THIS IS Morten Jorgensen's international baseblog.
Check also out BRENTBLOG, where you can follow the progress and development of my forthcoming novel "Brent".

On INTERMASHONAL you will find essays and comments and articles and links, including links to all my other work.

INTERMASHONAL will gradually become more active, as I am transferring my authorship from Norway to The World. I'll tell you why in two essays called POWER TO THE READER, which you will find here. Enjoy!

My Norwegian blog is STOR M (Capital M).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

BEIJING IN RETROSPECT 03: To the deconstruction of the concept of "human rights".

When Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre leaves Norway for an official China visit, he is usually asked by the Norwegian press: "Will you raise the question of human rights with the Beijing authorities?" The answer is always, "Yes, certainly", or "We just did", or "We always do". Norway is "concerned" with China's "human rights record".

However, the Declaration of Human Rights is comprehensive. It covers many aspects of human life and many different rights.

This is e.g. paragraph 25:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

The last decenniums, China has given hundreds of millions poverty-stricken Chinese these basic human rights.

In comparison, Norway, the world's richest nation per capita, with 3000 billion NOK or 385 billion Euro banked in the National Petroleum Fund (SPF), holds the dubious heroin overdose record for Europe. And even though each Norwegian citizen, at least on paper, through the Fund "has" 650 000 NOK or 80 000 Euro tucked away for a rainy day, still 10 % of the Norwegian population is officially classified as "poor".

And I could continue onto the second subsection of paragraph 25, which reads,
"Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection",
as 60 000 of these poor are children. I could also mention other Norwegian violations of the Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, I could mention the many human rights violations that has brought Norway to the attention of Amnesty International, but I see no need for that.

For what is my point here? A competition in human rights? "Which country is best on human rights? Norway or China?" Should Norway become Little China? Am I a closet Communist? By no means. But as an author, I feel an obligation to defend the honour of Mother Language.

When Norwegian foreign minister Støre talks about "China's human rights record", he is a thief. He is stealing the words "human rights record", making them his property. He transforms the content of the (comprehensive) Human Rights Declaration, making the concept of human rights synonymous with "free speech" and "multi-parti system".

I am an author, so by default I am a supporter of free speech, and I find any censorship deplorable. So Mr. Støre is of course fully entitled to discuss these matter with the Chinese authorities. However, that he speaks in general about China's "human rights record", making it sound as if Norway is the proverbial angel while China is supposedly a demon, is another matter. From a global perspective, China's human rights record is nothing less than enviable, for any country. Millions upon millions of impoverished Chinese have been lifted up from utter misery to a good and meaningful life.

If anything, Mr. Støre should lower his head in respect for what China actually has achieved when it comes to establishing basic human rights - the very foundation of human dignity - for such a vast number of our fellow human brothers and sisters. If we feel inclined to compare this feat with Norway's human rights achievements, I am tempted to propose the adjective used in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to describe planet Earth: "insignificant". (Pop. 4,9 million.)

That is, if we give paragraph 25 the status that it deserves. Or, as the German author Bertolt Brecht said it:
Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral
Erst muss es möglich sein auch armen Leuten
Vom grossen Brotlaib sich ihr Teil zu Schneiden
 (First comes a good meal, then morality
 First it must be possible for the poor as well
To cut their slice of the big cake)
In other words, if Mr. Støre sees it as his prerogative to use his (sovereign) right to condemn the free speech record of China from a moral point of view, he should also be prepared for a resiprocal condemnation from China for Norway's appalling human rights records when it comes to the Norwegian poor, and especially the destitute Norwegian druggies, who are only met with police and a cold bureaucracy that treats them like human trash.

Nobody has forced the Chinese Communist Party to take the path that has made China what China is today. The Communists of China could have chosen "the Rumanian model", living a life in luxury and decadence. They had a choice. So has the authorities of Norway when it comes to eliminating poverty and curing drug addiction.

Yes, come to think of it, I would actually encourage the Chinese authorities to raise Norwegian human rights violations internationally, as the dissidents of Norway, and I am but one, have tried to raise these two issues in the oil-rich and prosperous Norway for years, but to absolutely no avail whatsoever.

If this is not to Mr. Støre's pleasing, then maybe he should consider consulting his dictionary: E for Eurocentrism. H for hypocrisy. S for self-righteousness.

* In September 2011, Morten Jorgensen travelled to Beijing for research on his forthcoming novel BRENT. This series expresses his non-novel related reflections on China and China's relationship to the West. 

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