The Human Rights and Culture divide? Another Watching the Slab scenario?
A raging argument on the universality of human rights continues. People still wonder which divide of the argument is correct. Can human rights be applied equally to everyone irrespective of their backgrounds? Is culture a mould within which our expression of human rights is cast? Can a common place be found between human rights and culture?
Culture is a standard of acceptable behavior which varies from place to place. The core identity of people is often tied to their culture. Hence, modifying culture is often not easily negotiable even when it is counter-progressive.
Here is a story which has been told over and over but which still has high relevance.
There was an army barracks that had on its duty roster 4 soldiers to guard at all times a concrete slab in front of the barracks. The soldiers changed shifts guarding the slabs for many years. Different commanders came and went and the tradition continued.After many years, a new commander was assigned to the barracks. Among the things he did was asking why things were done the way they were. When he asked why soldiers were guarding the slab, he was told, “We’ve always done it this way. It’s our tradition. Our former commanders instructed us to do that.” The commander was adamant on finding out why.He went to the archives to look for answers and he came across a document that had the explanation. The document was very old. It had instructions written by one of the retired commanders who had even passed away. The new commander learnt that over 80 years ago, the barracks wanted to build a platform where events could be performed. When the concrete slab was laid, wild animals walked over it at night before the slab would dry. The soldiers would fix it the next morning but when evening came the same thing would happen. So the commander ordered that 4 soldiers should guard the concrete slab for 3 weeks to allow it to dry.The following week the commander was transferred to another post and a new commander was brought in. The new commander found the routine and enforced it and every commander that came did the same. Eighty years later the barracks continued guarding a concrete slab.