søndag 18. februar 2024

From China's Past: P.C. Chang and His Contribution to the UN Human Rights Declaration

Many people can’t contemplate that after World War II–especially through the mediation of the Human Rights Commission and the drafting of the Universal Declaration– the idea of human rights had already been transformed by many non-Western cultures and histories. 

P.C. Chang was one of the most important figures in that mediation, but there were other non-Western nations that were represented. The first factor is that people simply have this knee-jerk reaction when you talk about human rights: “Oh, it’s a Western idea. You can trace human rights back to some European theological notions of natural rights.” That’s probably the most central factor. How do you get around this mental block that “this is Western and that is not-Western?” How do you get around this proprietary genealogy of ideas? People do claim ideas, saying: “I own this idea. You take this idea from me and I influence you.” That’s the usual way of thinking about ideas. It’s curious how people take possession of ideas. If you tell them that “perhaps you don’t possess this idea,” they will probably panic. We’ll see if people panic.