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RETHINKING HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS BY NICHOLAS COPELLO

Introduction


This article is intended as a critique of ‘human rights’ jurisprudence. It is intended to provoke thought and discussion and not to propose any particular policies.


Human rights as we know them were birthed in the French Revolution and reintroduced into Western Europe in 1948 in a moment of unipolar hegemony. We will establish the flaws in the philosophical justification for human rights and its stated purpose, and propose what the actual purpose and effect of them is. This is invariably a large subject matter and it is not proposed that the arguments or examples given are in any way exhaustive.


The original myth states that human rights were necessary after the Second World War to stop such events from occurring again, thus birthing the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. There has been no war of such magnitude since, exclaim its proponents, the bloodshed could only be stopped by taking inspiration from the French Revolution! Those Jacobin laws were repackaged and the name was minimally changed from the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’.


While true that those who imposed Human Rights in 1948 were able to hold back the tide unleashed which subsumed and killed many of those responsible for their implementation in 1789, this has not stopped their nefarious uses throughout the years. It may be fair here to note that there was not a total gap of human rights between 1789 and 1948; the Bolsheviks in the East also created a constitution which guaranteed human rights in a manner almost identical to those of the Jacobins and the modern liberals in the west. With such a track record one must surely question what their effect is supposed to be and why 1948 was the time to resurrect them.


As a short aside, it is arguable whether the constitution of the USSR does constitute human rights, as they are not declared as universal; however, much like with human rights which are outwardly universalist, the USSR sought to impose its ideology on the rest of the world as one of its stated ambitions, with rights being the backbone of their justification. Nevertheless, this is not the focus of this article and as such I will only mention the USSR briefly throughout.



There exists then a dichotomy between the philosophical basis for human rights and the political usage of them, with surprisingly little of the former carrying over in reality to the way in which they are utilised. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the each in their own right.


Philosophical Foundations


We shall first address some of the thoughts underpinning human rights. We first must understand why it is fair to say that human rights began in the French Revolution and not before, as there are many attempts from contemporary voices to place the origin of human rights at a date prior to this. Magna Carta is cited by many as the first step towards human rights law in England, while more ambitious theories claim these ideas existed in the ancient world, the earliest alleged example I have come across is Cyrus the Great in the Achaemenid Empire. However, what creates an extreme departure from those examples, and displays human rights as a novel creation, is their purported universality; they do not simply state a right exists for a specific group of people but for the entire world.


Universalist Ethics and the Departure from Tradition


Such a notion of a universal ethic was entirely absent from the pre-modern world and is truly first implemented in 1789. I will provide two examples to show the extreme departure from Tradition which this ethic entails, although many more may be cited.

As a general point, laws derived from divinity, not from human creation, and are inseparable from the ‘religion’ of the people whom they were given to. Laws were specific to those people and would often not even be made for foreigners living in the land, let alone for people on the far side of the world. To quote a passage from Fustel de Coulanges as our first example:


“when they said that the law was civil… they did not understand simply that every city had its code, as in our day every state has a code. They meant that their laws had no force or power except between the members of the same city. To live in a city did not make one subject to its laws and place him under their protection; one had to be a citizen.”[1]


A second example is the ancient Indian story of Rama cutting the head off the Sudra ascetic Shambuka. The reason for the slaying being that Shambuka, being of the Sudra caste, was prohibited from practising asceticism and in doing so committed a Dharmic transgression. This example is arguably even more striking than the above as the two men in question were of the same people but had vastly different ‘rights’.


In both of these examples, we see the essential difference between traditional and modern laws in respect of the particularist ethic juxtaposed with contemporary universalist ethics.


Laws distinguished radically between different people, even of the same society. While empires did expand and would to an extent take their laws and customs with them, the notion of one set of laws being for the entire world is an extreme departure from what preceded it.



