Essay and draft number:
Culturally diverse countries of the world unite under a broad banner called Universal Human rights. Human rights appeal to all of us because we as humans crave freedom, equality, respect, and dignity in all occupations. We look up at the United Nations ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948’(UN, 1948) as a beacon to guide and protect our rights be it a Rwandan facing genocide or a young American girl in detention. Despite the declaration, human rights mean different things to different people. For example, one person employing a regular house cleaner for cleaning, laundry, and dishes- is a norm and quite acceptable. Another person considers actions like these as ‘exploitation of the poor’. This paper looks at two authors and their writings on Universal Human rights to understand such differences in perceptions. The two authors featured in this report are Wiktor Osiatynski in the preface to his book “Human Rights and Their Limits” (2009) and Rhoda Howard’s article on “Are (Should) Human Rights (Be) Universal?” (1998). The authors have portrayed two different ways of convincing the audience. While Wiktor Osiatynski appeals to the ethos (credibility of the author) and pathos (emotions) of the readers and Rhoda Howard uses logos (logic and reason) more often. Osiatynski’s personal experiences add flavour to the grave topic. However, Howard convinces better by the use of good vocabulary and higher thinking process.
The first article is by Wiktor Osiatynski in the preface to his book “Human Rights and Their Limits” (2009). He is a Polish national, currently working as a professor at the Central European University in Budapest. The preface talks about Osiatynski childhood and student days in an autobiographical tone. His anecdotal account of incidents and events that led him to be a writer and a professor on Human rights is well established throughout the preface. It appears that the book is addressing student readers because there are repeated references to students, student life, their beliefs and their campus life.
The book was published in 2009, but the author’s earlier articles, publications and reports were used to compile into this book. The book itself is a compilation of 20 years of research, experience and understanding, as claimed by the author. If intended to the young student audience then I feel some of the events happening in Poland may not appeal to them. However, the author connects the old with the new by progressing to the modern times. Poland experiences for obvious reasons dominate his paper.
Wiktor Osiatynski seems to have adopted a mildly partial view to human rights. For instance, he concludes his preface with the account of Koi a Kenyan (page 18), who was imprisoned and tortured for seventeen years. He started the preface with an account of Poland and its communistic oppression. I feel that he is convinced that human rights violations mean physical and emotional distress only across cultures. Osiatynski also says that the human rights violations faced by the Westerners are personal rights invasion only not culturally relevant. Cultural differences under mining human rights is not discussed in this paper.
The strongest point of argument is how well he brings together the varied connotations of human rights as an add-on with democracy, personal violations, gender, poverty and starvation and the constitutional rights. His readings, though personal account in nature, appeal to everyone because the language is simple, and we need not look up a dictionary to understand the definitions. The last incident he narrates is particularly poignant because it recounts a tortured man’s view on human rights. This account reminds us that human rights violations in some countries are brutal and conveniently ignored by common people.
Technically, there is a combination of appeals throughout the article but the Logos aspect is not extensively used. His experiences lend authority to his arguments because it is a sincere attempt to educate. On the contrary, there is an extensive paragraph on the author’s achievements, which reads like his bio data. It distracts the reader from the core issue.
The second article is by Rhoda Howard’s on “Are (Should) Human Rights (Be) Universal?” (1998). She is a professor of sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She had worked on a theme school on human rights. This paper was published in a magazine during 1998 possibly as an extension of her work on human rights. It is addressed to people who are involved in Law, and it identifies culture as a prime changeable variable while adopting human rights. The best part of this article is the language though partially sounding like law books. It appeals to a higher level of thinking because of the vocabulary and prompts us to read twice to understand the complexity of words. Howard’s usage emphasizes the seriousness of the problems rather than dilute them with humour or personal accounts. She used words like cultural absolutism, relativism which are defined by her, but appear new to readers like me. Women may not speak in public, women mutilations, homosexual behaviours are some of the topics she raises within the article. For a thought-provoking topic like culture and human rights, usage of examples would have helped in relieving the gravity of the topic. The appeal in this article is only in Logos style, she does not try to emphasize her credibility (ethos) nor does she appeal to the emotions (pathos).
Her personal experiences are not quoted to lend authority nor does the paper appeal to a nonprofessional’s terminology. Howard does not exhibit bias to any one point of view. She is equally critical about western cultural inclination to place work before family and women enduring the most of child bearing, rearing responsibilities. She convinces very effectively that human rights may be effective only when cultural change occurs. Her strongest argument is how cultural changes across the world countries, bring them under one umbrella of human rights. According to her, human rights ensure basic rights like housing, education and employment for all people irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or political affiliations. She does not appear to commit any logical fallacies because the article is primarily focused on culture.
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Osiatynski, Wiktor (2009). Human rights and their limits. Preface pages xi –xviii. Cambridge University Press. Available at http://www.academia.edu/4768844/Wiktor_Osiatynski_Human_Rights_and_Their_Limits
Howard, Rhoda E. (1998). Are (should) human rights (be) universal? Update on Law-Related Education., Fall 1998, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p29, 3p. American University in Cairo. Available at http://web.b.ebscohost.com.library.aucegypt.edu:2048/ehost/detail?sid=26a18c90-1571-4abe-8566- 1ee005360cab%40sessionmgr115&vid=1&hid=125&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=eue&AN=507671829 Code: 28534000648713.
Reid, Graeme (2013). The Trouble With Tradition: When “Values” Trample Over Rights. World Report 2013. Events of 2012. Human Rights Watch. Page 28. Available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default//wr2013.