Human Rights: Waiting for the Barbarians

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Reflection

Over the semester in ***** Global Studies II: Human Rights and Responsibility, we covered many topics regarding the subject of human rights including what qualifies as human rights and who can enforce these rights. Although I have not personally witnessed violations of human rights to the extent that we covered in class, I now have a greater understanding of what my responsibilities are as a human being as well as human rights as a whole.

I think one of the most important concepts I learned in this course came from Waiting for the Barbarians, the novel by J.M. Coetzee. This novel followed the experience of a man known as the Magistrate, who was himself part of a group violating the rights of another group of human beings. The Magistrate’s people captured, tortured, and murdered many innocent “barbarians”, and although the Magistrate himself never participated in the acts of violence, he felt guilty for what was happening to these people. He did not step away from his position however because he felt that if he were to leave, his position would be replaced by someone who was less sympathetic towards the barbarians than he was. And although I would probably have done the same thing in his situation, it made me realize that many problems stay quiet for reasons like this. The Magistrate was afraid of what could happen if the information was released that his people were abusing others and of what would happen to the barbarians. The Magistrate proves when he returns a captured female to her village that one person can make a difference. A life was saved because the Magistrate had a conscious and a better understanding of cosmopolitanism than the rest of his people. The Magistrate definitely did not view the woman as equal as him but he considered her the same as him in regards to what they are which is human. Once the Magistrate is tortured near the end of the novel, he understood the barbarians and saw his people for what they truly were. This...
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