Health, Rights, and Culture
Reflections on the meanings of the word "rights" from a cross cultural health worker
Crossing cultures challenges the way one thinks about health and rights. Cultural anthropology provides a framework that helps clarify these issues by categorising cultures by their dominant method of governing behaviour and maintaining social order: 1. Guilt-Innocence cultures, 2. Honour-Shame cultures and 3. Fear-Power cultures. Rights do not easily fit in either Honour-Shame cultures or Fear-Power cultures as compared to Guilt-Innocence cultures.
Jesus uses Honour-Shame language in his teachings regarding the care of the poor and neglected, rather than the language of rights. Understanding the culture of the Bible, as well as the culture you are working in, can help provide alternate methods of carrying out health work. Jesus also addresses greed, the deceptive trap of rights, where people always want more. In the book of Revelation, there is one right available to all who have clean robes - the right to the Tree of Life; the leaves of this tree provide healing of for all nations.
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