Human Rights Vs Life In A Pandemic
The Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said in 2020 regarding COVID, “Seriously, one more comment about human rights … it’s about human life.” It’s a phrase that should be deeply concerning to everyone, but somehow got a free pass by not just the legacy (“mainstream”) media, but even modern/alt media and people in general.
Those of us who are concerned about human rights, I think too often struggle against these emotive arguments. We say we don’t want the government telling us we can’t go to work, someone responds that we are putting their grandmother’s life at risk with our selfishness and then what do we say? Start explaining a conspiracy theory? Tell them they are afraid of nothing? Start a philosophical debate? Or just capitulate and agree to be unemployed to “protect human life”? Part of the problem I think is that many of us do have our own doubts about where the actual ethical line is.
So let’s look at that.
What is the line between human rights and human life? A good place to start is the most widely accepted document on human rights, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It contains 30 articles, each a different human right.
Article 3 states in full:
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Thus when discussing human rights, human life is intrinsic. Life, and even personal security themselves are included in those rights.
So how does one balance the right to life against all other rights? Actually the Declaration covers that as well.
Article 29 states:
“1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
“2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
And Article 30 states in full:
“Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”
So in short, no one point of the 30 articles outweigh the others. Limitations of human rights are considered acceptable, specifically and only for the purpose of ensuring the rights of others and “morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
This is where the argument ultimately begins, how do we best protect everyone’s human rights, including the right to life itself? When things are all going nicely, no war, no pandemic and so on, human rights seem easy enough to have. But when “the general welfare” of society is at risk, suddenly things become more complicated.
The first thing that needs to be known when trying to decide the correct ethical line, is what are the risks and consequences of each decision? If we all know with 100% certainty that one person in the entire country going outside without a mask would result in literally the entire population of the nation dying instantly, the line is clear. You don’t go outside without a mask, ever, for any reason, if you try, you get shot in the face. That is actually the ethical stance to take in such an extreme situation, where the danger is known precisely and without question.
But in real life we are rarely if ever faced with choices that simple.
Now look at a more realistic hypothetical situation, where there is a truly horrific global pandemic. A virus that is highly contagious and has a high death rate for people of all ages. People are dying everywhere, the streets are littered with bodies, hospitals are overflowing with dying people for whom little can be done but try and comfort them in their final moments.
While there are always exceptions with people, in such a situation I think it is clear that the vast majority would be quite ready to do whatever they can to try and keep each other safe. Wearing masks, staying in lockdown, not visiting friends and family, not going to work, or church, or the gym, etc. It would all seem very sensible and anyone who went around maskless, gathering and protesting in groups and so on would be crazy.
One point to bear in mind, is that right now there are many people who believe COVID is just that, that is the reality for them. They see a dangerous pandemic, threatening the lives of themselves and those they love, and they are willing to make significant sacrifices to their quality of life and freedoms to protect those lives. To them, anyone not willing to do so is clearly callous at best and insanely criminal at worst.
It is easy to look at people like that and call them ignorant or cowardly, and in-turn be called a conspiracy nut, or a selfish sociopath.
Factually the large majority of people (far from all, but still a good majority) do want to do what is best for everyone, and are trying to do so. The problem is that we don’t live in a clear-cut world, where everyone is honest and has the best intentions, or where everyone is intelligent, literate and analytical.
In fact, we live in a world where governments actively and openly spend vast sums of money on building weapons and doing research to find bigger and better ways to wipe out other nations.
We live in a world where the same company that is trusted to urgently produce a vaccine for COVID (Pfizer), also paid $2.3 billion for healthcare fraud, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the US at the time (2009).
We live in a world where another big pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals was found to have cost the lives of almost 450,000 people through false claims about how addictive their product OxyContin was, all just to make a profit, and where the founders still managed to get away with billions of dollars after not admitting any wrongdoing and paying settlement money.
And indeed we live in the world where on a smaller scale, dishonest people make false reports, do fraudulent studies, take bribes and so on at all levels of government and society as a whole.
We live in a world where nations can’t even go a single century without a terrible war, or a revolution, or a dictator taking over, or any of countless other horrors.
And this brings us to the other side of the argument. The people who see the real threat of COVID as not the virus itself, but the use of the virus by corrupt criminals in high places to turn a profit and increase their own power at the expense of human rights, and indeed, human life.
