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The hypocrisy of Western human rights
update:December 12,2022
The U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., the U.S., March 25, 2020. /Xinhua
Editor's note: David Ferguson, a winner of the Chinese Government Friendship Award, is a senior translation editor at Foreign Languages Press. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.
In the minds of their Western champions, the most important human rights are the rights of the individual. They tend to be framed as the safeguards that defend the individual from the tyranny of the State – freedom of speech, and the right to vote for your leaders.
Let's imagine I come upon a starving homeless family dressed in rags on the street, and ask them "What do you need most?" What are they going to reply? Anybody with common sense knows that they are going to say, "We need a roof over our head. Clothes on our back. Food on the table…" They won't say, "We need political rights – freedom of speech and the right to vote for our leader…"
Confronted with this paradox, champions of Western human rights will quickly lose sight of the importance of the individual. "This analogy is simplistic," they will tell you. "Social change can only be effected for large numbers of people through the exercise of collective political rights. A home, clothes, food – these can only be secured for the masses if their political rights are first guaranteed…" That, or something similar.
This is an obvious fallacy too, as is easily demonstrated. Many major cities in India are surrounded by sprawling cardboard slumdog shanty towns filled with millions of people. None of them have proper homes. Many of them are dressed in rags, and are hungry.
According to Western logic, these people must like living in these conditions, since India is a Western-style democracy, and they have Western-style political rights. So if they didn't like living like this, they would just use their votes, and "vote for something else."
Behind this logic, there is a stark truth. You can vote for many things, but you cannot vote for prosperity. You cannot gain prosperity by marking an X in a box. And behind this fact there is an even starker truth – one that is largely ignored by Western champions of freedom, democracy, and human rights.
There is not a single example, in the whole history of the planet, of a country that was poor and underdeveloped, and became a Western-style democracy, and went on to become prosperous and successful as a result.
Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government regain control over the city, Tripoli, Libya, June 4, 2020. /Reuters
Libya was once prosperous and successful – the most stable, orderly, and prosperous nation in Africa, with the highest ranking of the UN Human Development Index. Under Muammar Gaddafi, it provided a range of benefits to its people far in excess of what anyone in the U.S. enjoys – including free healthcare for all, and free education up to and including university.
But Libya wasn't doing it "right." So in 2011, the U.S., France and the UK went to Libya to save the people from their "dictator," and give them human rights. Libya has become a failed state, broken in pieces, its infrastructure and institutions gone. Its GDP has fallen by half since it was liberated, and oil has been replaced as its main industry by people-trafficking. Those responsible – David Cameron, Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy – will still tell you with a straight face that this was the fault of the ordinary people of Libya, for failing to exercise the human rights that the West had provided to them.
But none of this matters, because it is all logic and facts. And logic and facts are trumped by a much simpler and more important factor. Whoever controls the megaphone, controls the message. And in the international arena, the West – which more and more means the forces that run the U.S. – control the megaphone and the message. They define what human rights are, and when the human rights they pretend to prize are to be applied.
Nowhere is their hypocrisy more apparent than in China. From the 1950s to the 1980s, with its weapons and its cash, the U.S. championed the cause of "freedom and democracy" in Tibet. Over exactly the same period, with its weapons and its cash, it championed the cause of a military dictatorship under martial law in Taiwan. You literally cannot get further away from freedom and democracy on the political spectrum than  a military dictatorship under martial law.
Times have changed, some people have changed, some processes have changed. One thing has not changed. The U.S. still meddles incessantly in Tibet and Taiwan, and its purpose is still the same. The U.S. has no interest whatsoever in making Tibetan or Taiwanese lives better. It only wants to make Chinese lives worse. And that same logic applies in every single country or region where the U.S. sticks its interfering nose. There are always people somewhere whose lives need to be made worse, in the cause of defending their human rights.
Americans go through life believing that they are Marty McFly, and the other guy is Biff Tannen. Washington: You are not Marty McFly. Biff is the obnoxious, bully who swaggers around town throwing his weight around hurting people, who thinks he can do as he pleases. Biff is you.
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