is one of my favorites because of how it equality was depicted in a negative light. Nope. There was no Science Fiction in this course. Many of the books, short stories and plays, were works of fiction but nonetheless interesting.
Some of these works included South African author J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. Disgrace takes place in South Africa after the end of the apartheid period. One must have some good historical background knowledge of South Africa in order to understand the intention of the book. South Africa was once a Dutch colony and its lands were dominated by the Boer farmer. After a series of wars against the British known as the Boer Wars, South Africa became a British colony. The apartheid policy in South Africa was implemented in 1948 while countries in the African and Asian continents under European colonialism were experiencing independence movements. A variety of crimes were committed during the apartheid period that lasted until 1994 between whites, blacks, Indians, and ‘colored’ people. Being ‘colored’ in South Africa was very different from the American definition. As my English professor described it, being ‘colored’ meant being negated since it meant being a black and white mixture. Discrimination against ‘colored’ people was much worse and open than foe other groups. There are many figures that had some kind of involvement and influence in apartheid policy and history of South Africa in general. These include significant figures such as Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, John Cecil Rhodes, Mohandas Ghandi and others. I can write about South Africa and my knowledge of the country one day in a future article primarily focusing on Jan Smuts, Holism and Apartheid policy.
Disgrace is an indirect critique of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Considering the lesser known genocides of whites South Africa, Coetzee was clearly onto something.
Another book that was read in this class is by Canadian author Michael Ondaatje. The book tiled Anil’s Ghost is about a forensic anthropologist named Anil Tissera who returns to her native Sri Lanka. Anil was in Sri Lanka as part of a United Nations Human Rights Investigation. Sri Lanka had been going through a civil war after it received its independence from the British Empire in 1948 and again in 1972. The civil war was fought between the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups. Anil’s Ghost takes place during the height of the conflict which lasted from the late 1980s until the early 1990s.
The course focused on human rights issues as they were being portrayed in these written works and focused outside the Western world during postcolonial times from 1945 until present. These countries include Afghanistan, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Botswana and others.
These two courses, although I enjoyed them, were a glimpse to what the ‘human rights’ program was about. Now I will be going back to the point I made earlier regarding the injustices around the world. If these two courses made me realize one thing, it was that the ‘human rights’ program will primarily focus on issues outside of the United States and the Western world. This was and still is problematic for me. It is as if the ‘human rights’ program refuses to acknowledge that there are legitimate issues in the United States and the West. The U.S. is no utopia and is not immune to social ills. Why should these ‘human rights’ students want to focus on the ills of their backyard? There can be a variety of reasons to answer this. It feels better to help starving people who they may never meet by donating money to a charity. Perhaps sending them food and supplies. Even posting a link on their social media accounts to raise awareness of a multitude of issues and get ## number of likes, comments filled with praises.
These are the same type of people that would rather raise awareness of the plight of Syrian refugees versus the starving homeless family in a Manhattan street. Also the issues of a Chinese sex trafficking victim that was brought to Australia is more important than an American mother whose teenage daughter is missing. ‘Human rights’ ought to not be applied to Americans, according to leftist logic and feelings, because this is a rich and powerful country. Problems that Americans have will go away quicker and are less relevant because of its privileges. Not trying to deter from the main topic of this post on ‘human rights’ but this is one of the reasons why Trump won the presidential election.When the federal government, through federal programs, prefers to provide services to illegal immigrants over American citizens or Veterans there is a problem with this.
This attitude of fulfilling the needs and wanting to assist outsiders over fellow citizens by leftists is symptomatic of globalism. Leftists care more about the needs of foreigners before their own fellow neighbor. This kind of behavior is fueled by pop culture where celebrities would rather adopt children from developing countries instead of those in their own countries. These public and private schools are no longer a place of education but indoctrination. If and when someone mentions how they would rather fix issues in America before Papua New Guinea, a leftist will call this person a racist. This is called ‘Cultural Marxism’ and I heard this term uttered by Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart News, in a speech addressing a student.
How can one want to change the world if they refuse to help their own country, home state, city or their own neighborhood? How can anyone want to help someone else when they refuse to help themselves? This is one of my many problems with the ‘human rights’ programs in academia. They would raise awareness of issues in Haiti, South Africa, Pakistan, Colombia but developed countries simply cannot experience these issues.
“This is why you must reject post-structuralist thinking. No offense but you are the definition of the indoctrination and you don’t even understand what you are saying”.– RIP Andrew Breitbart 1969-2012
‘Human rights’ program aims to selectively raise awareness of violations that occur to certain populations i.e. Muslims, LGBTQ, women, children, disabled, and others. However, Christians are being persecuted across the globe and even in America. There was a case of a bakery that refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple. The lesbians wanted to show how progressive they were, filed a lawsuit against them that drove them out of business. These women could have opted to buy a wedding cake elsewhere. It seems as if this lesbian couple did this deliberately.
What about the poor Whites that live in the Appalachians that are dirt poor? These poor Americans do not receive much government assistance because of this false white privilege. Social ladders are non-existant for these people. Diane Sawyer, of ABC News, reported on the poor, White people of Appalachia on a special 20/20 report back in 2009.
