Cultures Themselves Don’t Respect Human Rights

Social media is all aflutter about perceived human rights violations that many are trying to link to the Duterte administration. However, such people should be reminded of another thing: human rights violations are an issue in other countries and cultures too, even developed ones. Back in 2014, writer Eric Posner wrote about why humanity has failed to uphold human rights worldwide, and abuses continue. In a reply to fellow blogger Mike Portes, I said that most cultures and societies don’t support human rights. Posner mentioned that human rights was not as universal as hoped, and this is because many cultures thrive by taking away human rights. Now some of you may find this shocking and would vehemently disagree, but look again at many cases around the world.


Things like arranged marriages, footbinding in China and female circumcision in Africa. Headhunting as a tradition, too. Slavery in many cultures. The caste system in India. Many cultures that dictate dress and even taste, what one should love and not love, even who should live and die (the punishment for some people who don’t follow the culture could even be death). Then, I saw on a Facebook friend’s wall the picture of a baby found in the trash and left to die – even a mother did not respect her child’s rights. The story of humanity has been all about people violating rights, because they believe they need to do it in order to survive. It goes back to what I’ve explained about the survival mentality – many people believe that for them to survive, at least another must not.

We would want all this to stop, but there is this irony to be pointed out. The thing we see that builds societies and creates beautiful things like clothing styles, dances, art and can also give birth to abuse. It can give birth to human rights violations. It is culture.

That’s why Get Real Philippines sees culture as the center of everything. Culture is the source of how people behave in a society, and it is the root of the mess that our country is. Any solution for our society should address our culture. For that, we need to accept that cultures can be wrong and need to be changed. Then we need to understand how cultures work and how we go about that change.

Going to the understanding part, I believe that, as one aspect, culture exists as a social control.

People have found ways to control others through rules, traditions, and customs. It’s likely a product of steps taken by primordial tribe leaders to ensure that no one does something stupid during times where survival is difficult. But later on, times get better, and some make traditions and customs for selfish reasons. For example, old people created the superstition that sleeping with your head wet will make you blind, but the real reason is because one’s pillow will become smelly from the wetness. They just don’t want any whiff of a bad-smelling pillow reaching their nostrils. In another case, one may contest that the tradition that forcing children to take care of them in old age is more a product of desire for control rather than instilling respect in others. After being a means of survival, cultural things became a means for control and manipulation of others.

Culture is also based on making an identity that separates you from others. One reason culture develops is the “us versus them” mentality. Some people identify with a group to make sure they are not part of another group. They create traditions and customs for this. Circumcision and kosher are examples for Jews; that identifies them as apart from the rest. This is often what people call on as a source of pride. But this pride causes divisions. Culture builds walls.

Here then is the problem of human rights. It is mainly a western invention, an abstract idealization created by people in comfortable societies who might have little or no exposure to what people in societies they see as backward really think, feel and do. As a writer previously said, it may be a partial product of ivory tower academism. They are the types that, when they hear of female circumcision, they go to and sign a petition to stop it. The thing is, a fat lot of good that petition will do. One has to really be on the ground, right there where it happens, to work with people there and influence the society directly. And that’s only one part of the problem.

When you try to change a culture, there is resistance. For example (a fictional one), you want a certain village to stop cutting off pinky fingers of children as an identifying mark for their village. They will scream back, “you dare tell us to stop our tradition that defines our identity! You lecture us about human rights, what about our rights to keep our tradition!” What if some ivory tower people who support human rights also support “respecting” other cultures and traditions? If you say, “we must eradicate some cultures because their wrong practices are intrinsic parts,” they’d be shocked and call you evil. So there is that dilemma.

When people express shock at today’s situation, with so many killings happening within a short time under the Duterte administration, one must recall that this is really a product of our culture. I previously explained that Filipino society, even in today’s modern age, is still premised on the master-servant relationship. Some are rich, some are poor, some are masters, others must be their servants. And masters expect to have the power of life and death over their servants. Inequality is still a defining aspect of our society. It is part of our culture. The apparent solution is changing our culture.

Some may keep on yapping about Duterte allegedly violating human rights, but they may ignore other possible human rights violations in the country. For example, we know poorer couples in the province tends to have lots of children, such as from ten to twenty, in the hope that they get lots of financial support when they get old. When some of those children die from disease or accidents, they might say “ganun talaga” (that’s how it is). But would this callous regard about children’s lives be considered a violation of human rights? Some would, some don’t, I guess. Our webmaster Benign0 also hinted that being trapped in slow, ponderous traffic on roads can be seen as a violation of our human rights. So here then, how would you define human rights?

Make no mistake, I also agree with making human rights universal. But in doing this, the political vehicles prove to be ineffective. The cultures need to be brought on board with the program. Otherwise, they won’t agree to uphold human rights. We probably need a sort of “evangelistic” approach. This involves getting people to believe that what they have been doing for most of their lives is wrong and they should change it to the right action. There are sure to be some people who would favor change. There are headhunters who have given up their old ways and live peacefully. But there are also those who would resist and keep doing what the “human wrong.” Breaking that down would be necessary as well.