It ought to be self-evident that departing from the wisdom passed down to us by almost every society around the world over thousands of years is foolish, but the importance of intellectual continuity is explained concisely by Rene Guenon:


“it is almost inconceivable that a man should claim an idea as his own; and in any case, were he to do so, he would thereby deprive it of all credit and authority, reducing it to the level of a meaningless fantasy. If an idea is true, it belongs equally to all those who are capable of understanding it; if it is false, there is no credit in having invented it. A true idea cannot be “new” for truth is not a product of the human mind; it exists independently of us, and all that we have to do is get to know it, outside this knowledge there can be nothing but error”[2]


There is no basis for ascribing the same rules to vast swathes of people. Even the most extreme egalitarian must admit that there are duties of a father which are different to that of a son. The father will in fact have had the duties of the son at a prior time and in relation to his own father, but to simply ascribe one set of ethical principles to all three generations of men at the same time is clearly nonsensical. The same applies to the peasant and the king, or to the citizen and the foreigner, and there is no foundation to consider that these people can all be considered equal in any manner or that the same rules should apply to them in any respect.


Spiritual Deficiency


Perhaps, however, those proponents of human rights will respond by proclaiming their joy of achieving freedom from such oppressive laws as set out previously, delighting at their destruction, and the creation of the principles of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’. However, while such a schizophrenic statement does not acknowledge that equality is the death of liberty, it is more importantly the death of all virility of the spirit. By removing all notion of superiority, one is dragged down and chained to the chthonic and transient, precluded from anything greater. Whether that superiority is manifested as physical excellence, intellectual excellence, or any other form, it requires inequality.


Ascribing such importance to mere “rights” obfuscates and demeans that most vital in man. All aspects of the transcendental are eliminated and, instead, the basest instincts of man are raised to the highest level. The duties of man, and the “mights of man”, raise the spirit of man to a higher level, which is itself a multiplicity. Thomas Carlyle states thus:


“With endless debating, we get the Rights of Man written down and promulgated: true paper basis of all paper Constitutions. Neglecting, cry the opponents, to declare the Duties of Man! Forgetting, answer we, to ascertain the Mights of Man; one of the fatalest omissions!”[3]


This aspect of human rights is a manifestation of the Nietzschean slave morality which seeks to propagate those aspects of the lowest order by making them that which is most commended. The ethic demands that “everything that elevates the individual above the herd and intimidates the neighbour is henceforth called evil”[4], resulting in a form of man which is supine and devoid of thumos.


The rights, while maintaining man’s ties to the telluric, also serve to sever the ties between men which creates a society and a community.


Societal Breakdown


The imposition of Human Rights upon members of society presupposes and encourages a form of individualism which dissuades man's bond with gods and other men alike. Man is turned into an atomised being devoid of any relation to others. Karl Marx captures this criticism in manner which states all that need be said:


“None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society – that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-life itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bond holding them together is natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.”[5]


While ordinary citizens will be affected in this way, as concerns the leader, by taking his focus away from responsibility to his own people and putting that responsibility onto the entire world, an unsolvable conflict is created. There is no reason for those underneath the leader to trust him if he is willing to betray them for anybody else in the world, especially if he is acting on the basis of the unjustifiable and inexorably protean doctrine of human rights.


Human Rights in the World


As an introductory point for this section, it is worth considering what the purpose of creating a positive law guaranteeing a certain right is. If one simply did not create laws to restrict that right then the positive law serves no practical purpose. It is only in the context of restricting that right that any purpose of such a declaration can be ascertained, namely that it is just that, a declaration!


Human rights do not protect what they purport to


It is worth first inspecting some of the wording of our own human rights law, and so by way of example Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, the right to free expression, is quoted below:


1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.


The extent of the vague and limitless reasons given as justifications to restrict the alleged right are so clear that they cannot be missed. These rights are often described as inalienable and yet this is not evident from the statutory wording. Article 10 is by no means unusual in this regard. There are plenty of laws which prohibit various forms of thought and speech, usually for something considered ‘offensive’ but also including the criminalisation of internal thoughts and prayers.[6]


Such practical considerations will lead one to the conclusion that in fact many citizens have their ‘rights’ restricted to a far greater extent today than they did prior to the novel creation of human rights. A Pater Familias in Rome had authority akin to that of a priest-king within the household[7], and with significantly less state interference than anything the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life would ever even purport to.


History of previous human rights regimes


We must consider the historical implications of human rights law. As stated in the introduction, the two famous precedents for human rights outside of the modern West are the Jacobins in the French Revolution and the Bolsheviks. I shall not copy the entirety of these laws, but for direct comparison to that set out above see Article 11 of the 1789 Declaration: “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law”[8]. The constitution of the USSR equally guarantees freedom of speech under Article 125[9].