Feminists in the Western world whine and complain about not having rights as a woman and do not realize how blessed they are. There are women in the world who cannot work or go to school. Women cannot be seen in public without a male companion. Sometimes these women and girls are rape survivors and are blamed on the victim and stoned to death. These are practices in the Islamic world. Western feminists do not raise issues about these atrocious acts because they simply do not care. Western feminists’ needs are greater than the other. Having access to birth control is more important than trying to save a young female from female genital mutilation.Notice the Women’s March in Washington (I jokingly called it the THOT patrol because these whiners do not represent all women) was spearheaded by Linda Sarsour who supports Sharia Law. Sharia Law is the very set of laws that DO NOT give women rights. Do not believe me but look at what is going on in Muslim majority countries.
Members of the LGBTQ community complain about not having rights in the United States and other Western parts of the world because of stupid marriage or ability to adopt. I tell them directly that not to complain because in Muslim majority countries, a mere accusation of homosexuality can lead to people being tossed off of buildings or imprisoned. Look at how male children in Afghanistan are victims to a cultural practice known as a bacha bazi. These young boys are dressed as females, wear makeup and are taught to dance. They are repeatedly raped by men who rent them for their services. This practice is known by American military men whose commanders tell them in advance to ignore their screams for help. An Army Sargeant named Charles Martland beat up a man who was an alleged child rapist while on duty in Afghanistan. Thankfully Martland did not lose his position in the American armed forces.
Many of these students in the ‘human rights’ program are only in it simply to look good in front of their peers. This reminds me of a white woman in an introductory anthropology course I was enrolled in many years ago who bragged about braiding a black girls hair in Tanzania. I also recall another account of a male classmate of mine bragging about how he taught a village of seven children some certain English words. The point of these stories that I have mentioned is that these people, especially these who come from privileged backgrounds, is to look good.
Outside of ‘human rights’ courses, I have interned in various non-profit organizations in New York City. These non-profits focus on a multitude of issues for specific interest groups. In order to volunteer or intern in any of these during the summer months, you would have to be lucky. A native New Yorker would be competing with out of town students from Ivy League and private colleges across the country such as Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and others. Again these students do it to look good for graduate school or job opportunities. To provide their parents or guardians with bragging rights at dinner parties or work functions. ‘My child is so wonderful. She is volunteering for a non-profit organization that raises awareness of child labor exploitation in Guatemala. Now she officially speaks conversational Spanish and has raised a few thousand dollars to help build an orphanage…’ I have heard conversations such as these and more.
Does ‘human rights’ exist and if so for whom? It is quite obvious that this idea only applies to certain humans. This is another problem I have with the term ‘human rights’ which is misleading. It is not as all encompassing as it pretends to be. There is so much historical evidence that can be used for this argument and I will use a few. For instance, the United Nations has dark origins that are lesser known. I can elaborate on that in another post. The organization was formed for various reasons one of which was to prevent acts of genocide that occurred during World War II. Sadly there were a lot more genocides in the postwar period because of non UN intervention most notably the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica in Bosnia and Pol Pot’s Cambodia to name a few. The presence of UN peace officers were in Rwanda and Bosnia BUT nothing was done. Also how the term genocide, as was defined by Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, purposely omitted political and social groups. American and Soviet government officials that lobbied at the United Nations headquarters wanted to ensure that those groups were not incorporated in the definition of genocide. If political and social groups would have been added to that definition of genocide, both the United States and the Soviet Union would have been on trial for war crimes committed during WWII. Stalin killed way more people than Adolf Hitler and began his mass killings in 1929 with systemic famines. A book that discusses the history of the United Nations definition of genocide and Stalin’s crimes is titled ‘Stalin’s Genocides’ by Norman M. Naimark.
Here in this section I am going to discuss ‘human rights’ theory as I have learned in my English class. Giorgio Agamben, an Italian political philosopher, wrote and published a work titled Beyond Human Rights. Agamben argues that the idea of human rights is very much tied to citizenship. He, too, uses many historical examples such as the homo sacer which is a term used to describe a non citizen living in the Roman Empire. Any crime can be committed against him or her because they have no right or ties to the Roman state. Another example Agamben uses to strengthen his argument is of how many refugees who flee their countries due to political or religious persecution seek asylum and then eventually become a citizen of the nation-state they fled to. Mark Mazower, historian wrote a book titled No Enchanted Palace, where he discusses the dark historical origins of the United Nations. Mazower’s book supplements Agamben’s theory of how human rights are tied to citizenship. He uses the historical account of how German Jews were denationalized and denaturalized, meaning they lost their rights as citizens and their citizenship, before being sent to concentration and death camps. Since these German Jews were no longer citizens, their ‘human rights’ had been stripped away leading many to their tragic deaths.
This has been some of my experiences in the ‘human rights’ program in my college campus. I may have generalized but in all honesty I am sure my campus is a microcosm of what goes in liberal colleges in America and other Western countries. Although I have been harsh and critical of ‘human rights’, I have met people who are genuine about trying to make the world a better place. That is admirable but like I have stated some needs are more important than others. It is just as important to volunteer in an after school program in an inner city community than it is to tutor kids in Somalia. I am just saying.
This post went from attacking the ‘human rights’ program to discussing ‘human rights’ theory. Human rights in my college will be continued in another post. I only got to describe one semester….