Your Human Rights are not real, nor is any law or rule or policy. These are concepts, ideologies even but they don’t really exist. The only laws that we have to follow are the laws of physics.
Before anyone says, humans have defied the laws of physics, we haven’t. We’ve certainly created many things that would have at one point seemed impossible (flight, breaking the speed of sound, lasers, medical advances) but those things are using the laws of physics to do something new, not breaking the laws.
Laws, or legal rules are in fact generally accepted ethical choice guidance, not even something you really have to stick to. Depending on where you live the laws can vary greatly. Firearms are legal in certain places, smoking is banned in many places now and most recently there is new legislation around single use plastics and other environmental impacts. Ultimately though, the only thing stopping you from following or breaking a law is your own choice.
If you choose for example, to murder someone, the fact that there is a law in place around murder is fairly unlikely to impact on your decision. In many countries Female Genital Mutilation is now illegal, but in certain cultures it is still practiced even though most of the world generally agree it is ethically wrong to do.
Over the course of human evolution we have learned to understand the existence of empathy. This is a very natural human reaction to another person. It might be you help someone in pain, or comfort a friend who is crying, or use CPR to revive a person. Empathy comes into play in every aspect of our lives and it is inherent in people. Usually those without empathy (which are essentially sociopaths) are people who due to circumstance have been driven to lose their empathy.
Understanding humans and using empathy has affected our laws over time. It was once acceptable to lock a disabled person in an institution for no other reason than they are disabled. We have evolved our thinking by using empathy to make laws that tell us it is ethically wrong to do that.
We as humans, choose to follow the ethical guidance of legislation but more than anything, we act upon our beliefs and empathy and decide as a person it is wrong to kill, rape or steal.
There have been many films, plays, books and other types of art and media which have played with the idea of a world where laws are different. One film “The Purge” is about one night a year where people can break any law they wish which leads to violence, murder and theft etc. Except, the fact that there is one ordained day per year is in itself a law. The idea is people purge their bad feelings once a year and the rest of the time life is peaceful and wonderful. This clearly wouldn’t work in reality but makes for a fun film idea.
Your Human Rights only exist conceptually and are still at the mercy of people making choices. If Human Rights were a law that had to be adhered to we wouldn’t actually need laws to tell us this, like the laws of physics where choice isn’t a factor.
Over the last 20 years or so we have come to understand that the capitalist system most of us live within is largely harmful to our lives. Corporations have found many ways to avoid paying tax, or to dispose of toxic waste with total disregard for the environment and often get away with fraud by ensuring that no people take the blame for the company’s actions. What good are laws?
Consequences. There are consequences for every choice you make and the law gives guidance to many of the potential choices. For example, hate crime and in particular racism. Racism has existed for a very, very long time maybe since the concept of race was created. There are laws stating it is a crime to abuse a person, or discriminate based on race (The Diversity Act in the UK gives guidance on this) This law, does not stop people being racist but the fact that it is considered wrong, then illegal, and finally punishable is a guidance to people to say “Don’t be racist” and hopefully, in time racism will end. It has been illegal to kill someone else for many years, but that hasn’t eradicated murder…
This has worked morally in reverse as well. Many things that legally were wrong we now agree are not and the laws have changed. It was only a few decades ago it was illegal to have gay sex in the UK. Right now in 2019 that seems astonishing and children now will look back with see how backwards this attitude was. Adults now will remember how attitudes have changed over the last 50 years, just look at how mainstream gay pride days have become. There are people who still hate and fear gay people or trans people or anyone not like themselves and one day we will hopefully live in a world where those differences are just differences and not something that bothers anyone but we are a long way from that. Like racism, homophobia will persist regardless of the laws around it.
Some may say that the fact you can be punished for a crime is what makes a law real. The case of the corporations finding ways around that is proof this doesn’t necessarily apply to all rules. Also, that any crime committed that does to through the legal system is still dependent on the opinion of a judge or a jury to decide whether or not a crime was committed. This shows that there is no absolute law that causes us to change our behaviour, again this is a choice we make.
In some countries it is illegal for women to dance, or it is illegal for people to be gay and in some of those countries those people will be executed for those acts. This is a law in those countries, laws which contravene Human Rights for most of the people of the world and an international body like the United Nations still is relatively powerless to change that. There is no overriding ethical, moral or empathy based law which binds us to good behaviour.
If someone told a person in London, UK it was illegal to dance and they could be executed for doing so those Londoners would quickly say that was both stupid and against a person’s human rights. The punishment for a crime is just as theoretical as the laws themselves, someone decided this at some point, that’s all.
Most of us live within this system whether we agree to or not. We have laws and if we break them the consequence is punishment (prison, a fine, a warning) but punishment does not prevent crime, developing ourselves socially does. Teaching people to make good moral and ethical choices is key to good behaviour but along with that people should be able to live in humane conditions, free of poverty with the options to be educated and work and contribute and have fun. It’s pointless telling someone with nothing they have human rights, why should they care about the rules when the world is inherently unequal.
In no way should we get rid of laws, these are like a good policy, guidance for behaviour and what will happen should you not follow the guidance. These are good things to have but they don’t make people behave a particular way, if they did no one would use narcotics. Alongside the laws, particularly human rights is the need to teach why they exist. The key thing we need is a means to having laws that are more equal for more people.