It is also worthy of note that all three times human rights were implemented on the back of extreme violence and as a way of cementing the victory reaped by the conflict. With respect to the Jacobin, in addition to the preceding bloodshed, such was the violence which followed the imposition of human rights that a period of the same is aptly named the “Reign of Terror”. In the period between the two Edmund Burke wrote:


“The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints”[10]


The terror was not, however, confined to the reign; such was the extent of the unbridled chaos that almost all of the major figures of the Jacobin movement itself were subsumed and killed by it, Robespierre the most famous but only one of many.

Little probably needs to be said of the treatment by the USSR of its own citizens, and the effectiveness of its constitutional human rights in stopping that. Parodied by Orwell with the famous line “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, the extent of the USSR’s tyranny against its own people is well known.


Suffice to say the alleged spirit of human rights was not followed as written in either event. What then of the West?


Prior to the introduction of human rights into England, there were stronger forms of laws which had existed for hundreds of years and would allegedly guarantee rights to its citizens. Magna Carta in 1215 stated that those over whom its law presided could not be imprisoned unlawfully, and the still effective Habeas Corpus Act 1679 supposedly guaranteed the same. This did not stop the government implementing Defence Regulation 18B and imprisoning hundreds without any trial, including Oswald Mosley and Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter, out of fear that they may not agree with government policy.


The policy itself is rarely criticised by human rights activists and one would suspect many would support a reimplementation of a similar regulation today so long as it targets whomever they perceive their enemies to be. The same reveals, what are often the true intentions behind human rights laws, namely their use as a vehicle for tyranny and control. This much is abundantly evident in their usage across the world. This pre-human rights example shows that even laws significantly less vague, more specific to a particular group of people, and with greater historical precedent may easily be set aside where convenient; in this context, the result of the vague universalist human rights is entirely predictable, whereby they are simply turned on and off at will to suit whatever is convenient.


Outside of the domestic sphere, human rights have, since their creation, been a fuel of modern colonialism and a form of non-militaristic Western expansionism. To a greater or lesser degree, human rights have been used as at least part of the justification for wars in Iraq, Serbia, Libya and Syria. Western and US backed colour revolutions often cite human rights as their pretext. All of these are simply colonialistic machinations of a kind many human rights advocates would claim to oppose, simply adapted to a form to suit their sensibilities.


Outside of wars and Western backed anti-government protests, we see constant examples of the same impetus. The recent world cup in Qatar served as a platform to use human rights to try to demean the culture of the host country for not adhering to the ‘values’ of the Western hegemon. An attempt to flatten those differences and diversity which can be observed across the world.


The thought behind human rights is uniquely Western, it cannot truly be understood outside of this context and is solely a symptom of a degenerated and decadent form of the European man. However, it echoes certain past attitudes all the same, albeit in a less spirited manner. The similarities between the human right advocate seeking to tear down non-liberal cultures and the Spanish Conquistador destroying those he encountered in South America, or the British colonialist trying to ‘educate’ the savage out of his traditional ways, cannot be reasonably denied. Both are forms of ambitious expansionism that have managed to justify themselves by stating that what they are doing is for the good of those they destroy.


Human rights are a key component of a world in which distinction is erased. Such a doctrine is tyrannical and hostile towards any cultures or ideas which disagree with it and seeks to destroy them at every turn. The end result of this ideology is a world in which there is no distinction between peoples or cultures and only the same set of flattening materialist assumptions may be adhered to.

[1] Numa Denis Fustel De Coulanges, The Ancient City, 156 [2] Rene Guenon, The Crisis of the Modern World, 82 [3] Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, 152 [4] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 201 [5] Marx, On the Jewish Question [6] See for example the Communications Act 2003, the Public Order Act 2023, or the proposed Online Safety Bill. [7] See Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, 38 [8] For further comparison the whole Declaration may be found at https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp [9] For the full constitution see https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1936/12/05.html [10] Edmund Burke, Reflections, 8

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A well written article of interest - expanding Orwell's statement, when applying some human rights, one is denying another theirs.

Would Human Rights not be better served by referring to such rights as Common Law?

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