The Netherlands has been criticized recently, in the EU, for being too principled. Our minister of foreign affairs insists on keeping an eye on human rights in Eastern Europe - as a criterion for whether or not a country should expect to become part of the EU at some point. Most other countries feel that if a country wants to be in the EU it should be given hope, in order to prevent them getting closer to Russia - aka political issues.

Of course I agree that Russia has been acting very troublesome recently - but is that enough reason to sidestep the human rights issue?

In other words: how important should ideals be? Should countries take 'the political reality' into account on such issues, or should they accept that human rights are not high on the agenda of countries where democracy is not deeply rooted (yet)?

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My opinion is that ideals and principles are of the utmost importance. In politics as well as in Theosophy.

Is it possible to live rightly without principles?
One might argue that forcing poor countries to practice human rights is itself an unkindness. Is it right principled to force principles on people/countries? I really don't know.
Human rights are a complicated issue because there are countries like Russia and China that have to be dealt with no matter what their human rights record. Political reality is not merely something to be taken into account, it is the primary concern, especially if the issue is between two powers with major interests to deal with. And if the other country believes that its vital interests are involved it is an absolute waste of time to even bother with human rights because the other country simply is not going to care.

Ideals really have no place in international politics. Preaching to countries is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It won't work and only serves to annoy the pig.
Exactly. If I think my neighbor isn't raising her children "right" I can approach her with suggestions of "help" (in my opinion) and she is not going to appreciate it, and she is not going to change how she raises her children. However, inevitably, if I was correct, and she wasn't raising her children "right" by the standards of our community, she is eventually going to get to know the police, no? In our world, the police here are the economic forces of the world. "Good" people/countries with "good" human right ideals will eventually economically punish countries with "bad" human rights policies, and there is not a lot that oppressed people, or even those who speak for them can do about it.
And there are limits to the economic power as well. That may work on small countries with small armies and small economies, but if you try it with a nuclear superpower it can either pretty much ignore it or, if it feels really pressed, go to the equivalent of our defcon 3 (the state of alert just before nuclear war) and tell the rest of the world to back off or else.

Now, if you have a country like Iran which produces a commodity that everyone wants, there are no economic levers that will succeed and Iran found a very creative way to shut up Amnesty International. After the Ayatollah took over a policy was introduced that if just one letter was received supporting anyone in prison, that person was immediately executed. It was called "the kiss of death" response and it worked.
My example was about small countries - and the very real political clout the EU has because Eastern European nations want to join it.

The real question is, I guess, whether that clout should be used to stimulate human rights...

To Susan - do you really think economic growth comes to those countries where there are human rights? Seems to me China has more economic growth than the US does, despite the fact that the US has far more human rights instituted. Of course the average level of wealth is still higher in the US. Perhaps that's your point? Despite the growing percentage of the population living in poverty.
No, my point is that definitions of "good" human rights and "bad" human rights policies are often in the "eye of the beholder" who sees something s/he wants being kept just out of reach by someone who has a different definition. Even though that causes a moral conflict, the beholder still wants what s/he wants.
We all recall how China quickly wiped out Opium addicts. While it was cruel, I think the population is better off now. Today drug problem in most countries is a very serious one and no democratic country has so far succeeded in solving it.
I think it very likely that the drug problem has gone underground in China, instead of disappeared. Do we really know enough about the country to know whether the drug problem is worse or better there than anywhere else?
It depends on where in China.

In the large cities in Eastern China the problem is underground but still there. In the Western half of China the situation is roughly that of Mexico right now, with drugs easily available from Afghanistan and the army and police in the pay of the drug lords.
i think ive come to see the current state of affairs as perhaps the most natural outcome to this point, (not that people should be satisfied with it as that too is needed for further development). our human rights and ideals have been a product born out of suffering, and i could only imagine that forcing such rights on countries, who arent perhaps yet ready for that kind of paradigm shift, wouldnt achieve the desired affect.

if the majority of society suddenly realised the transient nature of the ego and suffering, i would ask, would rights and ideals still be required? possibly for those who havent come to that conclusion. but how would society function if everyone understood they were all one. would it look something like communism? utilitarianism? i mean if the death of one physical body resulted in better conditions for the other millions of shells, would it be sacrficed? are rights and ideals, which so many stand for, the product of the ego and personality, which as far as the absolute goes, doesnt even really have any true/sovereign authority to enforce those rights?
Very interesting food for thought, Mikhayl. Buddhism teaches that all is suffering. We each suffer in different ways, and certainly being imprisoned, dying slowly of malnutrition or dehdration or having a disease for which you cannot receive treatment brings that suffering to the attention of anyone who observes it. I totally agree with you that forcing human rights will never work, it has to evolve, and it usually does so painfully. However, as any parent who has taught a child to walk or ride a bicycle can tell you, growth can be just as painful to watch as it is to experience. We can all learn as the world awakens to the responsibilities that come to individuals achieve certain rights. We can try to "help" in our own ways, but even if everyone has "rights" there will be some who have more "rights" than others, and suffering will continue.


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