The Declaration of Universal Human Rights is a thing a lot of people talk about but don’t always understand the meaning of it, or the why it’s so important.
Us in the modern world, or should I say, the modern western world have no real understanding of the horrors done by the German Nazis (except perhaps veterans of the war, and the families of victims who hold the stories). Yes, we have some comparable incidences of hate crimes, terrorist attacks, war crimes and torture, so we have an idea of those events, but nothing compares the horror, terror, and scale of what happened in World War Two – not at least in the Western world, or perhaps, not yet.
There’s a museum in Auckland, it’s THE museum in the city and it’s also a war memorial. My first trip to the museum as a kid introduced me to a special exhibit illustrating the horrors of the Nazi invasions and massacres. There were pictures of bodies, so many bodies. Many of them were underfed or obviously tortured. Some of them were children just like me. The scale of what the Nazis did was so terrible that the word “horror” doesn’t do it justice. I remember standing there in the middle of this exhibit, listening to the narrator telling the stories, I stared at the pictures of the bodies and those hollow faces of prisoners illustrating in one despair filled expression the torture they were living when that photo was taken. Then, I saw a picture of a girl who had a similar face to mine. And I read about her story. Anne Frank. Her name was the same as my middle name, and she was a writer like me. Worse, she was younger than me when she was taken by the Nazis and didn’t survive the concentration camps. She was so human, so innocent so much like me it just chilled me to the core. Facing all of that horror, and the deep identification with this girl who died, I promptly burst into tears.
Remembering that pain still brings me to tears, because in that moment I realised that I wanted to fight against injustice, to help stop what happened to that innocent girl from hate happening to any other little girl. That was the moment I decided to dedicate my life to being a better person and hopefully helping to make the world a kinder place in which to live.
The synchronistic thing about my own reaction to Nazi-ism, is that post-World War Two, much of the Western World had a similar reaction, and they chose to create the Declaration of Universal Human Rights in an effort to keep what happened from happening again. The sad thing is, that despite the Declaration including the right to education, not only general education but an education on the war and why the Declaration is necessary, much of the Western World has taken such history lessons out of school, or watered it down to the point where no one actually understands what it means. And then we have countries (and parts of countries) who know nothing about the danger and moral wrongs contained in active bigotry, particularly the kind done by governments and representatives of governments.
The basic intention of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, is to set down the concept that all humans, regardless of their diversity from the “norm”, are born with certain rights. And those rights cannot be taken from them. That religion, sexuality, race, gender identity, sex, culture, socio-economic status, health or disability, etc., is not grounds for stripping someone of their rights as a human. That ALL humans are born free and equal, and should be treated as such.
Nazis did what they did because they deemed some humans to be less human than they were, they believed they had the right to strip certain people of their personhood, so they could be justified in rounding up entire sections of their civilian population, including children, and torturing and murdering them. If Germany had had the concept of Universal Human Rights, and had previously agreed and enforced laws into their justice system to prohibit such hate crimes, much of World War Two might not have happened, and millions of people wouldn’t have been murdered in such a horrific manner that it took much of the world going to war to eventually stop.
With the current political climate of our world, and the increasing levels of hate crimes and public expressions of bigotry, we’re slip-sliding down hill to another Holocaust, one that given our significantly more powerful weapons of war, could very well end up in another World War that ends up destroying the human species, if not much of the other lifeforms who have the unfortunate luck of sharing this planet with us.
And all of this is happening because not enough people in places of power (and one might argue not enough people in general), are educated in the field of Human Rights and ethics.
While I’m not an expert, nor trained in any way in this field, I am an amateur who is very dedicated to justice and equality. So I thought, I would start doing some research, and write a series on my blog describing in relatively simple terms what these Rights are, what they mean, and if I can translate the legalese, perhaps describe in civilian terms what the Articles mean legally in general. Maybe if more people understood what it means, they might make more of an effort to discover and correct their own bigotries… for the good of our world… or at least to allow it to be a little kinder.
There’s so much hate in this world right now, and to quote Yoda: “fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” We need to make a conscious effort to counter the fear that ignorance creates, to counter the anger and to dissolve the hate.
For all future generations.