Culture, Human rights and DEI

by | Mar 23, 2023 | 0 comments

                                           Culture, Human rights and DEI

                                                                                 Huib Wursten. Author and consultant

The score on IDV affects the thinking about equal rights.

Collectivism is a political and social value system that emphasizes the importance of group identity and the collective good over the rights and interests of individual members. In collectivist societies, the needs and goals of the group are prioritized over the needs and goals of the individual, and the group is expected to work together for the common good as formulated by the top people. In Individualistic cultures, people identify more as members of voluntary social groups than members of clans.”

Henrich (Henrich 199) draws the contrasts this way: Individualistic obsess more about personal accomplishments and success than about meeting family obligations (which is not to say that other cultures don’t prize accomplishment, just that it comes with the package of family obligations). WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing their particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology. They found that 96 percent of subjects in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates.  Individualistic people frequently assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else.

For collectivistic societies, it is difficult to accept that individuals have the right to decide about moral issues. Religious institutions and their officials represent the traditional values, and they are the only ones in the position to “weigh” new developments like freedom of sexual preference and equal rights for women. It is not a coincidence that Putin, as leader of a huge collectivist country, is legitimizing his actions by saying that “we embody the forces of good in the modern world because this clash is metaphysical” and “We (the Russians) are on the side of good against the forces of absolute evil…. This is truly a holy war that we’re waging, and we must win it and of course, we will because our cause is just.  We have no other choice.  Our cause is not only just, but our cause is also righteous, and victory will certainly be ours.” Sergey Karaganov, connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, predicted that democracy is failing and authoritarianism is rising because of democracy’s flawed moral foundations.  An interesting case here is the refusal by the captain of a Dutch soccer team to wear a rainbow armband at a time the Football union supported actions to promote gay rights. This captain from a Turkish-Dutch family publicly said it was about his Islamic religious beliefs. Many Dutch commentators reacted negatively by saying he should make his own decisions and understand he is a role model. What was not understood is that in his “in-group,” a Turkish migrant family, the religious in-group he belongs to is the reference and starting point for morality.  The key element is that in return for loyalty to the in-group, the in-group takes care of the group members.  Group convictions determine the preferences of individuals.  Individuals should be in harmony with the in-group’s thinking and interest.

Of course, this should not be understood in an absolute way. All human beings are, in principle, gifted with empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is a crucial component of human relationships and is often seen as a key aspect of human morality and compassion. Based on a shared competence for empathy, one can say that universal human rights are rights that are inherent to all human beings and are not dependent on nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life, liberty, and security of person; the right to education and employment; and the right to a fair trial. But certainly, there can be tensions between collectivist and individualist perspectives on human rights. As discussed above, proponents of collectivism argue that the group’s needs should take precedence over the individual’s rights. Empathy can play a role in mediating these tensions by helping individuals to understand and feel the emotions and experiences of others.

A frequently asked question: is the declaration of human rights a Western concept?

The idea of human rights is not unique to the Western world, and the concept has a long history in many different cultures and traditions worldwide. However, the modern notion of human rights as we know it today has largely been shaped by the Western, Individualistic philosophical tradition and the experiences of Western societies. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), often considered the cornerstone of modern human rights law, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The UDHR was influenced by various sources, including the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the American Bill of Rights, as well as ideas and principles from other cultures and traditions worldwide.

While the UDHR has been widely accepted and adopted as a global standard for human rights, it has also been criticized by some as being a product of Western values and failing to reflect the diversity of cultures and traditions worldwide fully. However, as we showed above, it is important to emphasize that the concept of human rights is not exclusive to any one culture or tradition and that the universal protection of human rights is an important goal for people of all cultures and backgrounds.

However, it is also necessary to recognize that human rights are highly influenced by the “Enlightenment” in Europe and was a product of its time, shaped by the cultural, social, and political context of 18th-century Europe. There have been criticisms of the Enlightenment for its role in the development of white supremacy and colonialism, and these criticisms continue to be relevant in contemporary debates about social justice and equality.

At the same time, it is important to continue to dialogue and engage with different cultural and philosophical perspectives on human rights to ensure that the concept of human rights evolves and adapts to the changing needs and realities of the world.

Pressure on the Universalist nature of Human Rights

Several sources recently warned that the Universalistic nature of human rights is in danger because of attempts to create alternatives.

  1. Gandhi said he learned from his mother that obligations precede rights. Rights without obligations are not worth fighting for. Leaders from China and some Eastern European countries share this attitude. The emphasis is on collective values and duties. The criticism of these cultures is that human rights are too focused on the rights of the individual.
  2. Under the umbrella of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC; formerly the Organization of Islamic Conference), Muslim states revisited these concepts in the 1980s to draft their own instrument. The culmination of such efforts was the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which presented a set of rights informed by conservative Islamic values and “Sharia,” or Islamic law. Within the instrument, the OIC laid out many of the rights in the UDHR. However, it neglected gender and non-Muslim rights. Moreover, the organization co-opted the language of Sharia in the document to empower states and ensure national sovereignty. After its adoption, human rights activists in the West and some in the Muslim world claimed that the Cairo Declaration conflicted with the UDHR. In the early 2010s, the OIC began revising the instrument and introduced the OIC Declaration on Human Rights (ODHR) almost a decade later. The document was scheduled to be approved at the organization’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting in April 2020. However, this was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the ODHR better reflects principles rooted in international human rights law, it falls short on freedom of speech and political participation issues.
  3. China is working on an alternative to the UN Universal Rights based on “the right of Development of States.” Centrally guided progress is given priority over the individual rights of citizens. Professor Barbara Oomen says in an interview for the Dutch paper NRC: We are worried about the development of parallel systems of Human Rights. Universal Human Rights are meant as a bridge for all countries to keep talking to each other. If everybody is building their own bridge, the conversation stops quickly

Human rights and tolerance

Jamal Greene, a constitutional law professor at Columbia Law School, argues that our conception of rights as absolutes drive us into all-or-nothing conflicts in which one side necessarily wins and the other loses. In a pluralist society in which rights often conflict, this conception fails to create room for compromise and is to blame for polarization”.Rights should not be treated as absolute. Instead, rights may be restricted in the name of competing interests. This approach, often described as “proportionality review,” could acknowledge competing values and strike an appropriate balance between them. The rule of law is essential here. The main reason is that in a democracy, the majority prevails, so leaving disputes over minority interests to politics could mean dooming many such interests altogether. Human rights are about protecting those who cannot defend themselves through the democratic process, such as members of minority groups. We should have safeguards when the rights of minority groups are not protected through majoritarian procedures; we should defend democracy against the intolerant

Univesalism and particularism

It’s hard to generate empathy for individuals who are quite different from you, who are distant, who are a different ethnic group or speak a different language.

That becomes more difficult for you.. But the fact that we have it is really important. And once you have empathy, the capacity for it, you can try to mentally expand it. it’s hard to generate empathy for individuals who are quite different from you, who are distant, who are a different ethnic group or speak a different language.

to expand the rules for in our human moral systems. That’s a cognitive capacity that we have and that’s why we try to do things like that.

Primate psychology and universalism


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