Fictionalization of Human Rights

Conflict and violence have become a ritualized news events happily consumed by us. The active consumption of violence has left us desensitized. Our compassion, empathy and solidarity are short lived. May be this change in us is a result of shifting economic trends and advances in technology. We no longer are facing face to face reality. We are simply consuming the virtual as real. When reality is filtered to us and mediated through media, humans gets desensitized and are not provoked to a compassionate response by images, narratives and videos of gross violation of human rights

Unfortunately, support for human rights as a main stream social cause has steadily dwindled. Human rights are a complex emancipative phenomenon. It consists of social, legal, moral and political dimensions. The emancipatory claim of human rights is not blunted but what is thought to be emancipation has shifted. This is because what we think of the ‘human’ in the human rights has changed. Some xenophobic populist movements think that some are more human than others. The humanity of the other who is seen as the enemy of the nation is rendered insignificant and is thought to be disposable for what is thought to be the good of the nation.

Besides, with the growth of communicative and surveillance technologies human privacy and intimacy is up for sale. We, therefore, cannot discern open violation of human rights as violations at all. We seem to be at a risk of fictionalization of human rights. Hence, we seem to lack those who would stand up against the atrocities inflicted on humans in the name of justice, national purity, religion etc. Often a supposed fight for justice which is mostly waged with right hand of the power of the Governments has blurred the moral and the social dimension of human rights. This condition has legitimized unjust violent acts on the innocent humans often in search of closure of a traumatic past. Even democracy, economy and our society are put on the task to restore a lost past.

Unfortunately, what this quest for a future for a lost past does to our present is not thought to be of any consequence. This is why human rights of the those innocents who are villainized as being responsible for the losses of the past through a well-oiled propaganda machinery can be easily sacrificed on the altar of a quest to set right the ills of the past. The post-colonial societies are vulnerable to this kind of fictionalization of human rights. Hence, denial of human rights does not become an issue of much concern in such society. Desensitization has come full circle and compassion and empathy for the other has become almost dead. Hence, people can consume denial of human rights as an act of justice with a hope that it will build the broken past.

Our engagement against the denial of human rights has sometimes reached a point of satisfaction only on the social media. Often, it has become a matter of clicking a like button on the facebook, twitter or Instagram. This is another area of the fictionalization of the human rights. This means somehow the sting of human rights mobilization and activism is taken out. Though these media can also ignite humam right activism. But often they seem to have become platforms of violation of human right. Those who speak up and dissidently storm the streets in protests are strolled into silence by the tyrant. We have become schizos who feel for the victims of the denial of human rights but soon lose our steam and choose silence and become apolitical. Maybe this is why the tyrant is also mistaken as the saviour.

The desensitization that afflicts us also benefits the big data barons who use the data of our privacy and intimacy as raw materials to accumulate wealth. This violation of our privacy does not look at all as the violation of human rights. This is made possible not just because of desensitization but also because we think of us as individuals, we are too insignificant and can do nothing about this gross violation of our privacy and intimacy.

Human rights are still viable and are required to check the unjust and arbitrary abuse of power. What we immediately need is to figure out how are we to overcome the filterings and colorings of the human rights by vested interest to suit their goals. Besides, we have the challenge to rekindle compassion and empathy among our contemporary humans. We need to attune ourself to the suffering stranger. It can make us compassionate. It is a sensitive response of compassion that has the power to bring back human right movements and activism among us. Besides, we have the huge challenge to harmonize the self-determining and the other-regarding aspects of our self. Within our quest for self-determination, we have other-regarding expressions. It is when we attune our other-regarding expressions of activism and align them to morality, we may be enabled to restore the morality of human rights.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao