We have all seen sayings like "Right to health care" or "Right to education" or any variation there of. The question is, how does one define a right? If you go here <dictionary.reference.com/brows…
> (scroll down for full definition) you can see that it is described as that which is good, proper, moral or just. But is that really the case? Those four words used to define rights are subjective.
How subjective? Very. In traditional Muslim teaching it is good, proper, moral, and just to stone a woman that has committed adultery. So according to that culture, it is a woman's right to get stoned to death. Yet many other cultures consider this to be wrong, improper, immoral, and unjust. So in those cultures it is not a right. So who is correct?
People talk about the right to liberty, but don't we remove that right from those that break the law? We also remove the right to life from those we execute. And do we really need to discuss the right "to the pursuit of happiness?" If we are removing rights from people, are they really a basic human right?
I think this is something we all need to agree on before we start arguing over the issues. Rather than say it is a basic human right to something or other, why not sit down and actually determine if it really is? I'm not saying that there are no rights period. I'm saying that some of the things people claim are rights may in fact not be.
To start with, I will state how I tend to determine if something is a human right or not. Is it almost universally accepted around the world in almost every culture? If not, then it is a cultural right, not human. If, however, it is accepted through out the world, excepting some small pockets, then it is a human right. I think this exposes just what is and is not used universally across the cultures to determine treatment.
One of the rights that almost every culture has (at least among men) is the right to personal dignity. Think of the way the samurai would treat each other on the battlefield. Or the Native Americans would act. They recognized that there was some sort of dignity their opponent had, and they would try to preserve that, even in death. So there is a basic human right.
The right to attempt to survive seems to be another one. What culture have we found that denies the ability for an individual to try and eke out some sort of existence? The only time that this right is universally infringed upon is when the person in question has broken some law or taboo. Then most cultures tend to rescind that person's right to live.
Perhaps that is another right. The right to pass judgment. We all do it every day. When you walk down the street, you judge other people based on attire, the way the walk, attitude, and general behavior. It is basic human nature to try and judge somebody so you can try and predict what will happen. We also judge people based on our personal set of morals. What may be morally right to me is wrong to others. So it is a basic human right to judge others.
However, things like health care, education, birth control, gun ownership, and free speech aren't recognized around the world as basic human rights. Those are again a cultural thing. Here in the US, we do have rights to those things. But China, North Korea, and Russia do not. They don't think that those are things that the average citizen needs or should even have. So are they rights? I don't think so. They are instead privileges that masquerade as rights.
Does this mean we should stop fighting for these things? No. We should continue to fight for these things as our government has given us the right to have them. But do not confuse them for basic human rights.