The Humanities Bill

The Anniversary of a Historic
Step in Defense of Human Rights

In hindsight, every year has its share of earth-shaking events. That said, 1948 stands out for its peculiar transcendence, at least, for armchair dilettantes like us. Gandhi’s murder, South Africa’s Apartheid, and the State of Israel are surely year highlights.
So is the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed 70 years ago next Monday. A plea for the new world gingerly emerging from two global wars in a row, and about to welcome the Nuclear Age, it lined up some of mankind’s most crucial precepts.
The year when the threat of authoritarianism, driven by an ‘us versus them’ mentality, set the grounds for the Cold War, was also when Eric Arthur Blair – a.k.a. George Orwell – penned 1984, a dystopian view of what could be in store for mankind.
Not two centuries before, the French Revolution had produced the defining Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which is closely associated with the U.S. Bill of Rights. But a renewed set of principles was again necessary. And so is its remembrance today.
Even as we grew wary of commandments and words of order, thanks to tyrants and dictators who betrayed their provisions over and again, this declaration remains relevant for what it projects and to whom it addresses: ethical and compassionate beings.
WE’RE FREE & EQUAL IN DIGNITY
A ‘standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society (…) shall strive to promote respect for these rights and freedoms (…) to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.’
Due to its similarities with the U.S. Constitution, some Americans may be jaded about its power to preside over society’s webs and flows. But

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* Natural Law

just as any moral edit, its ability to prevent bad deeds is proportional to the willingness of citizens to stand up for it.
For ‘human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ endowed with reason to ‘act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ Race, color, sex, language, religion, politics, birth or other status, are no longer acceptable excuses to ignore it.
HUMAN RIGHTS & THE RULE OF LAW
Seven decades later, this document remains vital on its defense of freedom of speech, and right to dissent without fear of retaliation, a reason for rulers to rarely mention it on their calls to arms. It’s too threatening a script to be invoked at a stump speech.
Rather than legitimizing their rule, it democratically provides that ‘everyone has the right to life, liberty and security,’ no need for a father figure to treat them like kids. It recognizes the individual as the sovereign agent of his or her own destiny.
That’s why it should be recited daily by school children around the world, rather than anthems or prayers. It’s a way better tool to engage them into a lifetime defense of rights against all attempts of society, and the state, to control and use them.

Brick By Brick

The Wall Came Down 25 Years
Ago But Others Remain Defiant

It was a typical public jubilation moment: thousands of happy people, front cover news around the world, an event of political resonance (and appropriation too) and catharsis like few. It happened a generation ago: on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall finally came down.
But just as other similar, long overdue moments have been before it and since, when the symbolic end of the Cold War arrived, it was swift, pregnant with hope, and just as quickly, deeply dissatisfying. A quarter of a century later, we’re bound to question even its relevance.
It didn’t even end the détente, that unbearably nervous post-war time between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that for years paralyzed the world with fear. We now can see it for what it was: just a pro-forma liberation hour, coming late to rubber-stamp its own obsolescence.
But it was a jubilation all the same. Those who endured 28 years of that cruel scar, splitting heart and country in the middle, surely deserved to celebrate it all with gusto. Before long, however, it all wound up in a museum.
Sunday will culminate a week long commemoration, and images of mostly young people climbing crumbling logs of concrete, and a few survivor old timers too, crying like happy babies, will make the headlines. Not as breaking news, though; but as a cultural landmark.
We’ll take it anyway, of course. Times have been hard on reasons to be cheerful, and saturated with the kind of heartbreak that built the wall in the first place. So, heaven forbid if we let such an occasion to be merry pass, and, by all means, let’s have a worldwide party.

KEEPING THEM PEOPLE OUTSIDE
For 20th century standards, the fall of the Berlin Wall was an unbeatable icon of optimism and hope in the future. Some would argue that bottled down anger Continue reading

Falty Science

Cave Paintings, Betty & Barney,
and an Old Titan Lost to Fiction

Among several pseudo-scientific arguments Ridley Scott used to anchor his latest sci-fi flick, Prometheus, were ancient cave paintings and distant binary-star systems. Thus the event that triggers the action itself is the discovery of such hidden paintings, which according to the main characters, could not have been done by humans, and their depiction of a faraway planetary system.
Of many very old cave paintings found throughout Earth, there’s one that does seem to have been done by a non-human species. But by Neanderthals, not aliens, though. And the depiction of a star alignment on a wall may have been based on the Zeta Reticuli incident, when the binary system located 39-light years away, became part of the controversial first reported case of humans abducted by aliens, in 1961.
Apart from these two near misses, the movie got pretty much everything else wrong, which is disappointing in so many levels to not being worth discussing here. Then again, it’s just a movie. To cut the British director some slack, even if he never makes another film, he’s still Continue reading