It is only right to debate the correct balance between electronic surveillance and civil rights. Protection of the individual as a cultural principle has not kept up with individual rights. Pornography, crime and terror including providing instructions and targets for acts of terrorism and enticing the vulnerable away from a secure environment can all now be efficiently communicated through email and the internet. Personal choice is not analogous with our duty to protect the weak. I am less concerned with peoples’ freedom to conceal their personal misdemeanors and indiscretions than with government’s abuse of that personal information. Put more simply, if you have something to be ashamed of, don’t put it on record, in any form. On the other side of the information paradigm the proper controls must be put in place to ensure no-one can abuse private information held in secret.
The social media are abused in literally millions of postings and comments created every day. It is as effortless to lie as it is to tell the truth and because truth and lies are easily manipulated the electronic media have become no better than vehicles for grotesque and prejudiced acts of ego gratification.
Basic human rights can never be geographically variable or historically justified; not in the name of multiculturalism nor in the name of political correctness. Rape is the same violation of (usually) women’s bodies in Sweden and Britain as it is in DR Congo or in Egypt. The ongoing revolutions in Venezuela and Cuba do not justify their specious human rights records nor does it place them above their pet hate, America. If words such as “integrity” and “ethics” have any meaning at all they have to be applied in equal measure.
For example: We should send packing the tens of thousands of Chinese students enriching our universities, refunding their fees to them in full when we send them home. Of course the exorbitant fees they pay enrich our universities and contribute to the bloated salaries of all those lecturers who teach all those foreign students.
But China enslaves the masses and is the global sweatshop for the Western worlds’ cheap consumer products (as well as the source of most of our even cheaper counterfeit products). Instead of crying crocodile tears for the poor foreign worker we could solve our unemployment problems but it would cost us hundreds if not thousands of pounds, dollars, euros or yen extra to each and every one of us, every year by returning production to western nations. It would be the ethical and equitable thing to do. Basic human rights are not negotiable, nor geographically variable; their omission is not excused by reference to historical circumstances. Understanding does not discharge responsibility in the present because of the past.
We should boycott all goods made in Pakistan and not just for its sweatshops but also for its inter-generational support for terrorism. Similarly, Qatari oil is not a good reason for giving Qatar free rein to oppress its workers of whom at least one per day dies in Qatar building the infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has a population of 3.5 million people. Some 10 to 20 per cent of them are enslaved. So warm feelings of self-righteous anger, when directed at a small and economically powerless nation like Israel are apparently rights of the intellectual coward and the ethical fascist for whom inconvenient truths are best served up selectively.
We are living in an age of fear and irrationality where those who create that fear hold sway over us – see how easy it was for North Korea to stop the nationwide screening of a movie it did not like (until Sony Corporation was shamed into making a face-saving compromise). The USA is supposed to be the most powerful, influential nation on the earth. Look at Islamic censorship, its control of the UN.
According to the United Nations, between 15 March 2011 and October 2014 over 200,000 people were killed in the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) placed the total at between 200,000 and 282,000 men, women and children murdered up to December 2014.
How many deaths were there in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Between 1920 and the present, 115,311 people were killed. So Switzerland calls a meeting of the Geneva Convention for only the third time in its history. The UK, France, Germany and another 123 signatory states to the Fourth Geneva Convention assembled in order to call out a perpetrator, Israel and it was Israel they called out on the other two occasions.
Ben-Dror Yemini expressed this ethical confusion simply in explaining that “anti-Zionism, in essence, is not a struggle in support of Palestinian rights, but a struggle instead against Jewish rights.”
Human Rights and Geographic Variability exist because we live in a political world. Our politicians and academics, our journalists and our charity workers, our bureaucrats and our social activists are human beings – racists, prejudiced and guided by ego. We give them far too much credit for altruism or for intelligence. They are frightened of controls that will limit their choices and if it means limiting ours to keep theirs they will embrace populism and censorship.
The only thing separating them from us is that we are playing by their rules and until we stop playing by their rules we can only ever be their victims.