The legacy media and Chairman Dan like to paint all of these people as wild “anti-science conspiracy theorists”, and they do this by taking the handful they find who are that way and using them to represent the rest.
Factually, very, very few people in the world are anti-science. Most people who are called anti-science are not against the principles of science, they are against blindly accepting the word of people paid to use “science” to come up with the answers the person paying for the research wants. The people who when Purdue Pharma said that OxyContin was safe and not addictive, knew from early on it was clearly a lie, but couldn’t do anything to stop them as they killed almost half a million people with their lies. Indeed the “science” on OxyContin was settled, but it wasn’t actual science, it was scientists getting paid to show the results needed for a greater profit.
So on one side we have people willingly staying locked at home, wearing masks everywhere, not using cash, checking in with a government app everywhere they go, believing they are themselves protecting human rights by protecting human life, and considering the other side are the evil enemy. Genuinely believing that one day when it is safe again, with vaccines from trustworthy companies, they will be free to go back to ordinary life.
Meanwhile on the other side we have people who see this mass panic across the world, and regardless of the cause know that it is the perfect opportunity for corrupt criminals to obtain power and profit. What future do they have, their children have, their family and friends in a nation or world where no one has personal freedoms?
And they too have to worry, what if they underestimate the virus? What if the virus really is as bad as it is made out to be? What if one vaccine is actually highly safe and effective and could save thousands or millions of lives, but others are useless, or deadly, or cause horrific long-term problems? How would we ever know for sure which one to have our family take, if any? Would we even have a choice? Even if the virus is that bad, there is still the additional threat that governments and others will be able to use that to have even more ability to suppress human rights, and thus life itself.
It often feels like this is a battle between fearful and obedient people who are happy to be slaves if it keeps them alive, and those who are willing to take risks for the greater good.
Factually though, it really isn’t that way. The actual fight it between a majority of people who all want human rights, and human life and for themselves and future generations to survive well – and a relatively small number of criminals and lunatics who will do anything for power or profit. And those small number are more than happy to let the two much larger groups fight it out, as they quietly win in the background.
In the current state of the world, it is actually not possible to know where the ethical line is, because no one truly has all the data, 100% verified and ready to evaluate. We have “the science” say we need lockdowns and “the science” saying they are ineffective. We have the virus being man-made and leaked from a US funded lab in China, or a virus just randomly developing in a wet market. We have claims of full hospitals and possibly hundreds of millions dead, and we have the reality of empty hospitals and almost no mortality rate for most demographics.
So if we can’t know what the exact, correct, perfect ethical choice is, the exact balance of human rights and safety, then where does that leave us? It leaves us needing both sides of the supposed human life vs human rights argument to realise they are actually on the same side, and that the actual threat are twofold:
1) A virus that at least is a danger to some unknown extent.
2) Those who would use the threat of the virus to further their own selfish and twisted desires, at the expense of anyone and everyone.
And we need to make decisions that do protect those such as the elderly who may well need protection, while at the same time not allowing media, pharmaceutical companies, governments and others to take advantage of the situation to tear our very short-lived societies apart.
However bad things are, some things can’t be allowed to go away. Freedom of speech – to actually have genuine discussions over just how deadly the virus is or isn’t, and how we deal with it – shouldn’t be suppressed. The right to decide what goes into our own bodies, the right to choice over what medical treatment we do or don’t want for ourselves and our families. The right to gather peacefully to be heard, the right to work, to privacy, to have and see friends. Articles 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 of the Declaration right there.
And if any rights do, for “the general welfare in a democratic society”, need to be suppressed, then the government making that choice should be expected to very publicly and openly state the exact reasoning for suppressing them, the exact extent to which they will be suppressed and the exact plan to return to a normal state where the right or rights are no longer suppressed.
When we instead have a head of government openly stating they don’t want to hear one more comment about human rights, we have a problem far more serious than a virus.
As Eleanor Roosevelt, who presided over the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights said:
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
We can’t let the fight be about human rights versus human life. The fight for human rights is the fight for human life and every sane person in the world is actually on the same side in the fight, but with so much false data and fearmongering, most don’t even know that to be true.
Next time someone tells you that you are putting their family at risk with your talk of human rights, tell them the well being of your family AND theirs is exactly why you are talking about human rights.And let’s try to spread some truth. It’s the only weapon more powerful than everything that can be thrown back at us.
Read the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights here. And learn the history of human rights here.