Monday, March 06, 2006

On human rights and duties to our communities

This is a brief follow up on what Movrin and Avbelj submitted in our discussion on rights and duties in democratic society. Moving beyond their pro-et-contra discussion on right and duties, I hereby explain that concepts of duties are not necessarily underestimated in contemporary European society since they very much present in our every day life. They are not constructed in the form of duties as such but in the form of negative aspect of rights. Rights are more than relationship between state and indivuduals. And it is in the relationship between individuals themselves where rights acquire the form of duties.

We may all agree upon that every society is built on a set of values and norms. Avbelj asserts that in democratic society in relation between individual and the state should be on the right not on the duty and the makes further claim that Christianity is based on individulism. I can not follow the former aspect of this argument fully. Human Rights in modern society are not just relationship between individual and state, but concern also relationship between private parties (individuals, association, corporations, etc.) themselves. This implies that most of human rights norms have horizontal and vertical effect. This basically means that concept of human rights per se involves also aspect of duties to other human beings and communities as a whole. Also our European societies are constructed on such notion of duty. Movrin argues that no religion is individulistic and I could not agree more with what. What he forgets is how the individualism was used to construct to make benefit for higher gains (financial) and how then therefore the notion of rights took over the throne in Europe, whereas sense of solidarity finds itself only in nationalism.

It is right that duties do not have prominent place in the European context as they do in African human rights setting, where a sense of duty and responsibilities, on individuals and their communities, is more paramount than the notion of human rights.

Generally, the concept of duty requires an individual to place the common good before individual satisfaction. This is how the African society is modelled. Those that go against these norms are seen as outcasts and this explains why for a long time African communities farmed and harvested in groups. It was done for the common good of the extended family. The question poses whether human rights are western myth and should we re-discover their ideal versions of common well-being?
To be continued.

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