Monday, 10 October 2011


Ever since the Jimmy Carter administration adopted human rights as a cornerstone of its foreign policy, there have been a number of works dealing with the issue of hypocrisy of governments and other organizations, including the Human Rights Commission. There are of course some governments that criticize only the human rights record of those nations with which they do not have very cordial relations. 

The US, for example, may criticize Syria, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea for their human rights records, and to be sure with justification, but it cannot possibly say anything about Israel and rarely will it comment on other close allies. Even worse, it cannot possibly engage in self-criticism and examine its own human rights record with the same rigor as it does that of its enemies. This double standard does not go unnoticed in  the world. But let us consider how hypocrisy and human rights go together and why for political reasons it is necessary that they do. 

First, the hypocrisy issue is a good one to point out, especially when it comes to human rights, but all other issues for that matter, even if hypocrisy maybe as innate to human nature and most definitely learned behavior as lying.

Second, Iran has been a part of the US-Western-designated 'evil axis' for such a long time that it makes an easy target. Iran's critics see nothing but evil, while its apologists are at best reluctant to criticize it at any level, fearing that any criticism necessarily strengthens the country's enemies.
Third, no society is Shangri La, no society is above committing human rights violations, but finger-pointing is a vicious circle that adds nothing to the edification of society and more broadly to humanity. Such a vicious circle is the domain of politicians and other propagandists.
Fourth, unless each country engages in self-criticism and tries to address its own shortcomings and propose solutions, then there will be no progress for that society and in the long run it only harms itself. Those who use a single country or a group of countries for propaganda purposes by pointing out their shortcomings, as well as those who deflect attention from the shortcomings of country (ies) they are defending by pointing out there are other societies even worse off are engaged in a futile rhetorical and/or propaganda campaign that does not promote progress.
For example, Iran's human rights violations, documented and incontrovertible as they are no matter how blind defenders wish to deny this reality cannot be excused simply because Saudi Arabia, Israel, US, etc. also violates human rights. Saudi Arabia, Israel and US have citizens who need to focus and solve their own problems. The outside world can criticize, but it cannot and must not solve the internal affairs of another country for that is a violation of national sovereignty.

The question is how can dialogue, domestic and global, be constructive to help alleviate societal evils wherever they exist, not to compete on who has the most or the least evils. Anything short of this ultimate goal, is either propaganda or inane rhetoric. What is so wrong with propaganda and inane rhetoric, considering it is the stuff of which the media in all forms, from print to electronic, is engaged. The question is whether there is a trace of any edifying elements in the dialogue intended to further the cause of social justice universally and not selectively.

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