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Let’s not talk about human rights anymore

The term “human rights” was established by humans — because they found out that humans themselves violate each other’s rights. We have seen that humans suffer due to many natural calamities, but we don’t opine that nature has violated our rights. Sometimes, we take it for granted that God has ordered nature to calamitize human lives with its fury, but we haven’t actually seen God ordering it. We have read it in the scriptures, and the rest is our imagination.
What is not our imagination is that a handful of humans are responsible for atrocities committed against other humans. The handful does it for their own comfort — both physical and psychological. They also shed some empathetic tears for our suffering.
The handful have been saying that they want to ensure our basic human rights — such as food, clothing, and shelter. While we struggle to achieve the very basics, they establish their goods-producing factories, employ us in those units, ensure our basic rights, and earn profits for their own comfort.
That’s okay. We know it is quite natural for them to earn enormous profits and expand their need for wealth that they don’t need for an extremely decent life. But they do. If we see the gap between the super-rich and the rest of the population in each and every country, it looks like the rich only want to provide the very basic to the majority of the people and they want to sit on the big money.
So, we coined the term “basic rights.”
By now, after traversing for 6,000 years, we know that the common people were never in favour of wars or armed conflicts. Wars have been infringed upon us. Yes, there were many occasions in which the common people had preferred wars, because they wanted freedom from another infringer.
Wars have always expedited human suffering, extreme violence, death of innocent people, mass displacements, and targeted rapes. We had to keep the flag of human rights flying amid these gruesome rights violations by discovering human rights laws, refugee laws, and humanitarian laws. The objective of these laws is to legitimize the wars and armed conflicts.
To my mind, the true right for humans is to have a war-free human society. In today’s so-called modern world, the number of warring humans has increased. In the past, we produced weapons keeping a possible war in mind; now, we manufacture wars to sell weapons to the warring parties.
It is a well-known fact that authorities have always resorted to torture in the name of upholding law and order. When humans commit crimes, and they are taken in custody of law enforcers, they are often tortured in various brutal ways. I believe this happens due to our lack of intelligence. We could not find an intelligent way to unearth an act of crime.
Punishing a human who might have committed a crime is a human failure to implement a social consciousness that would encourage us not to commit crimes. We could not create a society in which humans would not have to commit crimes, and that is why we invented laws and punishments.
Take a child in a classroom for example. Teachers punish students when they fail to act in the way the teachers want them to. It is the failure of the teacher, not the student.
Enslaving other humans is another obnoxious means to ensure wealth and comfort for the handful of humans. Using humans as slaves has been one of the most striking features ingrained in human psyche throughout history. We have always profited at the cost of others. But at the same time, we had also used the term “human rights” as slaves in sugar plantations, mines, and farmlands also had the right to food, clothing, and shelter.
We had abolished slavery just to say that we have graduated towards wisdom. Previously, we did not have the knowledge that slavery was wrong. Now we know. However, we have invented various innovative ways to enslave humans to ensure our greed-driven meaning of life. Newer forms of slavery are in place in every society across the world.
Is freedom of speech a basic human right? To my mind, the answer is yes. Do we enjoy that right? I don’t know.
We are told that we are allowed to criticize the authorities, but when we do, it becomes a different ball game altogether. In many societies, the authorities have created an atmosphere of fear so that no one speaks against them. One may recall George Orwell’s novel 1984, that resonates more than ever in today’s world.
This year, in 11 months, a record number of journalists were imprisoned. Did those journalists commit any crime? No; they spoke against the interest of that handful, and we had to stop them by using some kind of law.
We do have a term called “universal human rights” in place, promoted by the United Nations for a long time. However, has that universal knowledge helped us to become better humans, better nations, better authorities, and better profiteers?
Far from it. The term “human rights” only appears on newspapers, on December 10 every year, with some statistics just to fill in the spaces in the papers.
I wish I had the wisdom and ability to rethink the term “human rights.”
First published in Dhaka Tribune on 11 December 2021.

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