Your Human Rights Are Not Inalienable

I wish to weigh in on an age old debate. Do laws acquire their legitimacy through self-evident corroboration by God, reason, or nature (ius naturale)? Or are laws simply regulations of whatever legislative establishment possesses the power to enforce them (ius positum)?

To this debate, I say: all the ‘natural laws’ in the world are not good for anything when you are systematically persecuted for your religion, lynched by the mob, marched away by the Gulag, deported to Auschwitz, assassinated by a drone strike, or pepper sprayed for sitting on the sidewalk.

Gandhi opposed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on principle: there is nothing inherently universal about human rights at all. The only rights you possess are the rights that your state protects and enforces. To call human rights ‘inalienable’ is to ignore the fact that they are as fragile as governments. As a consequence, to think of human rights as transcendent values is the unfortunate first step in neglecting your state’s accountability and abidance to them.

Since human rights are a human construct, it is up to humans alone to enact them. Ergo, other people’s rights are 100% as important as your rights. To think that the same laws that oppress others serve to protect you is to make-believe that human laws are somehow permanent, immutable creeds. Legislation that can subjugate anyone can be rewritten to subjugate everyone.

How can you trust a central authority that does not protect the human rights of its most vulnerable individuals to protect your rights the next time you need to ask a difficult question of power?

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