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.

Natural Law

The Written Word
of a Shared Dream

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, one of the most beautiful and profound documents ever composed about individual freedom, was adopted on Aug, 26, 1789, by France’s constituent assembly. Closely associated with the U.S. Bill of Rights signed just a few days before, it was to become the French Revolution’s definitive statement.
Along with the U.S. Constitution, it committed to words the main ideals of the Enlightenment Age, including its utopian view that a document would be enough to counter the bloodshed already in progress in France. Curiously, its principles somehow wound up working better on the other side of the ocean than in its place of birth, even if at least for a while.
In fact, it may have been pure luck that the U.S., then at war with one of the world’s biggest powers, had the right brand of leadership to be ushered to its independence relatively free of the carnage associated with the French Revolution. And that for over two hundred years, it succeed in not producing a single dictator or openly authoritarian regime.
In the meantime, within a decade, one of history’s bloodiest tyrant, Napoleon Bonaparte, had made his way to power in France, and from day one, made sure that all hope for a time of peace and prosperity would have to be put on hold once again. It’s hard to conceive how the French may have felt when their dreams were so spectacularly dashed.
But for a brief moment, almost as if coordinated, France and the U.S. dared to imagine that nations and politics could and should be driven by the well being of the people. And even if it didn’t quite work that Continue reading