Moral Universalism, as often headlined by “Universal Human Rights”, is the philosophical concept that some Universal moral standard applies universally to all individuals, regardless of their culture, race, religion, gender, nationality, etc.
Yet, in implementation, Moral Universalism and “Universal Human Rights” have led to a kind of twisted moral standard, where collateral damage of millions of lives in wars are justified, but giving economic aid to starving “dictatorships” is wrong.
How was this possible? I point to no further than an example of the “affluenza teen”, who killed several people while driving drunk, and yet his defense argued “affluenza”, a medical condition that he didn’t know right from wrong.
What “affluenza teen” showed, is not that he didn’t know right from wrong, but rather his “right” mattered more than others.
This was the logical implication of Moral Universalism and Universal Human rights, that if there are “universal human rights”, then all such rights are absolute. Indeed, Moral Universalism is often said to be compatible to Moral Absolutism (often present in Religions), where moral standards are absolute regardless of context of facts.
By this implication, if my right to drink alcohol is my “freedom”, then nothing should stand in my way of my freedom, not even if the potential consequence is that I might drive into a bunch of people on the streets and kill them. Similar, by a gun rights activist point of view, the right to “bear arms” is absolute, and nothing should stand in the way, not even if a dangerous person might bear arms and commit mass murders in schools.
Keep in mind, and as a disclaimer, Moral Universalism is not equal to Moral Absolutism. Indeed, Moral Universalism and Universal human rights, require some “contextual” standard based on FACTS. It’s just that the “context” does not include things such as culture, race, etc.
But here is the rub: The standard of rights is always based on Rights relative to OTHER rights. And that relative relationship between rights is uniquely cultural, susceptible to gender and religious biases.
A simple example is abortion, which breaks down to the Right of the woman versus the Right of a fetus. Depending on which Right you prioritize (and the underlying cultural gender religious reasons for that), you are either pro-choice or pro-life. In that simple example, Universal Human Rights simply breaks down in conceptual core, because it is obvious to see that abortion laws fundamentally biases between 2 possible important rights.
Thus, the important exercise of law in political systems is a kind of Moral Relativity, because all rights are by nature needed to be balanced against other possibly conflicting rights.
Having “affluenza moral universalism”, means that one overconsume the concept of universal human rights, and results in imbalance of rights in ridiculous scales.
1 example of this in the US is definitely the arguments of the Gun Lobby, where even Europeans cannot understand how the gun lobby can suggest that even minor restrictions on gun sales and ownership, such as more background checks and ownership registration, can be considered to be infringing on right to bear arms. It is akin to argue that the Affluenza Teen was completely justified in driving drunk, even if he killed people while driving drunk.
Another example is the Western media portrayal of the HK protest, where a HK police use of tear gas is condemned as a “harsh crackdown”, regardless of how many umbrellas were swung against the police as weapons, how many shops were obstructed by the protesters. Or for that matter, how many thousands have been shot by Western police for “looking suspicious”, or how many were arrested by Western police for jaywalking or Facebook posting.
“Affluenza moral universalism” is nothing new, it’s just another form of “White man’s burden” and “white privilege”. In the end of the day, it is where Western view point determines an upside down moral relativism to be imposed on non-Western nations, where Western nations’ moral shortcomings are barely remembered, but non-Western nations are painted as genocidal savages.
So, the next time a Westerner say to you, “hey, don’t compare apples and oranges”, just say, “don’t be an Affluenza sufferer.”
The West should answer for its moral wrongs, and affluenza is not an excuse. Until it does answer for them, we the world should refuse to accept judgment from the affluenza West.