Rejecting a collectivist concept of human rights.

Following up on my entry questioning Dr. Richard Shweder’s analysis in defending subjective justifications of male genital cutting by eliminating any consideration for the individual. He responded with more:

In an earlier comment (comment #59) I made brief note of some of the weaknesses in the standard human rights discussions of this topic (both there and here I am recounting published material in the two essays for which links were provided on the November 30 and December 5 Tierneylab). What I did not note in my earlier comment was that one of the more problematic aspects of a human rights argument for those engaged in the global eradication campaign is that the global eradication campaign itself appears to violate several recognizable or conceivable human rights. A short list of such rights includes the right of peoples and nations to autonomy and self-determination, the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit, the right of members of a family to be free of government intrusion into decisions that are private, the right of members of a group to favor their own cultural traditions in the education and socialization of their children, even the right to freedom of religion. …

I can only believe that Dr. Shweder is making this up as he goes along. He has a desired outcome. When no map to his outcome exists, he’ll create one and pretend it represents reality. Note the key foundation he uses, “recognizable or conceivable human rights.” He’s on an island with his conception. The whole notion is absurd.

Conceivably, conceivable could work. Standards of civilization progress, as evidenced by so many changes mankind has brought about demonstrate. Two hundred years ago, slavery fit within the widely accepted notion of a natural order. Today we not only know that to be false, we do not pardon those who believed such blasphemy over what they should’ve known. We understand the context, of course, but it doesn’t alter the fundamental problem.

Dr. Shweder doesn’t seek to progress properly. He ignores the individual’s supreme role in the existence of competing rights. Should the individual’s right face conflict from the group’s alleged claim on his body, Dr. Shweder does not dismiss the latter as subservient. The individual may choose to submit, but choice must exist. Dr. Shweder leaves as reasonable that the group may legitimately override the potentially contrary wishes of the individual. If enough people agree, the majority owns the minority. Unless we’re resurrecting the notion that slavery has a place in mankind, the conflict Dr. Shweder imagines is a mistake. Without medical need, it can never be correct to force bodily modification on another person. The “right of members of a family to be free of government intrusion into decisions that are private” does not grant members of a family to harm other members of the family.

Dr. Shweder writes of the “right of peoples and nations to autonomy and self-determination,” but only the individual has such a right. Collectively groups must reach their own outcomes. Extraneous, subjective input may be provide guidance, but it must never dictate. Still, that outcome must be a never-ending series of individual choices resulting in macro-level reality within society. Dr. Shweder’s suggestion leaves open the question of whether or not it’s legitimate to force downward from within, when that question is a settled “no” beyond the realm of the individual.

The uniquely American love of baseball throughout the 20th century is an example. Citizen or immigrant, rich or poor, white or black, distinction didn’t matter; Americans loved baseball. It inspired heroes and poetry, dreams and faith. The individual who did not embrace baseball may have faced scrutiny, but attempts to force him to love baseball would’ve violated a core more valuable and basic than baseball. No man is less an American if he fails to include baseball in his life.

The same truth exists for the individual who wishes to reject the surgical alteration of his or her genitals. He may not exercise his right to reject it, but he must be given the choice. Any category of supposed rights that excludes this is a fallacy not consisting of actual rights. Such a category must be discarded from the debate.