I am currently writing a review essay on the future of human rights but I started it prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and now I am finding myself scrambling to incorporate the avalanche of new issues the pandemic has brought for the future of human rights. I feel like at this point I should just ignore it and write what I intended to write before all this happened (therefore making the piece irrelevant) or just delay it until we have some view of all the ramifications of this pandemic (which could take years). Nevertheless, this morning as I was reading the news how the U.S. is“reopening” way too soon I was reminded of this simple, straightforward quote about human rights from Rhoda Howard-Hassmann’s book In Defense of Universal Human Rights. On the first page of chapter 1 she writes:
I defend international human rights as an ideal, a guide to how individual human beings ought to be treated. This ideal takes precedence over history, tradition, or culture: it also take precedence over economic systems, class rule, and the interests of state elites.
It is the last part that the COVID-19 pandemic really brings home. In the U.S. and many other countries in the world, the rights of citizens are subordinate to the economic system and the interest of economic (and state) elites. The drive to “reopen” is driven by the fact that economic elites and their lickspittles in government do not want to pay the request cost to keep people safe until the curve can truly be bent. The way to get through the COVID-19 pandemic that minimizes human misery is pretty simple. The government pays people’s a stipend to not work until we come out the other side. Couple this with a universal healthcare system and we could manage this pandemic. However, our response is a bailout directed mostly towards the wealthy and a choice of your wallet or your life for most everyone else. This basically is the response of our elites:
I wonder what it would be like to live in a society that truly protected universal human rights. I bet it would be nice