Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Human Right to Home and Identity

The Human Right to Home and Identity
by Hartwig Huber

These quotes are taken from an article published in the German ‘Nation Europa’ journal in July 1989:

When two hundred years ago the rights of man were solemnly declared, anthropology as a natural science was still in its infancy. Human rights are the creation of jurists and philosophers. The premiss of their thinking was an isolating and speculative one: Man was abstractly conceived as an individual; not as a man, or a woman, or a child, or as someone with ties to a family, an ethnic group [Stamm], a people [Volk]. The heterogeneous world which had grown up over centuries, and which even in the age of absolutism had started to become rationally organized, was now radically simplified.

An abstractly conceived being, Man, was recognized to have fundamental freedoms in 1789, but not to be a communal being. In those days nothing was known of genetics and the like. They were building on speculations about a noble savage, who was contrasted with the European who had been corrupted by his society. [ ... ]

Charles Darwin discovered the natural history of man. The history of his development was uncovered step by step. [ ... ] Modern man emerged in the Ice Age, the quaternary. [ ... ] Research into human behaviour, which made leaps and bounds with the work of the Nobel prize-winner Konrad Lorenz, who died recently, has done a lot to establish a realistic and scientific picture of man. However, the resistance of older, better established sciences such as sociology is still strong. The conflict between empirical natural science and speculative human sciences has not yet been fought out to a conclusion. The picture of man founded on the natural sciences should be taken into account in a redrafting of human rights. […]

Man is a territorial being. That was not yet known in 1789. Every man strives to possess space to dispose of as he alone sees fit. These are the roots of the right to a home [Heimat]. But the right to a home can be found in no constitution which incorporates human rights. If human rights are to mean anything, however, then the right to a home should be included in the list!

Man is as much an individual as a collective being. In every human group a hierarchy establishes itself very quickly and instinctively: men are unequal. Every scientist knows that to establish differences he must experimentally create the same conditions. (Before the law all men are equal.)

The development of man is a combination of natural and cultural factors. This has given rise to an abundance of ethnic groups. American ethnographers have counted at least 4,000 cultures on the earth. The wealth of the human species is in its abundance of cultures.

Let us sum up: the human rights of 1789 were incomplete. The right to a home and an identity must now be added to them. The human rights of the Enlightenment are abstract, individual rights. If they are to be complete and to be implemented, they must include collective human rights, namely the human rights to home and identity! In other words, the human rights of the individual and those of the community should complement each other harmoniously. Every people has a right to its own identity. Whoever violates this right is playing with fire.

[‘Menschenrecht auf Heimat und Identität’ [The human right to home and identity], Nation Europa, 39/7 (July 1989), 5-6.]

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