After reading the UN Declaration of Human Rights, I gave a good amount of thought to the concept of “human”. According to dictionary.com, “human” defines as: of, pertaining to, characteristic of, having the nature of people. It also means “sympathetic and humane”. What an interesting display of parts- people, sympathetic, humane. Humane is closest to “human”. People, is more like a breed of human and as for sympathetic, I don’t think people or humans have much in the way of sympathy any longer.
Considering the term people gives me a plethora of images and synonyms relatively close to individual. A person has their own judgments, their own pasts, beliefs, distractions. A person works, a person thinks, a person lives in a constructed world. People live in different countries doing different things. When it comes to a matter of indifference, for example, one might say “But we are all people”. I believe that we need to stop being “people” and start being “humans”.
The term people also has a connotation of respect, justification, rights. Yes, in that sense, we are all people. As existing people on this planet we should all have a right to liberty, justice and the pursuit of happinesses in an American or non-American sense. But we aren’t all people. Not all peoples have the ability to demand respect, to be represented with justice, to be personable enough to have happiness. This is because people don’t treat “people” like humans.
Here is my most basic example. Its late at night and you’re surfing the channels when a commercial for the Himalayan Children’s Foundation comes on TV. You’re used to the sight of that elderly gentlemen with the big white beard crouching beside a small under privileged Himalayan child. He asks you to please consider sending your money to his foundation to support children like that one. You look for a second, your heart might ache for a nanosecond, and then you change the channel. I don’t generalize here, not everyone does it. There must be people out there who adopt a Himalayan child. However, the majority of us turn a blind eye. We may think its a hoax. We may think we can’t afford it. We think a lot of things, because we don’t think like human beings, we think like people.
As people, we know these children exist. Furthermore, we know that there are perhaps millions of children and adults like them who are suffering everyday from malnutrition, deadly hygiene, and other conditions of their impoverished circumstance. Additionally, we know that it is happening elsewhere, another country, another society, another culture, another economic system, another belief system…anything other than the world we live in here. Those are people’s judgments, not humans. Problems are a world apart from our own.
That’s another problem with people. We are attached to this whole “my world” concept. There is the world that is your reality and the world that is your planet. We are all on the same big blue ball. We all thrive on planet earth. The lands of our countries are vast, our existences varied and diverse; but, we are all humans. I, as well as every other functioning (or non-functioning) homo sapien on this planet use a brain to think, a mouth to speak, a set of lungs to breathe, a heart to beat. These things make us human. These things should constitute every action as humane, but they are not constituted as such for we remain, for the most part, people- people who have forgotten they are humans.
I have to plead for a correction from the UN. Deem this a Declaration of Universal Rights. As humans, as people, as biological beings we deserve these rights. Forget justice. Forget equality of work and anything socially constructed. We deserve the right to live. How about they include protection of the rights to health and prosperity? The right to live?
Not even the UN can say that the availability of the right to any kind of equality is without discrimination.
Let us declare the human right to live, before we declare the human right to be a person.