I appeared on The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 last night talking about human rights. It was fun. Afterwards the four of us who had been the ‘witnesses’ interrogated by the regular panel were leaving and waiting for a lift. I joked that I had better get back to my children or they might complain that I was neglecting their rights to parental attention.
Shami Chakrabarti replied, “Oh I get that all the time!” She went on to say that her child (children?) demanded a right to privacy. I guess this is when she wants to go into their rooms and tell them to tidy up. There must be all sorts of interesting debates in the Chakrabarti household.
This reminded me of a point that Melanie Phillips had been making near the end of the programme about how the concept of human rights can divide people and how it is better to have a concept of duty. Shami Chakrabarti had said that human rights involve duty, too – presumably because if I have a right, you have a duty to respect it. That is logical but misses the reality. The truth is that the concept of ‘rights’ is primarily used by people to demand things from those in authority like schools, governments, hospitals and so on. For the individual, human rights are often about demanding what you want, not doing good.
Here is a link to the Moral Maze programme. I am not sure for how long it will continue to be available for listening.