However that soon changed in the
1970s after many cases of mass starvation
in the Third World, the widespread
suppression of dissidents in the Soviet
Union, China and elsewhere, the suffering
of the black majority in South Africa,
genocide in such places as Cambodia and
Uganda, the ordeals of people in
Bangladesh — and then the very well
publicised plight of the ‘boat people’,
did the linkage between human rights and
other international issues finally became
apparent. And as such, this awareness
spread into modern Western Popular
music spearheaded by Bob Dylan, of
course George Harrison and many, many
others, who began to sing about human
rights and spread their importance to the
Donovan - The Universal Soldier. A general anti-war song.
George Harrison - Beware Of Darkness. A song among others against the oppression of Bangladesh.
Peter Gabriel - Biko. A song protesting about the killing of South African Anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.
However, if the importance of human
rights is now understood by most
observers and actors in international
politics, including so many musicians
today, it is quite apparent that it is their
importance is only thing that is universally
agreed, and not necessarily what they
U2 - Sunday, Bloody Sunday. U2 protest song about the rights of the Irish and British oppression and massacres.
For example, one definition holds that a
human right ‘is a morally justifiable claim
made on behalf of all men to the
enjoyment and exercise of those basic
freedoms, goods and services which are
considered necessary to achieve the
human estate’. However, how does one
judge what is exactly ‘morally justifiable’
and according to whose value systems?
Moreover what exactly does constitute
‘basic freedoms, goods and services’
necessary to achieve the ‘human estate’?
This definition therefore poses many more
problems than it solves. For example, to
what extent should a victim or indeed a
perpetrator’s cultural background and
value system be taken into account? How
can claims be made on behalf of all
people? In other words, what are regarded
as human rights in one culture may not be
in another. A universally accepted
definition of human rights is therefore
crucial — not only to understanding what
we wish to promote, but also in
determining the extent to which the
international system can accommodate
attempts to maintain, protect and further
Neil Young - Rockin In The Free World. A song celebrating the freedom of the West.
Cat Stevens - Peace Train. A song calling for world peace.
Green Day - American Idiot. A song protesting about the abuses perpetuated by American ignorance.
Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning. A song protesting about the human rights of indigenous Australians.
But the debate goes on. Many argue such
rights are universal, because it is implied
in the international acceptance of the
Universal Declaration of Human
Rights — adopted by the United Nations
General Assembly in 1948. As countries
from all over the world endorsed these
rights ‘as a common standard of
achievement for all peoples and nations’,
it seems apparent that at least some kind
of international agreement exists as to
what human rights are.
Some argue that the latter half of the
twentieth century saw the universal
acceptance of human rights, at least in
principle, while disagreement might still
exist as to their content.
Buffy Sainte Marie - Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. A song about the slaughter of American Indians by the US Government.
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Military Madness. CSN singing about the atrocity of the US seemingly caught up in the evil mindset of continually wanting to wage war.
Many definitions and distinctions thus
exist as to the notion of human rights. One
definition of human rights argues they
should encompass the right to global
distributive justice, the right to the
elimination of war and severe ecological
threats, and the right to the establishment
of a system of government that includes
representative global institutions. Another
contends that human rights should involve
a notion of a just world order within which
every ‘individual’s human worth is
realised...’ If such definitions were to be
pursued in earnest the sheer magnitude of
the task, a restructuring of the world
order, would have to happen.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Ohio. CSN strongly protested against the killing of four American students by the US National Guard, merely for demonstrating against The Vietnam War.
Phil Ochs - I Ain't marching Anymore - an anti-war song.
Dave Matthews Band - Cry Freedom. A cry for freedom for all the oppressed.
Arlo Guthrie & Emmylou Harris - Deportees - an old Woody Guthrie song about a human rights issue that is still huge today - a song about illegal immigration and refugees - in this instance economic refugees.