I hate to say it’s all relative – but it seems to be the case when it comes to COVID. You see, depending on where you live, your experience of this pandemic has been completely different… from the government response… to your ability to move about… to the scale and fear of the daily numbers.
Here in Argentina, for instance, we had one of the longest lockdowns in the world, with police not letting anyone leave their houses for months. Children were not allowed outside for even short walks – no schools, no parks, no playgrounds. Masks are mandatory everywhere (and are actually worn). We also have over 12,000 new cases a day.
The restaurants and parks (but still no playgrounds or childcare) finally opened about three weeks ago and…the numbers are finally going down in the capital!
Your experience was probably not like that… but it probably hasn’t been like many of our family members’ in Australia either.
Those in Melbourne, the country’s second largest city, have had another strict lockdown put in place. Enforced curfews start at 8pm. Police, riding on horseback, have raided open air fruit stalls. A pregnant woman was jailed for posting a Facebook event, ironically in the birthplace of Australian democracy. (It turns out protesting peacefully is not part of the Australian constitution).

The now famous image of Zoe Buhler arrested

Yesterday there were 14 new cases, and in fact, there are only 8 people in Intensive Care for COVID in the ENTIRE Country of Australia.
Human rights watch groups have condemned the actions of the Victorian government, to which the Premier (their ‘governor’) Daniel Andrews, replied,
“It’s not about human rights, it’s about human life.”
Now, the concept of ‘human rights’ is modern. While Aristotle and many of his elk contemplated the role of man in relationship to the state, they never considered the universality of these issues. After all, slaves were slaves – and the idea of a world without them never fully occurred to them. (Granted Aristotle did contemplate machines taking over the role of slaves).
But it’s our job as modern philosophers – of lovers of wisdom and virtue – to take up the gauntlet where previous great minds left off. So I ask you dear reader about the subject of ‘Human Rights’:
Do we need human rights? Is it possible that they can be universal? And if so, what should they be and what happens when we lose them?
As always you can write to me directly at [email protected] or comment below.