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Blog Action Day: Human Rights

by KG Charles-Harris

kg_charles-harrisHuman Rights – something that is often talked about but little is done to define or uphold.

What is human rights?  It seems so right yet appears such a fable.   Most of the time we hear about human rights from some government official speaking about how some other government is negligent.  Yet it is never defined.

Is it privacy rights?  The right to use the internet without being monitored?  Is it the right to healthcare and education?  Is it having food, shelter, safety from violence?  Or is it to uphold human dignity?

We never quite know since it is never defined properly, or has so many definitions as to become worthless.  Is it the right for poor African Americans to be treated fairly under the law?  Male African Americans?  Why does the US with ¼ of the population of China have more than three times the amount of persons incarcerated?  Mostly black and Latino males?  Is this human rights?

Confusion is maybe the name of the game – as long as we don’t know what it is, it is a useful tool for controlling our thoughts and actions.  Who is it that want to make us act without thinking?  Who is it that defines another human being as an enemy and want us to take hostile action towards him/her?

Are there universal human desires?  For such things as food, safety, love, nurture, communion?  If there are, why are they not fulfilled?  Why do we allow ourselves to be derailed from attaining these and passing them on to others?  Is there any doubt that today we can easily feed the world and no one needs to go hungry?  Or that we can eradicate most of the common diseases that kill children?

We choose not to.

Isn’t there a gift in giving?  Why does it suit us to hoard “things” – money, land, items and safety?  If we recognize the universal desires and needs of our fellow humans, why don’t we work to get and give?  What is it that prevents us?

Ultimately, we want to receive from others, but need to be aware that giving is also receiving.  Can we reasonably expect to receive without being generous?  What is the origin of our selfishness?  Don’t we know better?

Neglecting to provide food to the hungry, clothing to the naked and safety to the threatened is antisocial behavior and lack of empathy.  Which of us have any remorse about this behavior?

Our conduct is very similar to the definition of psychopathy – “a personality trait or disorder characterized partly by enduring antisocial behavior, a diminished capacity for empathy or remorse, and poor behavioral controls” (Wikipedia).  All wealthy people and governments have the possibility to address the needs of human rights.  I define almost all of us living in North America and Europe as relatively wealthy, as well as large, affluent, segments of the developing world.

For whatever reason, we choose to exhibit this behavior.

Is there such a thing as human rights?

To psychopaths?

KG Charles-Harris is CEO of Emanio and a special contributor to MAPping Company Success.


5 Responses to “Blog Action Day: Human Rights”
  1. HaroldNo Gravatar Says:

    The sentiments expressed need to be said often and to people who could move, shake and become inclined to try to make a difference.
    Very correctly, a definition of Human Rights should be trashed out at levels of The UN etc. Then action should be taken to “help” countries including The US of A to address this problem.
    Thanks for this refreshingly direct approach.

  2. chrisNo Gravatar Says:

    Intention matters
    Human rights are the rights to food, clothing, shelter and the right not to be physically, mentally or emotionally violated/compromised. Human rights take into account if there is enough of each of these necessities. If there is enough food and an actor works to prevent an individual from having food or having access to that food, then a basic human right is breached.

    It can be stated that governments and the elites of the rich countries make decisions and enacts policies that can prevent access to basic human rights for less rich/powerful human beings. That is psychopathic. The psychopath pursues actions – knowingly – to harm/destabilize others. If an action inadvertently causes analphabetism or illiteracy of a population and once it is pointed out is not corrected that is also psychopathic.

    The average citizen in Denmark is not a wealthy individual. Wealth is power and someone who is without power should not be blamed for the actions of the powerful. Hence, it cannot be stated that the average citizens of wealthy nations actively work to prevent human rights being attained by the citizens of other nations.

    Human rights exist, are properly defined and are universal. Now whether we adhere to them or not, does not negate the fact that they exist.

  3. fossiljellyfishNo Gravatar Says:

    I think the author makes a huge jump by labeling the “rich” psychopaths. While businessmen and politicians DO express these straits in their decision making, they -in general- still can show affection, and empathy towards their immediate circle.

    It think there are two things at work here. First is the fact that we ARE selfish. We have to be (or rather, had to be) to survive. We, deep inside, are still savanna-dwelling apes living in little tribes, trying to survive. This is where all the tribalism comes from: nationalism, racism, sport fans, jingoism. Our tribe is everything; people outside are not even humans.

    The second is distance: both emotional and physical. I feel bad about people starving in India; however I don’t see them (unless someone puts an ad with a starving child under my nose), and I’m too engaged in my own daily struggle to actually be able to register that these unseen people far, far away are actual people. (Not to mention, the National Congress has so much money, they really should be the ones to take care of this issue, but this is a side-track.)

    There are human rights. In theory. They were born out of idealism of men and women; the problem is the powerful, the ones who actually make decisions are sociopaths. They ignore them or take them into account whenever it’s convenient to further their cause. Saddam or any of their pet dictators murdering thousands? No worries. Suddenly we don’t like Saddam? Oh, my, what a monster! Let’s invade. And try as we might, we cannot change these decisions. Our rulers are above the law. They are above even the democratic process.

  4. KGNo Gravatar Says:

    Thank you for your comments – I appreciate the discussion.

    I am not saying that everyone in a rich country, or even the rich, are complete psychopaths. Our behavior, though, has strong psychopathic traits.

    I agree that intention matters. However, if we daily walk past people in need (in the US there are a lot of people living on the street), is this not lack of empathy? Especially when we know that a majority of these are afflicted by mental problems, substance abuse or severe misfortune in other ways.

    Regarding human suffering, what is the relationship between apathy and empathy? Can we be empathetic and apathetic at the same time? Isn’t our apathy to the plight of those in our communities a sign of lack of empathy? And if so, is this not the exhibiting of psychopathic traits?

    And don’t we live in democratic societies? If so, isn’t it we who, in theory, determine the rules of the game? Or is the democracy that we promulgate around the world not democracy at all?

    Let’s stop thinking of human suffering as only being in some other community, often on the other side of the earth, and start looking at ourselves, where we live and work. Have we minimized suffering (or maximized human rights) in our near environment?

  5. FrrdNo Gravatar Says:

    I believe most(all?) people are empathetic and concerned about the human condition but security and fearof their future condition them to act as they do. Also Darwinism is real and present all around us:the need to survive.

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