December 10th, 1948 marks one of the most inspired moments of Mankind as a whole. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating in its preamble its most ambitious affirmation: “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
It wasn’t the first text in the genre. In 1789, on both sides of the Atlantic, two different charters were created, both with the goal of establishing a set of inalienable rights of man: the American Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Even before that, as early as the 13th century, the Magna Carta already established a set of rights that every subject to the British Crown would have assured, effectively binding the decision and power of the monarch.
In 1948, however, the universal scope of these rights reached its peak. Every single member of Mankind, regardless of gender, race, culture, religion, economic conditions, nationality or any other differenciating factor was recognized these rights, above any creed, government or any other decision power in their lifes.
For all due purposes, being part of Mankind took precedence over any other bond to any other social institution. Discrimination was condemned in all its forms, the right to property, privacy, freedom of association, religion, opinion and thought consecrated as paramount to the full development of the human condition.
Yet, sixty years later, the situation is only marginally better. Human Rights ONG’s are still profusely busy, having ample ground to dennounce abuse. In some cases, the situation has worsen rather than improved. And it’s our fault, our collective fault that it is so.
Whenever a political, economic or diplomatic decision has to be made, human rights are constantly shoved to the bottom of the priority list. They’re still looked upon as an utopic ideal, good for show, but totally impractical. They’re the first to be trampled, because they’re never part of a quick fix or an easy solution. Short term solutions never care for the whole picture and governments and corporations tend to go for short term fixes. Or, worse, they look at human rights as a huge threat to their power, since it inhibits them from the use of blind force. And, in most of the western world, they’re the governments we choose and the corporations we support.
Even in our daily lifes, we look at human rights as something remote and detached from ourselves, something that has no bearing in our private lives. But every single time we shun somebody, because he looks, thinks or believes different, we’re trampling human rights. Every single time we label someone, based on a differenciating characteristic, as a person of “non-interest”, every time we refuse to know someone based on a superficial evaluation, everytime we let our own selfish interests be more important than someone’s suffering or discomfort, we’re trampling human rights. Everytime we refuse to listen to an opinion, merely because of who the person is, everytime we feel we have the right of feeling superior to anyone else, we are disrespecting human rights.
I said before that I really believe that we can only change the world one person at a time. It is true in this case also. Starting with ourselves, we can build a personal code of ethics that never falls second to any decision in our lives. We limit ourselves to the that framework and never surrender it and we demand to be governed by those who feel the same way. Ever respecting, though, the right of others to feel differently…