Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Humans Want


Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. 
Abraham Lincoln

There have been a number of books and films centred on what women want, a nod to modernity where the needs of women become as important (or moreso in some circles) as those of men, whose needs, anyway, have been considered supreme for ages. The status of women's rights, although singularly important, is a good indicator of the health of human rights in general, and act as a fairly accurate barometer of the state of humanity in general. So, the central question of our age—Sustaining Humanity—ought to take in a more broader audience of individuals that encompass both men and women.

In other words, here are some things that humans in general want; the list is doubtless not exhaustive but serves as a good starting point:
  1. 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.
  2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
  3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
  5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
  7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Astute readers will note these needs conform precisely to the first seven articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948, almost 65 years ago, when the memory of the Second World War was still current. While the United Nations, in its current form, has become weakened and diluted as an international body, hijacked by special and narrow interests, this document has great merit—despite its poor application in many, if not the majority, of the 193 nations that comprise the U.N.

In the West, when humanity breaks into distinct and narrow groups, an understandable human need for like-minded affiliation, it weakens the need for broader understanding of what humanity needs. It becomes a battle for what gay men want; a battle for what feminists want; a battle for what transgender persons want; a battle for what unions want, and so on. In a continuum of special needs and privileges, it becomes a battle for attention among the many special interest and aggrieved groups.

While all, or more likely, some, of these particular groups have grievances against the state, few are legitimate human-rights issues, and thus raising them up constantly reduces the spotlight on individuals, both men and women, who in various parts of the globe truly have highly legitimate human rights needs. In such cases, their very existence as free human beings are in peril. The list of such nations are well-known. [see Freedom House "Freedom in the World 2012"]
The number of countries designated by Freedom in the World as Free in 2011 stood at 87, representing 45 percent of the world’s 195 polities and 3,016,566,100 people—43 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries did not change from the previous year’s survey.
Without a doubt, freedom is the central issue of the day, and encapsulates and symbolizes what humans both want and need. Consider. It might be a good idea for special-interest groups in the West who cherish their hard-won freedoms, which took generations to achieve, to consider how today religious and ideological extremism undermines and erodes our deserved freedoms. They might consider the importance of helping those in non-free nations through NGOs, for example, to strengthen the fragile institutions of democracy and civil society in nations like Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran.

If Freedom itself is under attack, and I sense that it is in many nations and societies, the special needs and privileges granted to the few will become a victim of freedom's loss as well. At times like this, we have to step back from our particular narrow needs, perhaps temporarily, and to use a cliché appropriate for the times, "Look at the Bigger Picture."

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