"Are our rights as a person, different to our obligations?"
At the end of the Second World War, as a reaction to the atrocities which occurred, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were created to ensure such things never happened again. But how successful have we been as a species, or as individuals, in abiding by these articles? How many of us have read the declaration or are aware of it's existence?
Article 1. states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". There are 30 articles, amongst these it is stated that we have a right to live without discrimination and to live safely, we have the right to a standard of living, a right to education, a right to freedom of thought, a right to practice our beliefs, and that we have a right to seek asylum in other countries from persecution (e.g. to escape from those not abiding by these Articles). But, these are not just our rights to receive, they are also our obligations in treating others.
As a species, we seem to have habit of scapegoating or underplaying our actions and behaviours when we need to justify behaving poorly. In my time working in the family violence field, I came across some perpetrators of family violence who tried to justify hurting the ones they loved, by making comments such as 'I wouldn't have done it, if they didn't keep pushing my buttons', 'They are always provoking me' or 'I'm having a hard time at work, I come home and I want respect. This is the only way they understand'. These people who crossed over moral lines (as well as crossing lines of legal/criminal behaviour), could have been your neighbour, relative, boss, work colleague, friend or … you get my point. While you or I may not have committed violence against a loved one, chances are that we have acted poorly in some way at some point in our lives. Our behaviour could have been direct- talking poorly to or about others, perhaps we acted in a way which intentionally stopped another from obtaining something they wanted or needed, or even physically hurt them? Or we could have acted indirectly by intentionally ignoring a situation. Perhaps our apathy or lack of action was taken as silent approval of others poor behaviour, which may have then also encouraged that behaviour to continue? However we have behaved, chances are that we have tried to justify this, even though we knew it was wrong (we may even have been ashamed of it), and it is likely to have been behaviour that we would not wish done to us. The question is, why do we do it?
Why do we at times, feel that we can act outside of our obligations to treat others with dignity and which is not in the spirit of brotherhood? Instead, we act in ways which are essentially immoral. In ways in which we would not want to be treated, nor have our loved ones treated. And then there is this- we prefer to see those we act poorly towards, as being seen as 'less than human', as being “deserving” of our poor behaviour? Sometimes we demonise others or see them as a threat.
During the Second World War, the Nazis probably found it easier to treat their fellow humans inhumanly by seeing them as something other than human and as being “deserving” of what was done. "This is not the same' I hear you yell out in anger. It isn't, but it is. It boils down to something fundamental about the way we view others and treat them, which is contrary to the way in which we would wish to be treated. It is also about our attempts to justify this behaviour.
The atrocities of the Second World War, affected us as a species so strongly that we vowed never to allow such things to happen again, not to us or our loved ones. But sadly, when it comes to those we think poorly of, or have prejudices against, we appear to find it easy to justify skirting around or stepping over the lines of right and wrong. Perhaps the Universal Declaration of Human Rights needs to include some articles on self reflection and exploration of where our feelings of anger, prejudice and hatred stem from (and then some additional articles on our responsibility to safely work through the these issues, to minimise their impact on others). It doesn't make sense that we would treat someone/s we didn't know or hadn't had any contact with, in a manner which suggested that had personally done the most heinous of things to us. It doesn't make sense to me that we would treat a stranger in a manner different to how we would want to be treated. But maybe that is just me?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be found at:
“Who dares judge difference?”
When someone is born different, there can be many different reactions from other people, reactions such as acceptance, outrage, anger, love, joy, happiness, pity, shame, loathing, condemnation, to name but a few. Why? Often those that claim to be the most devout can have the strongest reactions. When these reactions are positive and lift people up, when they create an atmosphere of acceptance and love for who people are, this can be a wonderful thing that can enrich a community and can assist people in becoming the best person that they can be. But, when people are hated and hurt (physically, emotionally and/psychologically) just because of who and how they are, questions arise such as: why is this occurring? How does it effect the community, is this ok and how benefits from this negative behaviour?
Some differences can be easily seen and others not so easily. People may have been born without a limb/s, with poor or no vision, people may have been born thinking or feeling differently. There are lots of ways that people can be different. Mind you, this statement is itself preposterous, as no one is born the same or identical, we are all different, even identical twins have different fingerprints. Some people see certain differences as being acceptable or unacceptable. The question is - who is to say which differences are acceptable or unacceptable?
When people say others are born wrong, or are an abomination, who are these people to judge? Who has a right to treat others poorly as a result of perceiving their 'difference' as being 'wrong'? For those that are religious or devout, If a divine creator created us, and made us just as we are, who has a right to judge what the creator has created, who dares label the creator's creation as 'wrong'?
The question that comes from all of this is- What kind of a community would we want our children and loved ones to live in? One filled with love and acceptance, where people are shown how to love others for who they are, or a community in which your children and loved ones are judged, where they may try and hide their 'difference' (for fear of being judged), where they may worry and dread the consequences of being seen as 'different'?
Matthew Schiavello 2015.
All copyright matthew schiavello 2015 (doesn't really need to be said does it? as copyright is implied the moment I put my creative work out into the world).