Does every human have human rights?

I had struggled with this question for a long time, until recently. The question rooted in my mind while discussing why transportation should be accessible to all, which is based on equality.

‘Equality’… everyone advocates it, defends it and fights for it.

I asked a number of people, why? Why should everyone be equal? Why should everyone have the same rights? The answers I got were varied.

Some took the preventive approach, where they argued that

if people were not given equal rights, the world would crumble into anarchy, where a chosen few will control the most. The world would return to the era of kings and dictators, which we like to regard as ‘old’.

Though this explanation might be true, I had problem with it thinking that the very foundation of our society can’t be this shallow that we were given these rights not because we deserved them, rather just to keep us in check.

Others argued that

the rights we were given were things that had no cost associated with it, we had no control over them, couldn’t keep them in check, so everyone was regarded as equal in regard of those rights.

This made me feel like a beggar, being kept imprisoned for the time when they can loot more stuff from me. Is this all there was to equality?

A great friend of mine said

he didn’t believe equality is necessary rather ‘equality of opportunity’ is necessary.

I didn’t fully grasp what he meant so he wrote down an equation to explain it to me, “Access = f(end costumer cost, consumer income)”. But for once I couldn’t satisfy myself with the hard cold logic of my friend. I guess, I was looking for an answer which explained why we deserved to be equal, not just a document declaring my right with a bunch of signatures underneath it, being ‘human’ must mean more than that!

I dug deeper for weeks, forgot about it for days and then dug deeper again. ‘Equality’ is such an accepted concept that rarely does anyone seem to question the very basis of equality, everyone seems to accept it unconditionally.

The concept of equality, without going into philosophy, dates back to ‘Declaration of the rights of the Man and of the Citizen’ passed by the French National Constituent Assembly in 1789. The declaration was the fundamental document for French Revolution and Human Rights. The declaration states

Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be founded only on the common good.

and goes on to describe the rights and the functions of the law. The Declaration was directly influenced by Thomas Jefferson, General Lafayette, the American revolution as well as the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ which is again based on the ‘Natural Law’.

So the answer to question, ‘Does every human have rights?’, is actually a combination of all of the above,

yes, it is a document with a lot of signatures upon it, 
yes, it is rooted in French revolution which was to throw away authoritative rule, 
and yes, it describes taxation as means to provide access,

however, the ultimate answer is very simple and yet so elegant and beautiful that all of us know it.

The rights are given to us because they given to us by ‘nature’. Man made nations, money, machines and cars, we created differences, however, nature created us equal in certain respects which should be preserved. The law of nature, of reasoning is regarded above all, after fifteen centuries worth of struggle.

P.S. — The more interesting thing is that, the Declaration gave equal rights to ‘Men’ only, women had to release their own declaration which took few years! So yes, the declaration contradicted itself!


Originally published at www.quora.com.