Basic Human Rights in Perspective
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Apr 2010
Over the centuries the topic on basic human rights often served as the center of attention for scholars, humanitarian groups and government officials. In spite of this, violations against basic human rights have taken place periodically to the point of making millions of people suffer immensely and unnecessarily on a global scale. Since this could be traced to manifold sources, we may simply here analyze carefully and concentrate properly on just four aspects as follows: respect, law, taxation, and environment.
View of Fundamental Aspects
1. Respect: Human beings are entitled from their very first moment of conception to great respect. This is shown especially by demonstrating interest in the welfare of their life. Since they constitute the backbone of the nation, they are entitled by natural law to receive free education and free health care from the cradle to the grave. When people develop their full potential they are better equipped to make greater and more outstanding contributions to society. As a result, everyone benefits greatly.
Also, when people are healthy they are in a position to work harder and to be more productive as a result to the extent that everyone will be a winner and no one a loser. When a government gives its people free education and free health care from the cradle to the grave, this would serve as a guarantee that such a nation would be making the best investment that could be ever made beyond which there is no greater one. By demonstrating respect to these two basic vital needs of people a nation is assured of its eventual strength.
2. Law: One of the most unfortunate experience people go through is to realize that higher laws, which were meant to protect them from their very beginning of human existence, are ignored by their government. In order to have a clear concept of this reality, we need, in the first place, to enlist the four hierarchical laws that always existed since the beginning of times. These are viewed as hierarchical because in the event there is a clash then the higher law should be observed and the lower one disregarded.
These four laws are enlisted as follows: Divine Positive Law, Natural Law, Ecclesiastical Law and Civic Law. (a) The Divine Positive Law consists basically of the Ten Commandments which God gave to Moses. They are found in every religion under different names. Among these we find that we should not kill, not say lies, show respect to our parents and so on. (b) The Natural Law consists of the way nature is meant to function. It is found, for example, in the law of gravity, where everything heavier than air goes down and anything lighter goes up, and the law of plantation where the roots always grow below the surface of the earth.
Examination of Hierarchical Laws
These two mentioned laws are viewed to be God-made laws because they are perennial and they can never be modified or changed. Hence, all other laws that are enacted in both the ecclesiastic and civic sphere should be subservient to both the Divine Positive Law and the Natural Law. Anything enacted that would violate any of these two higher laws should be disregarded and not observed at all. (c) The Ecclesiastical Law consists of laws enacted by religious authorities or groups the purpose of which is to guide their adherents to lead a better and more fulfilling life. Such laws should be observed provided they show respect to the first two laws mentioned. Besides, religious authorities should become very vocal in condemning any civic law that does not respect higher laws.
(d) The Civic Law refers to any law enacted by governments for their respective nations. Such laws need also to be observed provided they do not contradict the first three kinds of laws, especially the Divine Positive Law and the Natural Law. Although the civic law is the least important of all these four hierarchical laws, it has been quite often the source of so many conflicts, struggles and wars. Those that have the courage to defy the civic law, when it goes against the three mentioned higher laws, often ended up as martyrs, as victims of their tyrannical government. The enactment of a civic law that goes against the first three laws constitutes an abuse of power, which is criminal.
3. Taxation: The notion of taxation is not a new one. It goes back to centuries and even millennia. There is nothing wrong with taxation as long as it is fair and as long as the money collected from the general public is used merely for positive and constructive purposes. This is proved to be so only when such tax money is not used for purposes that would violate the Divine Positive Law and the Natural Law in particular. Unfortunately, over the centuries, the many abuses that took place in this area caused suffering and death to millions of people. For example, if tax money is used to promote struggles and wars, which would involve the killing of innocent people that constitutes a direct violation of the Divine Positive Law, God-made law.
Although taxation may be viewed as legitimate, such tax money should be used only for positive and constructive purposes. This means the governments involved are expected to improve the nation’s educational system by providing better teachers and by improving the school facilities. It also means that such authorities must use tax money to make sure that the nation’s people are provided with the best health care system possible. Besides, such tax money may also be used to provide adequate home facilities to the poor and the homeless and to encourage the creation of humanitarian organizations that are mostly composed of volunteers.
Role of Taxation and Environment
It would certainly be ideal for any government if it were to find ways where taxes become minimal, if not eliminated at all. Fortunately, we do have very few nations that found ways of generating the needed national revenue from the natural resources of the nation itself. This way their people are not really bothered with taxes. In this area of taxation there is one thing for sure. Those nations that tend to achieve what they want, nationally or internationally, through military force are among the most prominent in taxing their own people even at the cost of making many suffer as a result. In nations where the indiscriminate usage of the military becomes a way of life, taxation has become very much abused to the very detriment of the nation’s people.
4. Environment: All people around the world have a sacrosanct right to live a long and healthy life. This is done not only by having adequate nourishment but also by having their environment protected against air and water pollution. In this regard, every government has the sacrosanct obligation to see to it that its respective nation is properly protected from air and water pollution. Nowadays, most governments have become merely ornaments. They seem to exist for any purpose but not to look properly after the welfare of their own people. In many countries the accumulation of money and wealth by the few has become more important that the health and life of the nation’s people.
This explains why some of the leading nations of the world have emerged to become among the greatest polluters on earth. They are mostly guided by the elite wealthy and rich to the extent that the government becomes merely a puppet in their hands for all practical purposes. For example, the weapons industry and the military industrial complex have emerged to become among the greatest polluters on earth. Many of those who worked for such entities have incurred cancer of some kind and died some time afterwards. Yet, the governments involved in such nations do nothing about it for fear that the war-oriented industry may suffer financially!
Some 4,500 years ago Greek philosopher Socrates said that we can solve every problem we encounter if we were to take the first step, namely, to bring the problem into the open for everyone to see. He said that “unless the people become aware of a problem they would do nothing to bring it under control.” This means that we are fully obligated to bring into the open all kinds of violations against sacred human rights and to hold those that cause such violations as fully responsible and accountable. We should do this especially when those responsible happen to be in authority. We should let them know that we are fully aware of the existent problem that is violating human rights and that immediate steps should be taken to remedy the situation.
Importance of Our Involvement
When confronted with violations of sacred human rights, we should not remain silent. On the contrary, we should have the courage to become highly vocal and to take all legitimate steps to remedy the situation. We should establish a series of healthy and constructive dialogues until all problems that deal with the violations of sacred human rights are solved. These would include the right for self-respect; the right to have civic laws that observe, in turn, higher laws; the right for adequate or small taxation that would not make the financial life of many miserable; and the right for an environment that is totally free from air and water pollution by all means.
It is true that our earthly community has been experiencing so many struggles, wars and suffering. However, it is also true that we do still have hope for a better and brighter future. All we need is for all of us to become involved in making sure that the basic human rights outlined in this presentation would be safeguarded. Above all, we should continue to enlighten government and industrial officials of their obligation to protect by all means the basic human rights that were discussed. We should encourage all those who are involved with the weapons and war industries to change their products from destructive ones to constructive ones.
This means encouraging the replacement of tanks with tractors, military machinery with medical and educational equipment, barracks with home facilities and so on. To this end, we need to continue to do our best to create a global environment where all people begin to feel they are, after all, members of one big global family. Their actions, individually and collectively, should always be positive and constructive because this way everyone will end up to be a winner and no one a loser. As a result, hatred will be replaced with love, fear with hope, suspicion with trust, struggles and conflicts with harmony and peace. Let us keep in mind that when there is a will there is always a way.
Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.
International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education,
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Apr 2010.
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