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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #32: 

                Valuing Human Rights

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
Contrast Worldview Themes #32 and #20B --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #32 and #39B --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!      

brotherhood -- an idealized situation in which people treat each other in a highly considerate way as if they were members of the same family (brothers or sisters)

censorship—the practice of restricting communication (written, oral, in creative expression, etc)  and access to information by altering, deleting, or suppressing it.  While political / moral concerns are often cited as  rationale for censorship, it can result if someone in a position of authority finds a particular communication objectionable for whatever reason.  

child labor--the use of under aged children for work in factories, mines, farms, armies, as prostitutes, etc. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should be "protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."

civil liberties--are individual rights typically guaranteed by democratic and sometimes by other governments in constitutions or similar legally binding documents.  Their existence can be traced to efforts to limit the potential for government abuse of power and interference in the lives of individuals. Examples of particular civil liberties are freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion, and the rights to a fair trial, privacy, and to bear arms.

civil rights--a term whose meaning is very similar to civil liberties, but with different connotations. In the United States, in the last 140 years, it has often referred to the rights granted African Americans (by the 13th and 14th Amendments) and somewhat negated by Jim Crow laws in the south. A highlight of the so-called civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Other minorities have faced similar battles with mixed results. Women (hardly a minority in numbers!) saw efforts to enact the Equal Rights Amendment fail, while activity on behalf of the handicapped bore fruit in 1990 with passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Efforts on behalf of gays and lesbians recognizing same sex marriages continue.  

democracy -- government by the people, typically controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual.  Democracies can be direct--where citizens' votes directly make decisions--or representative--where citizens elect individuals to politically lead and represent them in a legislature with those representatives casting votes on their behalf.  Direct democracy is the type practiced in Athens, Greece nearly 2500 years ago.  It is perhaps better suited for governing smaller institutions (communes, workplaces, communities, cities)--although ballot issues decided in recent California referendum elections provide an example of its large scale application. Use of referendums also illustrates that representative democracies sometimes allow the people to directly decide certain matters.  A democratic government where a constitution guarantees individual rights and civil liberties, along with providing a legal framework, is known as a liberal democracy.

development -- the process of improving the quality of human life, especially in poor countries. Besides targeting raising people’s standard of living, increasing their freedom (in terms of choices available to them) and creating conditions allowing for the growth of their self esteem are major development goals.

discrimination-- prejudicial treatment of people based on their being different (in race, religion, appearance, ability, etc.)  In some jurisdictions certain forms of discrimination are outlawed; elsewhere they can lead to policies and practices that harm particular groups. 

egalitarianism -- the belief that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges.

evil, the problem of -- this problem has plagued philosophers at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. Epicurus (341-270 BC) appears to be the first to consider it at some length. Simply put, it has two aspects, one religious, one secular, that can themselves be stated as questions, First, why does an all powerful, all knowing God allow evil to exist in the world? Second, how should society fight human’s wicked and evil acts -- won’t fighting them with evil (violence, vengeance, capital punishment, etc) just result in more evil? Those who embrace non-violence, forgiveness, and oppose capital punishment basically feel that good can not come out of evil. Others argue that if evil is left unchecked and unpunished, and not countered with strong action, then more evil will result.

feminism -- associated with believing in the equal treatment of men and women, and supporting activities conducted to further the cause of women’s rights. Beginning with (successful) efforts to win women the right to vote (suffrage) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, decades later a second wave of  feminism linked long perceived political inequalities with cultural inequalities.  A big part of this was the women's liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s--which encouraged women to see how aspects of the male dominated societal power structure played out in their personal lives.  Feminists critique gender roles in sociocultural fashion (see that term.) 

First Amendment Rights -- refers to the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, and right of petition.

freedom of the press / speech--something a government can grant its citizens and news / media organizations --believed to be a prerequisite for democracy.  Early in American history, Thomas Jefferson underscored the importance of a free press by saying, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." More recently the United Nations enshrined this--along with freedom of speech--as a basic human right, proclaiming, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers"  

Geneva Conventions--from an 1864 beginning, to major revisions / additions of 1949, and including subsequent amendments, these international agreements form the basis for humanitarian treatment of prisoners and non-combatants during war.  Among other things, they outlaw intentional killing and torture, and along with other agreements define war crimes. 

genocide -- the deliberate, systematic mass slaughter of an ethnic, political or cultural group. 20th century examples of genocide include the Nazi perpetrated slaughter of Jews during World War II, and slaughters in Armenia, Cambodia and Rwanda.

homosexual marriage--an arrangement in which two people of the same sex live together as a family.  Controversy surrounds organized efforts to ban such marriages, extend to them the same legal rights that heterosexual marriages get, or something in between.  Civil unions or domestic partnerships fall in this last category, in which partners enjoy some but not all of the benefits of marriage.  

human rights--are defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law." Some equate human rights with natural rights--notably expounded upon by English philosopher John Locke whose thinking inspired the American founding fathers. These rights are said to be "inalienable" and beyond the authority of government or society to trample. The outrageous human rights violations of the World War II era are often cited as inspiring the founding of the United Nations in 1945.  In its charter, the UN asks all member nations to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights."

