Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New Examination of Human Rights

In the debate on human rights: states, individuals, and institutions have the tendency to conceptualize rights according to the Western view. They fail to consider the notion of rights has also been explored and developed in African, Islamic, Asian, and Latin American countries.

Countries from the South seem to agree that human rights are important on a universal level. They differ from the West in terms of how rights are promoted. Human dignity is at the core of the cultural ideals of these regions; thus, it is essential that the rights of the collective as well as its needs be met. Jack Donnelly and others argue the concept of human rights is best interpreted using a constructivist theory. The theory acknowledges that rights are not given to man, but they arise from human action and represent the choice of a particular moral vision (Donnelly 1985). This theory “accords with the sociological view that human rights are a social phenomenon, a creation of the human mind” (Howard 1995B, 15; also seen in Howard 1995A).

The conception of political rights is a Western product, which is slowly making its way through the developing world. A compromise between the West and the rest is required to ensure that all rights are promoted. The West must be sensitive to the cultural needs of developing nations and realize that a dialogue is more persuasive than an imposition of those ideas. Chandra Muzzafar (1994) acknowledges this importance by calling for a move “from Western human rights to universal human dignity” (4). Moreover, she states:

“Main stream human rights ideas…have contributed significantly to human civilization in at least four ways. One, they have endowed the individual with certain basic rights such as the right of free speech, the right of association, the right to a fair trial and so on. Two, they have strengthened the position of the ordinary citizen against the arbitrariness of power. Three, they have expanded the space and scope for individual participation in public decision-making. Four, they have forced the State and authority in general to be accountable to the public” (Muzaffar 1994, 1; Muzaffar 1999, 25-26).

The ideal of global justice is articulated in what is known as ‘humane governance.’ This idea incorporates the concepts of political economy and human rights. This idea examines positive and negative trends along several main focal points or normative concern: security in relation to international and intranational violence; economic well-being in relation to standard human needs and degrees of inequality within and among societies; and the depth and breadth of democratization, including economic and social aspects of human rights and the extent of environmental protection as it relates to present and future conditions (Falk 2000). Jack Donnelly states that its “dangerous to deny differences between civilizations where they do exist or to exaggerate their extent or practical importance” (Donnelly 2002, 105).

The reasoning behind the change in policies is due to a series of elections in Europe in the late 1990s and early part of the 21st century. The result is minimizing emphasis on neo-liberal political orientation of economic globalization and a call for the re-establishment of social Europe or a ‘Third Way’. (Falk 2000; Giddens 1998) Anthony Giddens, a prominent sociologist, is one of the originators of this new ideal. He takes the foundational concepts of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber and applies modern-day realities as discussed in this paper. Giddens argues that the best way forward politically is to borrow ideas from both neo-liberal and social democratic orientations to shape a new level of politics that is both business-friendly and socially empathetic. This avoids the dogmatic extremes of both the unconditional deference to market forces and uncritical endorsement of the welfare state (Giddens 1998).

Falk says the Third Way aims to minimize the intrusiveness of the state without overlooking the special needs of the poor and jobless (Falk 2000). Very important to note that “as long as human rights are conceived as universal human rights, they will tend to operate as a globalized localism, a form of globalization from above. To be able to operate as a cosmopolitan, counter-hegemonic form of globalization human rights must be reconceptualized as multicultural” (de Sousa Santos 1999, 219).

Donnelly, Jack. 2002. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 2nd Edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

---. 1985. The Concept of Human Rights. London, UK: Croom Helm.

Falk, Richard A. 2000. Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World. New York and London: Routledge.

Giddens, Anthony. 1998. The Third Way. Cambridge, Eng.: Polity Press.

Howard, Rhoda E. 1995A. “Human Rights and the Search for Community.” Journal of Peace Research. 32: 1-8.

---. 1995B. Human Rights and the Search for Community. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Muzaffar, Chandra. 1999. “From Human Rights to Human Dignity.” in Debating Human Rights: Critical Essays from the United States and Asia. edited by Peter Van Ness and Nikhil Aziz. London, UK: Routledge.

---. 1994. “From Human Rights to Human Dignity.” Presented at JUST International Conference, ‘Rethinking Human Rights’ at Kuala Lampur.

de Sousa Santos, Boaventura. 1999. “Towards a Multicultural Conception of Human Rights.” Pp. 214-29. in Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World. edited by Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash. London, UK: Sage.
The following the list for May SyncroBlog:
  • Adam Gonnerman on href="http://igneousquill.blogspot.com/2008/05/may-synchroblogbloggers-
    unite.html" target="_blank">Guantanamo Bay in the eyes of God

  • Julie Clawson on http://julieclawson.com/2008/05/14/human-
    rights-and-christian-comfort/" target="_blank">Human rights and Christian

  • Steve Hayes on http://khanya.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/human-
    rights/" target="_blank">Human rights and Christian faith.

