'The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human'

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Rauf Yoel Ariti
'The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human'

“Not man, but a god must be the measure of all things.” said Plato, and the events of the last century have proved just how right he was. With the decline of religious authority and belief in an all-powerful God, humans have turned away from the idea that what gives them their human essence is an immortal soul bestowed by God. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, when confronted with the dilemma of where to place their beliefs, they decided to place them unto themselves. In ‘The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’ they decided that Man himself was the source of all rights and laws. Man was himself the be-all and end-all of existence. But with putting Man upon the divine pedestal, they also dug their own grave; never again would human rights be inalienable and factual, they would always be abstract concepts, within Man’s power to give and take.

Yet ‘The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’ got something right; it would not be Man’s naked humanity that made him eligible for human rights, but the facts that he was a citizen. Karl Marx held the belief that human rights degraded the citoyen while promoting the homme, but as Arendt says “We are not born equal; we become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to guarantee ourselves mutually equal rights.” That is to say, the homme cannot receive equal rights without at the same time being a citoyen.

The question is, where does that leaves the millions of refugees around the world? We are experiencing the worst refugee crisis since the end of WWII, and the world’s reaction is not much different than it was 70 years ago. This means that all the talk of inherent, inalienable human rights for the last 70 years was just that, talk. Without a community, a state to take care of them, humans still aren’t eligible for the ‘right to have rights.’ Why has the human rights experiment seemingly failed? Is it a failing of ideology or application? What can we do to bring matters back onto their proper course? These are questions that have to be answered if we wish to continue with the human rights experiment.



  • Refugees Human Rights History Karl Marx Stateless People
Grace Harlan
While there is a seemingly

While there is a seemingly hopeless refugee crisis, it is unfair to say that we have not come a long way since World War II. It does not seem fair to say that one isolated issue overshadows all the progress that human rights has made. Just like our debate in class, there are different definitions of human rights. Some people would say it has failed, or that is has succeeded, but despite your perspective, it needs to be acknowledged that there has been progress made, but there is still more that needs to be done. That concept further complicates your question of how to get human rights back on track, considering the fact that human rights activists have been tirelessly advocating for influential change towards a brighter future for all. We feel that when dealing with human rights, one needs to have an open-mind and be willing to hear others' opinions. In truth, 70 years is not an immeasurable amount of time, and the presence of human rights will only increase with more time.m

Rosie Zeng
The skepticism toward the

The skepticism toward the implementation of human rights has always been on not only for this 70 years but also from the beginning of definition of “human rights”. Because of the nature human rights which can be applied to any realm in daily lives, it interacts with other problems, not only from the political realm, but also economic and cultural, etc. Due to the nature of its complexity, we cannot assume that the ongoing problems means “failure”, because it is on its way to development, and that it always has and always will be problems in the future. For the third question, our task is to specify the problems so that we can solve these problems one by one. To look at this problem in a particular angle, one of the reasons that the human rights cannot be implemented may resulted in the conflict between self-interest and the interest for human as a whole. This can be reflected by the reality that UN right now hasn’t have a mature, sustainable democratic system to make important decisions. The power of making the decisions are largely held by few countries, such as the countries holding the power of veto(China, U.S., U.K., France, Russia). As the largest international organization aiming at implementing human rights and peace, it should have a more just system that could endure changes and overturn injustice. As it states in the book In the Light of Justice, the first step to achieve human rights is to include the people that deserve human rights highlighted in the title like mentioning “indigenous people” in the Declaration. For the second question, it may be the obstacles in application that led to the diminishing of ideology for human rights, but it also may be reversed, in which the loss of confidence for human rights and these values made the implementation harder to be achieved.

By Zeng Ruoxi from Group 2

Response from Group 1

Truly, it’s horrible for a person to be in the situation of abstract nakedness of being human, i.e. stateless. However, the problem that some people don’t have the “right to have rights” has little, if any, relationship with whether there is a community, or whether there is a state. As we can see that during America’s colonial expansion, the whole society simply became “blinded to the inequities under our feet”, and even federal courts “contribute to the inattention”. Then under this circumstance, what else than pain of losing their own sovereignty and the sore caused by injustice did the state brought to the indigenous people of the Americans?

It seems plausible that the talk of inherent, inalienable human rights never seems to keep people away from the violation and robbery of their “right to have rights”. However, it is the talk that matters. Only through keeping the talk of problems going could give rise to the opportunity to make the world see the problems, and finally let people get the chance to make some changes about it. I don’t think the human rights experiment has failed, even though it seems have. Maybe our expectations of the human rights, like a utopia, will never be achieved at all. As Echo-Hawk said in the book IN THE LIGHT OF JUSTICE that, “The language of human rights was at the core of the discourse leading to self-correction. Resort to the human rights framework has thus proven invaluable. It provides a larger perspective, grounded in universal values to evaluate perplexing social ills.” Rather than an achievable goal, I think Human rights should be more thought of as a framework, a guideline, and a belief, that stops people from committing wrongdoings and help people to find the balance between defending the basics rights and freedom of themselves without offending others. And the most Important and valuable function of human rights is to help people who make mistake to self-correct.

Leela Cañuelas-Puri
Response from Group 4

The failure of the human rights movement to take care of refugees is both a structural problem and a problem of application. It would be difficult to honestly say that states are fully applying themselves to the protections we already have for refugees. The discussions leading up to the British Exit and the candidacy of Mr. Trump in the United States are evidence of this problem. However, it is also true that the international human rights movement has set itself up for failure on this issue because it relies on states as the primary enforcers of human rights and, as Kennedy points out in his essay “The International Human Rights Movement: Part of the Problem,” the human rights movement has also historically relied solely on law to solve problems rather than addressing background causes of human rights violations. These methods are poorly suited to address the problems of stateless people or refugees living under fuzzy laws and do nothing to address the reasons they became refugees in the first place.

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