A right which is believed to belong to every person.
Human rights, in contemporary usage, has become a rather fashionable term off our lips. Bandied about in the media, endowed in our minds by countless news stories, quick from our hearts in a fit of rage at the latest acts of tyranny to scream loud in our ears. Rights, or the lack thereof, are quick to consume the mind with anger at supposed wrongs; either that, or cynicism for the man too soon grown weary from the failure of their keeping.
Human rights, that little phrase that so easily provokes the man on the street and a nation to disgust. An emotive catchphrase that carries laurels of piety; as if, when spoken, we are indeed being very just and kind human beings, sympathizing with the oppressed we happen to share the world with.
Human rights, a couple of words. Just a few syllables, when uttered, that makes us seem really rather ethical. Quite proud of ourselves for being nice.
Human rights. Our great get out clause.
We put admirable confidence in this system of rights; we like to think, in our complete support of this beautiful law that gives every man, woman and child the equal, intrinsic entitlement to be the full person, that we are, ourselves, just. By it we have an excuse to say “boo” to the tyrant and “hurrah” to the saint. Human rights, the phrase, gives us ever so much confidence and safety from our ivory watchtowers to claim we are good, right and civilized human beings.
So we claim to love human rights. Then why don’t we live it?
We claim that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude. So, surely, every purchase we make is totally ethical? So, in our utter dedication to the human rights we adhere to, we are surely disgusted at fashions produced by economically enslaved girls in India? And we flee from high street retailers who source their cotton from Uzbeki citizens forced to reap the harvest for a despotic regime?
Then, we claim that everyone is entitled an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. Of course, it is easy watching the screens and the images and the message to be moved to disgust or anger or sadness at poverty, the most degrading form of inequality, but to be moved to action? To shout out against the injustice casting shadows across our world? Maybe that is taking our hallowed human rights too far.
To subscribe to a nice list of justices and injustices is a pretty comfortable way to justify our goodness. But to really love those people we claim to protect? Now that, friend, is messy. Love, in its most radical form, is dangerous.
But is there any other way? Can you really say that you love simply by believing in the foundational goods a few rights offer?
“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.”
Maybe, its time we stopped turning a blind eye. Maybe its time to take off our legally attached blinkers, written onto our hearts as an escape from actually acting upon the shameless injustice we see.
Perhaps its time we started living our human rights, not just saying them.
And that, my friend, is how the world changes. Your list of human rights shows me nothing. But when we start to live like every brother and sister we see actually has a right, not because of legislation but because we are family, that’s when the world revolves to a different beat.
For to immerse ourselves in dead legislation is nothing short of slavery. But reckless love? Now that is true freedom. That is the right every human is entitled to give and receive.