Monday, July 04, 2011

The evolution of human and animal rights

The evolution of human and animal rights

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Wed, 06/22/2011 7:00 AM, The Jakarta Post, opinion
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Ethics and norms, by which individuals have lived with others in society and by which culture and civilization have progressed, have changed over time.

Driyarkara, an Indonesian religious leader and philosopher whose contribution to the nation’s struggle and development cannot be doubted, explained this in many of his works.

One can perhaps argue that ethics, an important human invention which in turn has prescribed how to behave with others properly, have progressed remarkably. Ancient and classical ethics, compared to modern ethics, sounds agonizing. Cruelty and brutality when attacking enemies, which are unbearable by modern standards, are painted on the canvases of ancient battles and wars.

The way in which men treated other men and other creatures has changed. In some ancient cultures, there are stories that kings maliciously beheaded their people. Those who opposed rulers were deemed criminals. Rebel leaders, considered sinners who acted not only against their rulers but also God, were crucified or hanged.

Thanks to modern democracy, which has guided us to be more sensitive to forms of oppression and injustice, show our standard of ethics has improved. Regimes cannot simply put those who demand “openness” and “transparency” simply to death, as is happening in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Rulers, who are ordinary people (just like us, prone to mistakes) chosen by others, are not descended from gods or goddesses.

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