A pantheon of pain.
After a decade of controversy and unseemly disputes, the CMHR formally has opened in Winnipeg as the only museum in the world dedicated solely to human rights, which is a relatively new and problematic concept due to the vagaries of its meaning.
Which may also be why it attempts to define the term with early examples of the struggle--from the Magna Carta to the philosophies of Rousseau and Marx. Then fast-forward to 1948, when the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, with support from international progressives such as former US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, set out its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This secular humanist charter was a response to the recent atrocities of World War II when "disregard and contempt for human rights resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind." Resolved to begin a new chapter in human history, the charter declared that human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that, from then on, these freedoms must be regarded as the foundation of justice and peace in a brave new world where social progress must be promoted and human rights protected by the rule of law.
As if human nature could be overcome by good intentions! As if the inherent fallen-ness of mankind could be denied or coerced or "guilted" into submission by the high-minded notions of ideologues who ignore history and its undeniable lessons, all of which confirm that Man has been in a state of sin since Eden. Just as the Bible teaches.
What are "human rights" anyway? And from whose authority do they flow?
The humanist answer will always be nebulous and elusive because, rather than basing human rights in the eons-old belief that all rights come from God, modern notions of human rights have been rooted in secular humanism, that wellspring from which the Enlightenment and its bastards--socialism, communism and contemporary liberalism/progressivism--also spewed.
Therein lies the problem.
There's deep irony here as well because the CMHR has focused on the very genocidal crimes--Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's Holodomor (the Ukrainian famine of 19321933)--that erupted from the humanism the museum ostensibly celebrates.
Ironic too that these fascist and communist atrocities should still be cast as crimes of the Right and the Left when the truth is that Nazism, when properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the Right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the Left. This fact--an inconvenient truth if there ever was one--has been obscured in our time and since the Second World War by the equally mistaken belief that Nazi socialism and Stalinist communism are opposites. In truth, they were two wings of the same bird, historical competitors seeking to dominate the same social space. Their current appearance as polar opposites has long been a trick of intellectual history perpetrated initially by Josef Stalin in a clever propaganda effort to portray the Soviets as good and the Nazis as evil when, in terms of theory and practice, there is little difference between them. And the trick has persisted to this day.
"It is difficult now, in the light of their massive crimes and failures, to remember that both fascism and communism were, in their time, utopian visions and the bearers of great hopes," writes Jonah Goldberg in his brilliant treatise, Liberal Fascism. "What's more, fascism, like communism, was an international movement that attracted adherents in every Western society. Particularly in the aftermath of World War I--but beginning much earlier--a fascist movement arose on the ashes of the old European order. It drew together the various strands of European politics and culture--the rise of ethnic nationalism, the Bismarckian welfare state, and the collapse of Christianity as a source of social and political orthodoxy and universal aspirations. In place of Christianity, it offered a new religion of the divinized state and the nation as an organic community."
Since then, this international movement has had many offshoots and mutations. And it has gone by many names which, like nailing jam to a wall, makes it so hard to pin down. Suffice it to say that international fascism/communism and its emphasis on "human rights" has drawn its strength from the same poisonous fountain as contemporary progressivism, that moralistic social crusade from which today's liberals proudly claim descent.
And it's on this tradition that the CMHR has been built, all the squabbling notwithstanding. Intentionally or not, it has also been built on that seductive ideology through which todays liberals continue to acquire ever more power--the "cult of the victim" and its obsession with suffering. Not merely the specific sufferings of flesh-and-blood individuals, but with the collective suffering that supposedly distinguishes "victim" groups from other members of society and whose "human rights" must be championed, however ill-defined.
Which may explain why the CMHR also features ubiquitous posters of human rights activists and other icons of doing-good, from Harvey Milk to Bishop Desmond Tutu.
I doubt, however, that this pantheon of pain bears any trace of Mrs. Jellyby, the memorable philanthropist from Charles Dickens' Bleak House who could see nothing of importance closer than Africa as she pursued her various charities at the expense of her long-suffering husband and neglected children.
Even so, standing in the shadow of this museum that charts the crimes committed against "human rights" in the name of all the "isms" that placed their faith in them rather than the God Who has been obliterated from the public square, I wonder what I am supposed to think and feel during a visit.
While exiting the CMHR, will I say to myself: "Oh, what a thing is man?" Or "Oh, what a horror is man?"
And lastly, is there any space there at all for that most fundamental human right of all? Do those who built it--each of whom have been granted the right to the life itself--see any irony at all in Progressive Canadas utter lack of any legislation whatsoever guaranteeing the right to life of an unborn baby?
I'm betting they don't.
Paula Adamick is the founding editor of The Canada Post established in 1997 for Canadian expatriates living in Britain.
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|Title Annotation:||Canadian Museum for Human Rights|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2014|
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