Human rights vs Human responsibility

There’s been an interesting post on Slashdot (a regular visit for me) recently regarding the use of Blogs as spam.

When somebody commented that they like to see a Google feature that filters out blogs a discussion ensued which included some comments about how asking people not to blog was against human rights (free speech) and also the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights.

Image by Catching Light CC:By

The US Bill of Rights aside (like much of the web I am not American and have never read it so I can’t really comment) as a human and a (very occasional) blogger I thought I’d comment on the idea that blogging is a human right (that of free speech).

Much seems to be made and held of certain (to use the US term) “inalienable human rights” we aapprently have. These I am lead to believe include things like the right to life, freedom from tyranny, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion (or not accordingly).

The problem I see with this idea of human rights is that the idea is worthless on it’s own. I can bang on to my heart’s content about my freedom to life but if someone runs me over my “right” is worthless. Okay so governments can protect against such a thing but only in theory. They could ensconce in law the right to life and punish my killer but that would not actually ensure I get my right to life.

Now if we talk about Human Responsibility in place of human rights then it starts to make more sense.

  • Instead of a right to life we have the responsibility to protect and care for it.
  • Instead of a right to freedom we have the responsibility to allow it.
  • Instead of a right to freedom of speech we have the responsibility to listen and engage in dialogue.
  • Instead of a right to freedom of religion we have the responsibility to respect other’s faith (or deliberate absence thereof) but live out our own.
  • Instead of a right to blog we have a responsibility to blog respectfully.
  • Instead of a right to have blogs excluded from our searches, we have a responsibility to exclude them (thus implying the search engines have a responsibility to give us this functionality, much as Google does with it’s safe-searching facility now).

And human responsibility can be legislated for just as much (if not better than) human rights. Murder is the deliberate choice to avoid the responsibility to protect and care for life.

I am a Christian and throughout my life I have heard that the Bible promotes human rights. This is generally because of passages that speak of social care for the ostracised. But by my reading those passages refer to a responsibility on the part of those that have to aid those that have not. There is no mention of a widow or orphan’s right to be looked after. There is mention of the responsibility of the rest of us to do so. There is no mention of a mugged man’s right to a Samaritan’s aid, there is mention of the responsibility of us all to help those in need.

Update March 11 2012: There’s been some fuss in parts of the UK press today because the UK Government have declared Christians have no right to wear a cross openly at work. To this I would say that we Christians need to stop thinking of our rights altogether. In this instance instead of a right to wear a cross at work we have a responsibility to show our faith by our fruit and not our choice of jewelry.

One final big difference between human rights and human responsibility. It is possible to infringe on other people’s human rights without realising or meaning it. It is almost impossible to ignore your human responsibility by accident – you have to mean to do so.