Monday, August 11, 2014

Basic Human Rights

Over the course of history, the population has grown too large for people to be completely autonomous.  There was, no doubt, a good deal of sense when individuals began to bond together for hunting and gathering.  There was safety in numbers.  Less animals like buffalo and deer had to be slaughtered when a group shared the bounty. There was less waste that way.  Crops could be grown by some people working together while others tanned the skins or preserved the foods.

But with the advantages of socialization came problems as well.  Alone, man had complete control over himself.  With others he had to learn to adapt to the needs of his clan.  (You know, what we would call being considerate of others and using manners).  It was not okay for individual man to hurt, steal from or abuse others just because he needed or wanted something they had.

Each society developed their own rules and regulations to keep some from impinging on the individual human rights of others.  William Graham Sumner introduced the word mores into our language in the early nineteen hundreds.  Sumner said -- as we can concur -- each society believes their own mores are the right ones.  Sumner said that believing our own mores are the most desirable is ethnocentrism. 

Per Random House Collegiate Dictionary, ethnocentrism is the belief in the superiority of one's own group or culture.  It is also a tendency to view other cultures in terms of our own.  Snobbery or arrogance, in other words.  I'm right, you're wrong, and I don't care what you think.

People believe what they are taught to believe and their way is the only right way -- in their own opinion.  But who made their rules?  Did their mores and then their laws evolve from agreement of all individuals, no matter their sex, age, level of education, temperament, etc.?  Or, did a bunch of bullies bash others into submission and tell them what to do?

We've all seen cartoon pictures of ancient man clothed in animal skins and dragging a large club with one hand and a woman by her hair with the other.  Is that the kind of individual that made our rules, or did everybody have a say?

In the Garden of Eden, after God made woman to be a companion for man, there was only one rule -- don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Per Bible history, a serpent enticed Eve to eat the fruit, and then Eve enticed Adam to have some, too.  Adam, of course, could have said no, but did he?  No, he was more than willing to join the fun.  Yet man is never, ever held responsible for his enjoyment.  It is always a woman's fault.

Although most of us know this story from the Christian Bible, which includes books from the Torah in it's Old Testament, other cultures also tell first man/first woman stories and some even tell of the flood.

Much of the thinking and rule making of the Middle Eastern cultures was based on the idea women sinned all by themselves and enticed men to join them.  And God supposedly punished women by making them have the children.  Hence, all things women, especially those related to childbirth, became woman's cross to bear and man should not be involved.

Radical religious people today still blame woman for all sexual exploits, even if a man rapes a woman --  which western cultures now know to be a man's need for power and control over the victim.  It is never a need or aberration of a man that is at fault, it is always the fault of Eve and her female descendants.  Jesus, himself, happened on a stoning where two individuals had actually committed adultery.  He stopped the stoning by saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".  Everybody walked away that time.  But stoning still takes place in non-Christian cultures and religious zealots still sometimes kill their daughters who have been raped.  The family's own pride and embarrassment is considered more important than the child they supposedly loved from birth.  Such love I can do without.

From this environment came early Christians.  None of us seem to be able to totally shed our learning and reconstruct ourselves completely with new beliefs.  The early Christians, such as the eleven remaining disciples and Paul and his followers did the best they could.  Yet, we find hints of previous religions in our current religious practices.  For example, the habit of saying Amen was a holdover from Egyptian religions.  Easter came from a celebration for the goddess Ishtar.  You understand?  Our beliefs, our mores, our practices hinge on our backgrounds and our cultural habits. So, we differ in many ways, yet we all think we are right.

Westerners, particularly North Americans, have learned to fight and stand up for our rights.  The country as a whole fought for freedom.  African Americans, with the help of several generations of Caucasians, have fought for their freedom.  Women and slaves had to fight for the right to learn as well as the right to vote.  Both have had to assert their right for equal opportunities of employment.  Both are still fighting for equal pay for equal work.  Both still have to insist that government men and employers recognize their rights.

The revered papers written by our forefathers declare that all men are created equal.  The problem is they were not speaking of mankind.  Their definition, if you recall, did not include women and slaves.  Both were chattel -- the one meant to serve man as servants and the other meant to serve them as people who carried and delivered men's children, plus supervised the running of their homes.

Men began our country.  Men have served as our presidents.  Mostly men have written our laws.  Mostly men have peopled our courts.  Mostly men have served in our churches, written our religious laws.  In fact, Catholics and Southern Baptists still don't permit women in the ministry.  Women are relegated to the serving roles facilitating the work of the important individuals -- mostly white men.

People who are attracted to power positions in religious and public life are usually people seeking control over others as well as personal recognition.  A lot of these individuals take it as their basic right to tell others what to do through mores and rules and laws.  Often their fervor goes well beyond the necessity for helping us all to live well together.  They forget to focus on basic individual human rights.  They focus instead on their needs to tell others what to do.

When people do point out that the federal government is out of line  --  out of control --  they are usually saying the States should have the rule.  Wrong.  No one body, or two bodies, or even four bodies of power should have the ability to infringe on individuals.  Whether government or religious, no group --  Congress, Southern Baptists, Catholics or Muslims, even -- has a right to try to bend others or design rules to bend others to their will.

Both government and religion should facilitate us living more rewarding and happier lives.  They should not be allowed to dictate how we live our daily lives.  They should not be bastions of power for the ever greedy control freaks.  They should not be places where the weak can be exploited by the strong.  They should be places that foster the growth and dignity of each individual, black or white, male or female, young or old, rich or poor.

And once we seek to right a recognized wrong, we need to see to it that the pendulum does not swing too far in the other direction either.  Change comes easier through rational and reasonable means than it does when a whole mob stones -- literally and figuratively.

Don't mess with my rights.  I won't mess with yours.  As long as I don't infringe on you or others, nobody has the right to infringe on me.

No comments:

Post a Comment