Human beings can be cruel beings


FIle photo taken last March shows Filipino women, mostly domestic workers, at a temporary shelter at the Jeddah Seaport Hajj Terminal awaiting their repatriation to the Philippines. (AN photo by John Pamintuan)

FIle photo taken last March shows Filipino women, mostly domestic workers, at a temporary shelter at the Jeddah Seaport Hajj Terminal awaiting their repatriation to the Philippines. (AN photo by John Pamintuan)

The human right’s debate is an ongoing dialogue; every country (and individual citizens) has a point of view and sees at least one other country as violating basic human rights; right is my way, wrong is your way.   On most any day, in the United States you can find at least one story on China, India or a Muslim country where basic human social, legal or economic rights are being violated.  At the same time it is not difficult in those countries to find the same kind of story about the United States or a European country.  Today, Al Jazeerah has a story from Miami were police were beating innocent people and one of the victims secretly filmed it – that is not a story I read here. Recently,  in Holland a court  declared an anti-Muslim lawmaker’s statements to be protected free speech and he was free to continue to rant and rave about the evils of Islam;  the Islamic world saw that decision a violation of Islamic religious rights, just as it saw the French and English laws to restrict the wearing of head-scarfs has a violation of a basic human right.

As I have mentioned before, the Chinese frequently criticize the west for criticizing China’s internal policies; there is an interview today in China Global Times with the editor of the paper where he says China is just different.  According to Hu Xijin China has always avoided preaching to other countries and other countries should do the same.  The Chinese at least note our objections, we usually ignore it when other countries point out our flaws – such as our treatment of minorities or immigrants.   But as I said it is a debate, a political debate; examine the details how of police treat some categories of prisoners in any country, including ours, and you will find abuse.  Today, violence flared in the streets of Cairo again and a thousand people are said to have been injured; the anti-government protestors say the new government is unjust and presupposing the peoples’ revolution.  The government countered with claims the rioters were armed thugs and criminals trying to upset the social order.  Pick a side and you pick a definition – on the other side lie the violators of human rights.  In the United States, England, France, China, Russia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Pakistan, India, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Gaza, Morocco  or the West Bank  – in every country on the planet there are two polar opposite claims of justice and human rights.

Even the most extreme examples of mistreatment will find justification by the mistreaters.   Saudi Arabia is frequently the center of criticism on human rights grounds; the Saudi defend themselves with Islam normally – that is Saudi Arabia follows the laws of God and Islam and is therefore correct and just.  That includes preventing women from being alone in public or driving, it includes jailing foreign for kissing or dressing indecently, there is a special police whose job is to find moral deviation.  An area that has been harder for Saudis to defend has been imported domestic workers; claims of slavery, starvation, non-payment of wages, sexual abuse and out and out cruelty have often been leveled at wealthy Saudis.  In the most recent case, an employer was accused of beheading his maid – but found not guilty by Saudi law.  More often than not, the foreign workers are found to be violating Saudi law and the lucky ones are deported, the unlucky die or remain in virtual slavery.  In reaction to the beheading, two countries, the Philippines and Indonesian have placed restrictions on workers going to Saudi Arabia until the Saudis pass laws protecting them from such treatment – from violations of their human rights. The Saudis reacted immediately and passed a law prohibiting the granting of visas to workers from the Philippines and Indonesia until those countries come to their senses and allow Saudis to be Saudis.

Besides the Saudi story from the Arab News (a Saudi media outlet), I watched coverage of events in Cairo and two documentaries today, one on prostitutes living in India and the other on a human rights activist living in Gaza; both made me sad, very sad. It is a confusing world out there and there is more than one way to interpret the events we see taking place – but one thing seems clear to me – the only universal human right appears to be the right to treat other human beings anyway that suits your fancy if you have the power to do so.

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