Saturday, November 27, 2004

Human Rights and Jefferson's Vision

Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence gave us the major points for the outline of “certain unalienable rights.” He left for us to fill in the details. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Would the following examples from that document fit into Jefferson’s outline of rights?

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

And if the above articles do fit under the Jefferson’s outline of “certain unalienable rights,” then do they also fit into the popular concept or mental framework of what is thought of as unalienable rights?


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Unalienable Rights

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We Americans generally feel that these words from the Declaration of Independence are the moral high ground from which we have constructed and maintained our greatness. These words have cast a long shadow of clarity that reaches into our century. Most Americans would say that we do have for the most part, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in a very broad sense. We would all probably agree that we have certain unalienable rights that go beyond life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. So if Jefferson and our founding fathers believed that we had certain unalienable rights- what were the other rights they thought we should have? Jefferson clearly said, “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are--.” What rights are in the blanks that he left for us to fill in?


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Our Revolutionary Beginnings

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Working Poor and Social Darwinism

Is the enactment of living wage laws a band-aid approach to addressing of the plight of the working poor or is it a step in the right direction? I feel the living wage laws are a small step in the right direction, but they are essentially a band-aid approach to fixing a failed system. At the heart of this failed system there is an attitude that is perpetuated by it. This attitude can easily be called “Social Darwinism” or “Economic Darwinism.” This “Economic Darwinism” psychologically isolates the successful portion of our society from the unsuccessful portion. What better way to rationalize the existence of the working poor than to assume that somehow they are responsible for their own situation. What better way to rationalize ones own excessive consumption than by thinking it is merely a reward for ones triumph over others. It then becomes easy to ignore the misery of the working poor. They have somehow lost the game, brought this upon themselves and deserve to fall by the wayside. So instead of looking at the economic and social system that is at the root of the problem, we focus on defeating the enemy (our fellow citizens) so we will not end up on the bottom. Once we have shown ourselves able to defeat our fellow citizens in this economic battle, we care not for their vanquished souls! They have lost and deserve somehow the misery that befalls them!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Living Wage Band-aid?

The movement toward a living wage in towns and cities across America is an example of what many people see as bringing a piece of “what is just” to the millions of the working poor. It is of course a step in the right direction. Besides helping lift the working poor out of the deep hole of poverty, it also serves raise the awareness of the issue. City officials all over the country who tend to have little understanding of the realities of living on the bottom of their society are forced to look at the shocking statistics. They become at least conscious of the “economically challenged” as the CEO of Wal-Mart recently described them. They must face the fact that sometimes thousands of their fellow citizens work 40, 50 and 60 hours a week to live in misery. So is this a band-aid approach to helping those who the system has left behind?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Politics in Not a Spectator Sport

The outcome of the recent election is of course on the minds of many these first days after the election. We stand in disbelief at the choice Americans have made. It is my hope that we look in the right places for the reasons this happened. It does absolutely no good for us spend thousands of hours and millions of words telling each other how much we dislike the Bush administration. We cannot fix the problem by just describing it to each other. We need action not words. This is not a spectator sport!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Social Justice: Definition

Social Justice: The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in matters affecting human welfare in accordance with honor, standards, or law.

For More information on this subject go to: Wikipedia

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