Human Rights Council--a United Nations agency established in 2006 whose purpose is to address human rights violations. It replaced the older UN Commission on Human Rights. 

human rights struggles--what a particular minority or group discriminated against has to go through to finally win rights or be granted concessions / accommodations by the majority. In this regard in American history we can note struggles for 1) an end to slavery, 2) Native American tribal survival, 3) immigrants' rights, 4) women's rights, 5) worker's rights, 6) child labor laws, 7) rights for the mentally ill, 8) an end to segregation, 9) civil rights, 10) affirmative action, 11) farm worker rights, 12) rights for handicapped people, 13) gay and lesbian rights, etc.

impermissible speech -- Within countries that value freedom of speech, nonetheless this freedom has its limits. Impermissible speech refers to speech that is not tolerated because it is harmful to either particular individuals or the larger society as a whole. Screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire is a common textbook example.

International Criminal Court -- an international "court of last resort" set up in 2002 to prosecute people who have committed genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

intellectual property / cultural rights--refer to an individual claiming ownership and associated exclusive benefits for works / products he or she has created or a whole culture making similar claims when outsiders seek to benefit from their cultural heritage.

justice -- implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good .

  law: civil vs. criminal--the former refers to the means by which individual rights are protected, the latter with offenses that harm (or potentially could harm) the entire community. In civil cases the responsibility for demonstrating harm and seeking remedy lies with the individual affected; in criminal cases the state must pursue violators and seek remedy--which may be imprisonment.

law: private vs. public--the former involves relationships between individuals (including corporations), the latter with issues involving the state and welfare of society (including penal law, and regulatory statutes, etc.)

liberalism -- a rational, tolerant, generous, hopeful orientation that emphasizes individual freedom from restraint. Liberalism is often associated with progressive social change.

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

political prisoner--a person who is detained or imprisoned by a national government because his or her political views are in opposition to the government's, and accordingly the person is viewed as a threat.  Sometimes there will be no legal basis for the imprisonment, others times the government will fabricate incriminating evidence and use it to justify its action. While many famous people have been political prisoners, countless others have died anonymously under such confinement.  Amnesty International maintains lists of political prisoners and for a small number,  works for their release.

pornography and restricting creative expression -- pornography refers to anything that depicts erotic behavior in a way to cause sexual excitement. Many argue that pornography should be protected under laws guaranteeing free speech and creative expression. They rail against laws restricting it, characterizing what is being banned as either (at best) merely artistic expression or (at worse) merely a victimless crime. Others argue that display of pornography should be restricted -- in some cases banned entirely -- because it is harmful to society in the following ways: 1) it leads to increases in sex crimes, 2) it is degrading to women, and 3) it perverts the normal sexual development of children.

privacy rights--protection against unauthorized invasion of privacy is guaranteed in some countries.  

rights of unborn children—the issue, made important by the pro-life movement, of what rights do unborn children have, and when do they have them.  Pro-lifers argue that such rights—the most fundamental being the right to life--begin with the beginning of life, which they equate with the moment of conception.  Others argue that fetuses have rights—this stage of development begins about eight weeks after conception when the body’s major structures and organs have formed.  Still others won’t grant developing fetuses rights until they have reached the point where they are viable outside the uterus—generally after 25 weeks or so.

slavery--describes the status of certain people who have been stripped of the basic human right of freedom of movement, denied certain liberties, and are sometimes subjected to degrading and / or exhausting work.  In being held against their will, they are typically considered (by their captors) to be the property of other individuals.  While many western governments outlawed the institution in the nineteenth century, it continues both within and outside the law throughout the world.  By some estimates, worldwide millions of people (mostly children) live in conditions that essentially represent slavery. 

terrorist--one who engages in terrorism, another one of those difficult to define terms since "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".  Most definitions of terrorism include 1) use of force / violence, 2) such acts are designed to instill fear / terror, and 3) political / ideological goals are behind these acts.  Some definitions also stress that the acts are unlawful and that innocent civilians are indiscriminately targeted.   

theocracy -- government by those who claim to or are believed to be divinely inspired. In its most extreme forms, there is no separation of church and state.

torture -- severe pain is inflicted on someone in an effort to intimidate, get information from, revenge some past wrong, punish, deter, or simply to be cruel and sadistic. 

underdevelopment --a socioeconomic situation in which people’s standard of living, freedom (in terms of choices available to them) self esteem and hope for the future is seriously and persistently depressed.

universalism -- the belief in sociology that there are universal ethical standards

United Nations -- an organization of over 180 member nations founded in 1945 to promote human rights, international peace and co-operation.

value judgment -- comparing either something concrete (person, object, etc) or something abstract (quality, principle, etc) to some idealized standard. A value judgment is what bridges the gap between “what is” and “what ought to be”. Closely related is the act of valuing, which can be thought of as choosing (from alternatives) and taking appropriate action to acquire something (concrete or abstract) or hold onto it.

values -- abstract qualities, principles, beliefs, or aspects of behavior that a person or a whole society holds in high regard after making value judgments.

wage gap -- the gap in pay between the sexes or those of different ethnic groups. For example, In the U.S., despite passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, which makes it illegal for employers to pay men more than women doing the same work, by the start of the 21st century, women made only 76% as much money as men.

workers' rights--legal rights under relevant (labor) law and human rights, as in the UN Declaration of Human Rights articles 23 & 24, that govern workplace conditions, conditions / benefits of employment, and relations between workers and management.  Important rights here include the right to safe working conditions, right to join labor unions, expectation of fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination.  The International Labour Organization is the UN agency concerned with promoting decent working conditions.

World Bank -- an international financial institution of over 180 member nations whose purpose is to promote development in poor countries by providing loans and technical assistance.



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