  • Steve Hayes (again!) on href="http://khanya.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/human-rights-and-amnesty-
    international/" target="_blank">Human Rights and Amnesty

  • Alan Knox on http://assembling.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-charade-
    is-event-of-season.html" target="_blank">My charade is the event of the

  • Sally Coleman on href="http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/sallys_journey/2008/05/if--bloggers-
    un.html" target="_blank">If.

  • Sonja Andrews on http://www.calacirian.org/?p=822"
    target="_blank">Human wrongs.

  • Cobus van Wyngaard on href="http://mycontemplations.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/christianization-and-
    humanization-and-our-task-in-zimbabwe/" target="_blank">Christianization
    and Humanization and our task in Zimbabwe

  • Janice Fowler on href="http://gracexpectations.blogspot.com/2008/05/voice-overs-needed-or-wake-
    up-speak-up.html" target="_blank">"Voice overs needed" (oe "Wake up --
    speak up")

  • Bryan Riley on href="http://charisshalom.fjministries.com/2008/05/15/bloggers-unite-for-
    human-rights/" target="_blank">Bloggers unite for human

  • Saturday, April 12, 2008

    Anybody Out There

    A couple of weeks ago while driving to New Hamsphire to teach at FPU I was listening to one of my favorite CDs from the 1990s, Anybody Out There by Burlap to Cashmere. I became quite emotional since it dawned on me how the title track is so relevant today with the levels of global poverty and injustice in the world today. The problem is that it seems very little with the exception of the might dollar compel us to act. What make matters worse the Christian Church, the entity which should be striving to address the social justice problems is so wrapped up with their doctrines, rules and pettiness.

    The message of Jesus was quite simple, love your God as yourself and love your enemy. Moreover, one accomplishes such as task by being relational with others and respecting the spirit of the law. What has happened is like the song says we have become deaf and dumb to those who are suffering. Yes there are examples of servitude World Vision and Compassion International, however they are the exception. True we have are jobs, bills, kids, and other daily worries, but we are connected to every man, woman and child as children of God and what impacts one impacts another.

    We think to ourselves its sad that women in the Sudan are being raped, the thousands that were slaughtered in Rwanda in the mid 90s or the hungry children on the streets of Calcutta. Why is that my concern? Its our concern because in the eyes of every man, woman and child is our savior Jesus. As Christians we are compelled to act whether its giving money, going on a mission trip, serving at a soup kitchen or signing a petition. If we don't the following could happen again:

    When the Nazis came for the communists,

    I remained silent;

    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,

    I remained silent;

    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,

    I did not speak out;

    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,

    I remained silent;

    I wasn't a Jew.

    When they came for me,

    there was no one left to speak out.

    The following are links to the syncroblog on Social Activism and Christianity
    Prof Carlos Z. with Ramblings from a Sociologist
    Phil Wyman at Square No More - Salem: No Place for Hating Witches
    Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
    Bryan Riley at at Charis Shalom
    Steve Hayes writes about Khanya: Christianity and social justice
    Reba Baskett at In Reba's World
    Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations: David Bosch, Public Theology, Social Justic
    Cindy Harvey at Tracking the Edge
    Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church
    Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
    John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
    Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
    Lainie Petersen at Headspace
    KW Leslie: Shine: not let it shine
    Stephanie Moulton at Faith and the Environment Collide
    Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
    Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
    Sam Norton at Elizaphanian: Tesco is a Big Red Herring

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    Life of An Adjunct Professor

    Its been about 7 months since I began work as an Adjunct Professor for various schools within driving distance from my apartment in Danvers, MA . April of 2007 I was told by my boss at the time(Chair of the Dept of Sociology), he was replaced by a colleague of his in July that my services would not longer be needed. I was hurt since I had made a effort above and beyond of my responsibilities. Nevertheless, I swallowed my pride and applied for a serious of teaching jobs that would help support me and the over-priced cost of living in New England. In the Fall of 2007 I worked for 3 different schools. One in New Hampshire near the Vermont Border; and two in the North Shore, one that was an 8 week course and the other that lasted the semester. I had been told by colleagues and friends alike try to avoid the Adjunct life. I was not sure what that meant but I can tell you 7 months into that I understand completely.

    It means commuting 3-5 hrs a day driving to teach 2-3 courses in fields of study that very different from my academic training. It means not being able to connect with your students that way you would like because you want to avoid driving too late and being tired. At the same time it means not being able to connect with the institution one works at either by attending a talk, sporting event or social activity at that institution. Do I regret it, thats hard to say since there were circumstances that made my decisions for me.

