Chapter 4 - Background Information on Human Rights
Why should I respect the rights of others if others do not respect my rights?
… In the end, though, it is probably down to you and the type of person you want to be or the kind of world you want to live in. So you could reflect on what it would say about you if you were to behave in the manner that you dislike in others. Or think about the type of world it would be if everyone violated everyone else's rights in a tit-for-tat manner.
Why should those who violate the rights of others in the most inhumane way be regarded as subjects of 'human' rights?
This is perhaps the most difficult but also the most essential part of human rights theory to accept. It can sometimes seem that certain individuals are so lacking in humane characteristics that only blind faith could enable us to see them as human. The important points are perhaps the following:
- Firstly, despite some people's apparent inhumanity, every individual possesses some humanity. Villains love their mothers, their children, their husbands and wives - or someone. Villains feel pain, rejection, despair and jealousy; they desire to be appreciated, valued, supported, loved and understood. They all, every one of them, possess some, if not most, of these exclusively human emotions. That makes them human and deserving of our respect.
- Secondly, we do ourselves no good in desiring to hurt villains in the same way that they have hurt others: such feelings only make us less worthy of respect as well.
- Thirdly, even if, perchance, a villain were ever to emerge with 'human' form but without any human characteristics (and there has never been one yet), who among us could say with absolute certainty that he or she is Not A Human? On what criteria? On the basis, perhaps, that they are incapable of loving or being loved? But what if we turn out to be mistaken in that belief?
The third point reminds us that we need to consider the risks for humanity as a whole in setting up some people to judge others where the consequences of that judgment are terrible and irreversible. Do we really want a world where such judgments are made and where some people are simply designated as not possessing human rights and therefore as non-human? Without the absolute universality of all human rights, that is the type of world that we would have.
Even criminals and heads of state[have human rights]?