I find sound the idea in a Huffington Post article about the solution being economic. Posner cited development economics as an essential associated topic. The ability to enjoy human rights is largely based on economic condition. One could accurately say that many cultures that violate human rights are found in undeveloped or less developed countries (such as ours). If you can help people have better economic status in life, they would be more open to changing their lifestyle and beliefs. Applying the economic improvement is less likely when you change the form of government, such as changing to the parliamentary type. As I said before, culture is more influenced by business these days, and even politics is influenced by business. The power for cultural change seems more in the hands of those with economic power; that includes consumers as well, who should realize that they can exert pressure on the business sector. Filipinos who are exposed to other cultures as OFWs should bring home not just money but practices and ideas to improve our society. And that’s only one of the things we could do to change culture.

We need to stop treating culture as a sacred cow and we should believe that it’s something we can remake. Many “advocates” find it popular to stand up to political leaders. Has anyone thought of standing up to our cultural leaders? They have been leading us the wrong way in culture as much as politicians have. For me, human rights supports culture as something that cannot be imposed on people, and should instead be freely chosen or rejected by individuals. In today’s time, we have the tools and the framework to individually make that decision and act on it.


About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

Post Author: ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

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55 Comments on "Cultures Themselves Don’t Respect Human Rights"

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Just take the example of Iraq and Lybia. The U.S./C.I.A., with its U.S. State Department sponsored coup d’etat, or invaded those countries. Hoping, to force into the throats of those people; that they will embrace , the American way of government, falsely called :democracy. You can see the results of these countries.Civil Wars; rebellion; ISIS Caliphate; Bombings indiscriminately , with many civilian casualties. Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad; they tried to remove. The war continues. The ISIS Caliphate is flourishing. These Arab people have never known ,Democracy. They were ruled for many centuries, by Dictators; Monarchies; Ruling Families; Military Dictators;… Read more »

The problem with modern Filipinos is they are ashamed of their indigenous grass skirt-wearing and spear-chucking culture; and that their Colonial heritage have evolved from the Spanish, Americans, Chinese, and who knows what else.

Perhaps this is reason why Filipinos cannot work out their differences among themselves and unite as one nation; they’ve failed to come to terms with their warring, tribal nature; acknowledge it; and learn to work through it in spite of its shortcomings.


Is the premise of the article one that was meant to defend Pres. Duterte against allegation of human rights violation? If so, this line is an implied admission that he could be guilty of such.

“…..human rights violations are an issue in other countries and cultures too, even developed ones.”

I say that because it is true that violations of human rights do happen in other countries.

Part of this culture that we have now, which causes us to think “me, me, me” is the Spanish-imposed regionalism. Someone said here before that they’re blaming the regionalism and tribal mentality solely to the Pinoys, and I can agree with that, but only up to a point – until the Spaniards made sure it’s the only way we are to think so they can keep us from fighting back as one. (See Heneral Luna, the movie for a preview of how divided we were during the Filipino-American War.) If the people, led by the President, not only Duterte, but… Read more »
Good article. Poor Filipinos having 15 kids, raising them in abject poverty, just in the hope of them providing them with pera mamaya in the future, is a human rights problem. Should those kids have the right not to suffer with poverty and disease? Yes, the parents are selfish and sick. There are many cultures in the world, including ones supported by the UN, who commit atrocities. Referring to what ChinoF said, approximately 75%+, if I am not mistaken, of girls in Somalia have been sexually mutilated. The girls’ clitoris is cut off with a knife and her vagina sewed… Read more »

History is the chronicle of divorces between creed and deed.


The pages of Philippine history are filled with varying “creed” and “deed” by Filipinos who are incapable of thinking and behaving like one nation. If it’s true that “history repeats itself,” then we can almost predict what’s in store for the future for the Philippines and its people.

We probably need a sort of “evangelistic” approach. This involves getting people to believe that what they have been doing for most of their lives is wrong and they should change it to the right action. ===== Oh-oh, we have to be careful and clear about that ‘evangelistic’ thing. Who and where will it come from? What institution or organization will spearhead it and who will oversee and supervise such approach? What is the objective and desired result of such endeavor? Moving from culture to human rights to evangelism is a complex and sensitive thought. You might want to break… Read more »
Arnulfo Yu Laniba
BECOMING RICH AND STRONG BY MAKING OTHERS RICH AND STRONG I would like to comment against the popular and accepted line that “one needs to kill or eat or suck or exploit or deceive or outwit or extort the other/s in order to survive or even attain luxury.” The carnivorous animals do it. The Americans also have been doing that: One international economist wrote a book that explains that IN ORDER TO SUSTAIN THEIR AFFLUENCE, AMERICANS HAVE TO LET AT LEAST TWO FAMILIES ELSEWHERE (in other countries) TO STARVE IN ORDER FOR AN AMERICAN FAMILY TO MAINTAIN ITS LIFE OF… Read more »

Both are pretending to be legitimate GRP Bloggers! – Hyden Torotot

What does “legitimate GRP bloggers” mean? You are legitimate if you agree on everything the writers say? You are legitimate if you parrot the view and opinions of the majority?

If that is what ‘legitimate’ mean here, then, call me illegitimate.

These people may have been involved in the illegal Shabu Drug Trade !

Whaaaaaat?!!! 😱

Naloko na! Does being unhinged a requirement too to be a legitimate blogger? 😜