Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Iranian Democracy

from The Progressive Interview, Sept. 04
Q: What's your response to the argument that human rights are just a Western invention and are not applicable to the Middle East?

Shirin Ebadi: The idea of cultural relativism is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights. Human rights are the fruit of various civilizations. I know of no civilization that tolerates or justifies violence, terrorism, or injustice. Those who are invoking cultural relativism are really using that as an excuse for violating human rights and to put a cultural mask on the face of what they're doing. They argue that cultural relativism prevents us from implementing human rights. This is nothing but an excuse. Human rights are a universal standard. They are a component of every religion and every civilization.

Democracy doesn't recognize east or west; democracy is simply people's will. Therefore, I do not acknowledge that there are various models of democracy; there is just democracy itself.


Sheryl said...

Hi Ryan,

Once again I think the argements here are oversimplified. There are significant cultural divides in the world. It's just that they are between rural and urban populations rather than different nations.

In our last election the "red states" tended to be the rural states, whereas the "blue states" tended to be urban ones. Is this surprising? Hardly.

People living in rural areas are not exposed to as many differing views as city dwellers, and as result the "rednecks" tend to be more fearful of new ideas and changes. That can lead to xenophobia and bigotry in rural areas of the world.

In China when the government wanted to shoot down the democracy advocates in Tianamen Square, they couldn't get the regular army to do it. Instead they had to get soldiers from the rural areas, who not only had these limited world views, but also hated educated city dwellers. There are policies in China, which clearly have created an economic divide between the urban citizens and the rural ones, but I think there is usually a divide of some degree inherently.

So whereas I don't think that you can justify harming innocent people for having differing values, I do think that some cultures are more open minded than others. That's one of the reasons that university towns are so nice to live in as well.

Then there are economic problems. When people are srtuggling to make ends meet, they have less time to be philosophical or think about policy decisions and are more inclined to look for external answers, such as having a God to take care of them. That too leads to all kinds of cultural problems.

But the solution is not to blow people up. In the case of undermining the need for religion, you just have to provide people opportunities for growth. In the case of rural mindsets, I think getting people wired up on the internet is the best solution. So they can used to other views and customs in the world and not be so threatened by them.

Sheryl said...

Please Blogger. Post my comments, eh?

Sheryl said...

Oh, take a look at this Iraqi cartoon. It's pretty funny:

http://www.asharqalawsat.com/2004/04/26/special/cartoon.jpgIt kind of reminds me of how the US is operating on fear.

J.R. Boyd said...

I don't think "red states" and "blue states" mean very much when it comes to what people actually think. For one thing, it excludes large numbers of people who, when asked to choose between one or the other, reject both by not voting at all. That's a huge portion of the population that feels alienated from "red" and "blue," and estranged from the political process altogether as a a result.

Sheryl said...

I thought it was pretty funny in Kerry's speech when he said:

"Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America – red, white, and blue." X-)

I was thinking to myself--Nader will be happy to hear that. I'd make jokes about the white Nader states, but someone might take me seriously.

Sheryl said...

Hey Ryan,

Someone in another blog was saying that no one in the UN is dealing with women's rights in Islam, so I was just browsing the UN media archive.

I came up with this this speech, which just happens to be by Shirin Ebadi. I like the way different conversations I take part in seem different on the surface, but overlap anyway. :-)