Thursday, 8 March 2012

Rights vs Responsibilities (a bit of a rant)

I want to show you 2 screen shots of Google searches:

The first is a Google of Human Rights

The second is a Google of Human Responsibilities

Do you note any distinct differences? If you take just a cursory view there are no adverts about human responsibilities, it would appear that they don’t sell. There are no sponsored links either. Look a little closer and you will see that human rights attract the attention of governments and the UN but human responsibilities don’t.

From working in aid work I know that a ‘rights based approach’ is a common way of assessing humanitarian interventions. I know from my sister that all schoolchildren are clear on their rights. What we all seem to be less clear on are our responsibilities. Where is the UN charter on Human Responsibilities? Surely we need a document exhorting us to the highest possible standards of living? I realise there is an industry around protecting, policing and promoting human rights that I think would collapse if we could put just half the effort into promoting human responsibilities. For every right that is claimed surely there must be a corresponding human responsibility. People generally like to have responsibility; people like to feel they have a grip on marshalling their own future. Surely we can aspire to attaining greater levels of responsibility; everyone who has worked knows that you want more responsibility because with it come greater rewards.

A great philosopher, Danny Lee Silk, when asked by one of his children if they “had” to do something told them “no, you get to do it”. What if we switched how we looked at the world and started to think that we get to look after those less fortunate than us. They became a privilege in our realms of responsibility. What if we aspired to greater levels of human responsibility how would the world look? The interesting thing it is almost impossible to have your human responsibilities stolen from you, yet we give them away. We give away our responsibility to look out for each other, to protect the environment, to engender peace where there is discord. I am not even talking of global politics what if in your work place you decided to quench gossip, to help the guy who doesn’t get how the new print management system works, to support your boss in making better decisions rather than criticising their bad ones. What if we stopped looking at our right to employment and looked to our responsibility to work; would our economy look very different.

I think we GET to be humanly responsible rather than HAVE to be and it feels good.

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