    This semester I have continued to work at that New Hampshire institution, teaching Spanish language and culture courses; one institution in Cambridge and starting next month another institution in Charlestown. This semester is better in regards to the courses I am teaching, plus the students are more receptive.

    There is a chance I may move from the area which would break my heart, but the life of Adjunct is not one for the light-hearted and as a man who loves teaching and connecting with my students I want my life back.

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Iraq, Who is Impacted the Most

    I am presently looking at CNN on a Tuesday evening and the headline is Iraq, Success or Failure? That to me seems beside the point. Since our current president decided to invade this Middle Eastern country, 5 years ago, the bigger question is who has been impacted the most. Let's see: 1. The price of gas is over $3 a gallon (as of yesterday when I drove into Salem, MA its $3.13); 2. Consumer prices have risen dramatically parallel to the rise in gas prices (my rent will increase $20 more dollars a month); 3. 3500+ U.S. men and women have lost their lives and thousands more have been injured physically and mentally; 4. Thousands of Iraqi men, women and children (estimates 100,000 to 350,000); 4. Civil Liberties guaranteed by the constitution have been revoked all in the name of battling terrorism; 5. The U.S. is hated more today than when our current president came into office in 2000(France, Germany, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc); 6. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005(not enough National Guard troops since they are in Iraq); 7. Osma Bin Laden has he been captured; 8. Guatanamo Bay Secret Prisons; etc.

    The list can go on. One of my conservative friends (MC) will defend the actions of our current president and I respect his opinion, but the fact is that Iraq does not equal 9/11. Also the situation of Afghanistan is worsening since all our troops are elsewhere. Iraq is the Vietnam of the 21st century, hopefully we will learn our lessons before anyone else is impacted.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Election 2008

    The 2008 Election is history in the making for the U.S. Either a woman or a black man will be the democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain of the Republican Party. Both these groups have been under-represented in all aspects of society. Women did not received the right to vote until the 1920s, blacks waged a civil rights campaign for over a decade in order to receive the rights entitled to them after the end of the Civil War in 1865. Despite all that women make only 80 cents to every dollar a man makes. Blacks and other minorities are segregated in neighborhoods that are under-funded violence prone. I am not saying anything new. However, U.S. society if they do not wake up and find out for themselves the truth in regards to politics may miss out on making history. As a spiritual and liberal latino I am extremely excited. Change is what the U.S. needs and if we do not pay attention we may let that change pass us by.

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    Prayer for One of the Gathering

    On Wednesday, the son Elijah Wyman, son of my dear friend and Pastor Phil will undergo a kidney transplant. I want to extend a virtual hug and an over ambundance of prayer. A saying goes, what effects one affects everyone. As a member of the Church, The Gathering this event impacts everyone of us. If one wants to donate to help with the cost of this surgery which I am sure will be a lot, please do so at http://elijahwyman.com/rottenkidneys.html

    My family and myself wish you all the best and you will be in our prayers.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Tag You Are It

    I have been tagged by the Why Man and here are my responses. I tag Rivera Blog and Dr. James ,

    I will only tag two to be gentle to the blogosphere: So you'll have to answer these questions dudes.

    1. Male or Female: male

    2. Married or Single (or religious): Single but hoping to be taken

    3. Dream vacation: Barbados, barefoot on the beach

    4. Birthplace: Aruba, Netherland Antilles

    5. Area I live in currently: Danvers, MA close to The world's coolest city - Salem, MA

    6. Someone you wish you could meet: Karl Marx

    7. Biggest "pet-peeve": Lack of communication

    8. Favorite Religious devotion: Lectio Divina is nice and my night prayers

    9. Favorite Saint (besides the Blessed Mother): Saint Jude

    10. Favorite sport that you play: Soccer and Tennis

    11. Favorite food: Arroz con Pollo

    12. Tridentine or Novus Ordo: Novus Ordo

    13. Would you (or are you) home school or public school: Neither Catholic or Mainstream Protestant School

    14. How many kids do you have: none, hopefully two in the future

    15. Ever been in an auto accident: Yes, twice

    16. Ever seen a pope in person: Nope.

    17. Languages that you know fluently: Spanish, English and almost in Portuguese

    18. Last movie you saw in theatres: Georgia Rules and Spiderman 3

    19. Favorite Blog: Square No More, Why Man and John Smulo

    20. Your thoughts on Barney, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus: Evil, Needs to be gone since Easter is about Christ and keep the jolly guy.