It depends on us!

What do you and I have in common? That we probably, just like all other people on earth, are descended from a people that lived in Africa in a far past. Thus considered we are all brothers and sisters. One big family, one big community, but not as closely and not as strongly connected as many of us would like it to be.

In the course of history differences have increased. Differences, for example, in appearance, in color, in language, in religion, in culture, in education, in prosperity etc. And with these differences, contradictions arose: between rich and poor, religious and non-religious, developed and underdeveloped, and, at an especially sad moment in history, also between slave and master, and between black and white. It is especially these contradictions that have left deep scars in history. The consequences are still visible today.

At various moments in history attempts have been made to protect people against arbitrariness of others. And time and again there have been people and movements that tried to take the intrinsic value and dignity of each individual as a basic principle. After the horrors of World War II, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unanimously.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) starts off with a very fundamental assertion, namely that “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”. But it is also laid down that every human being has duties to society. Only via rights and duties a free and full development of one’s personality is possible.

It is as much fundamental that it is laid down in the Universal Declaration that everybody is entitled to all these rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (art. 2 par. 1 UDHR). As soon as a government proposes a policy or law in which, in regard to these fundamental rights and freedoms, distinction should be made based on these criteria, there is reason to worry.

We all should watch government behavior. Every person needs contradiction (the same applies to rulers), every human being must allow criticism and must remain in debate. If rulers may not be contradicted, they become, as Montesquieu has already indicated, quite naturally, corrupt. We all should stand by those who, for instance, suffer from oppression or experience discrimination. And our goal should be to jointly collaborate in order to contribute to a better and more just world.

Karel Frielink

(9 January 2012)


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