What I Think About Cultural Relativism—Human Rights 101


So you read the title and you’re thinking, “what’s cultural relativism?” Don't worry, I'm keeping this little blog/rant short and sweet.

According to chegg.com, it's “the principle of regarding the beliefs, values, and practices of a culture from the viewpoint of that culture itself”. In essence, the concept is there to avoid judging another culture by the standards of your own. But, is that the right way or the wrong way of assessing our cultural differences?

If human rights, are rights that are entitled to everyone that is human, wouldn't it then be logical to believe that these rights would be applied universally? We can’t decide which actions are right or wrong simply by consulting the standards of our very own society. Are you following?

Wouldn’t it be a better idea to define what’s moral, on maybe a slightly larger, more global scale? Some believe that the Declaration of Human Rights can’t be applied worldwide, that we need to take into consideration the differences between countries like culture, and social and economic development. I’m not exactly sold on that idea. And that also has zero to do with with human rights.

What human would want to feel fearful? Who would enjoy being tortured? What woman would want to be treated like a second-class citizen? We can’t forget that it’s vital for us to identify ourselves with being human first and foremost, and culture second, because that’s just the right order. One is biological and the other is just plain labeling.

The different labels we carry (Canadian, Italian, Muslim, Christian) unknowingly contribute to segregation, which permit different communities to value different beliefs, instead of focusing on the similarities between them. And what does this do? It leads humanity astray of what is truly important; the pursuit of happiness and world peace.

- Chrystal Thompson