Human rights, anyone?

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It is extremely difficult to find a country or other political structure that has not violated human rights in some way.


Sometimes, the violation involves killing a dissident. Sometimes the action is less severe, but nonetheless has a very negative effect on the life and activities of the victim of the violation.


With rare exceptions, the political structure accused of violating human rights denies that it has done so.


Hard evidence of the violation is difficult to obtain and circulate. In any case, the entity accused of violating human rights tends in most cases to ignore protests, and thus maintains intact the alleged violation.


Some current instances being publicly discussed are: Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Australia, China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan.


Any country on this list has some defenders who are outraged by the accusation and others who put it at the top of their accusatory list.


This already enormous list does not include entities within so-called sovereign states. Listing them would elongate the list tremendously


What may we conclude from this totally unclear discussion about human rights? I conclude that we can’t use the category of human rights by itself. It can be perhaps useful if we put it in a complex analysis of the situation in any given political entity but it can certainly never stand by itself.


My second conclusion is that the category has allowed us to achieve very little up to now. As used by most activists, it has turned us away from the analysis of the capitalist system and therefore of the central struggle of our times.



- Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, is the author of The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (New Press).


Copyright ©2018 Immanuel Wallerstein — used by permission of Agence Global.
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