seething classes

    Human rights and human gains

    It is a tragedy that a member of the public, when interviewed on the radio, should say, when the phrase "human rights" comes up, "Oh, bloody hell, human rights, suffin fussin wussin mumble grumble," in a tone of disgust.

    The subject being discussed was the call to ban this “Mosquito” device, which is intended to stop kids and teenagers from hanging around shops or elsewhere by emitting an annoying noise which is too high for older ears to hear. But it could as easily have been the bugging of prisoner-lawyer conversations, or one of a dozen other triggers for what Dave Hill calls the seething classes.

    Here’s the thing, people: human rights are a good thing.

    I can’t quite believe I’m having to write that. Again: human rights, and governments upholding them, are good. An unequivocal good. There’s no question here; we’re not in any kind of moral grey area. Some things are as stark and as plain as the type and the paper on some of the entities I’m about to blame: treating people with equality before the law, with respect; acknowledging a basic set of rights to which every human being is entitled, and striving to make those rights available to everyone: these things are an unequivocal good.

    Let me spell this out in words of one syllable:

    That’s what our parents and grandparents fought the fucking war for!

    OK, went a bit over my syllable count there.

    It is just a few years since the incoming Labour government passed the Human Rights Act, incorporating into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights; how has our country got to the position, since then, that “human rights” has become a swear word?

    I blame the tabloids. Specifically, I blame the right-wing, ranting, seething, whinging rags of the Daily Mail, and the Murdoch-owned scumsheets. I blame big business and the CBI; I blame the petty little-Englander mentality of a disturbingly vocal minority of the citizens of our great, multicultural nation.

    What is to be done about it? How do we regain the natural state of the British psyche, where we stick up for the underdog, as well as have a respect for natural justice? Or, if not regain it (since it hasn’t really gone anywhere) at least make its voice audible again? How are we to make the complainers tone down, or better, teach them, show them, that human rights are for everybody (even the complainers), not just for the tiny minorities whose stories get wildly inflated in the tabloids; and that even those tiny minorities (where they actually exist) deserve the protection of those rights; and perhaps above all, that our society, our nation, is enriched and improved by our granting and acknowledging those rights?