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Posts Tagged ‘mother-son debates’

What do we really mean by human rights? where do these rights come from? what is their source of power?

Russell’s (Son) position:

Though we have produced powerful rhetoric and documents through human history human rights are simply a concept.  They values we create and we choose to live by.  There is no such thing has some absolute, outside of us thing called a human right.  The universe doesn’t have a conscience.  Humankinds evolution from earlier species didn’t somehow magically produce some special rights for us that the rest of the universe can’t enjoy.

Agreeing to some basic rights seems to be a beneficial idea for humankind.  Freedom in all its forms seems to be a pretty darn useful value to live by.  That doesn’t make it some universal truth.

All men aren’t created equal – not in body, not in cognitive ability, not in environment.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat everyone on equal ground.  Not Equal doesn’t mean better or worse.  I think that’s the confusion that makes people fall back to claiming some fundamental human rights.

Does the fact that human rights spring forth only from man and not the universe, not a god, or some other outside source devalue them? make them less powerful?  No.  In fact, in some sense I think it makes it more powerful.  The fact that billions of people can agree on some basic principles is quite powerful and very empowering.   It actually increases the burden of enforcing it because there’s no faceless being we can blame when these agreed upon rights are violated.

Donna’s (Mother) Position:

Hmmm. Human rights. We’ve assigned a lot of value to the words and far less to those issues we find critical enough to include under the label.

I’ve never operated under the illusion that God defined human rights. Some big thinkers have done that, and others have shunned the notion that there are any universal needs that might rise to the level of being rights we grant and protect.

It seems more important to me to try to answer if our basic needs have advanced as our knowledge as human beings has advanced. Do we add to the list of things we value and protect as rights or are we locked into what we could reasonably provide in the past? Food, clean water, education, shelter, healthcare, equal protection under the law … are these all just things we need and desire or are they rights we identify and extend to one another?

And that pesky little topic of equality becomes so muddy all on its own as we deny various individuals their abilities to become waht they could otherwise be by limiting their access to some basic human needs. We create inequality and then shrug our shoulders and call it inevitable. And we most definitely make decisions about less than equal meaning less than good — and less worthy.

So, if we do not define some of our basic human needs and desires as rights, we will doom millions of our fellow men and women to poverty, to pain, to illness, to cold and so on. If we have the ability to lift one another by sharing human values as human rights, I say we do so.

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The first of the newly created Mother-Son Debates focuses on Health Care Reform.

Russell’s (Son) Position:

The US will have universal health care (some form of it) within 15 years.  As the only industrialized nation without it there’s not much precedent against it.  The United States does not yet feel the necessity for covering everyone and was very much lagging behind other countries in the discussion of health care reform.  Most industrialized nations started the debate early in 20th century and were well on their way/done with the basics by the end of WWII – many countries out of necessity due to the high costs of WWII.  The continued superpower status and relatively rich population keep reform at bay.  A prolonged high unemployment rate and lengthy war deployments may push things along further faster.  Major reforms do not come about because of consideration of specific/individual trials and tribulations – a country needs a statistically significant number of citizens experiencing general difficulties.  Health care reform doesn’t differ drastically from education, transportation nor the military.  These are things we all want/need but don’t see the immediate value in.  We simply had several more centuries to figure out that a more educated, mobile and protected society is going to be more productive (no other justification is required for reform).  Furthermore, health care didn’t need to be figured out before early1900s because most people didn’t live long enough (lifespans in industrialized countries were still around 50 years or lower) for end of life medicine to be such a burden on society.  With the end of major world wars, improvement in nutrition, widespread clean water and germ theory people lived longer to be exposed to more complicated illnesses.  Medical technology progressed enough in the 1900s to give people hope they could cheat death long enough to make death something we didn’t handle culturally very well.  So here we are today:  still wealthy enough to think we can pay for all this health care out of pocket, still avoiding conversations about death and still about two decades behind the rest of the industrial world on social issues.   We’ll have universal health care, but it won’t be activism that brings it about.  Activism might move it along a year or two sooner and help us integrate the inevitable reform.

Donna’s (Mother) Position:

Healthcare is a basic human right, and as such, to be protected as a public good. All of a civilized society benefits from providing a progressively financed, single standard of high-quality healthcare to all of its citizens.

In the United States, a healthcare system centered on employer-based health insurance benefits developed and expanded in the mid-to-late 20th century.  But this system leaves large segments of the U.S. population with either no coverage for even basic healthcare needs or inadequate coverage.

Costs are exploding for individuals, companies and public entities, and though more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product is now consumed by healthcare, more than 45,000 Americans die every year simply due to lack of access to care.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to provide universalized access to healthcare to its citizens, and the World Health Organization reports that in several of the major measures of health outcomes, the U.S. lags well behind (life expectancy, infant mortality — to name just two).  We spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare and yet our outcomes do not reflect it.
I’ve heard it said that if we had this level of spending on our Olympic team and our results were as poor, we’d have a society up in arms about making fundamental change.  It’s like paying for the Yankees and getting a minor league team or less.

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