Human rights reflections: grief and hope

Today, December 10, is Human Rights Day. The United Nations is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

You’d think over three-quarters of a century humanity would have become more enlightened and fair in how we treat our fellow and sister humans.

Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.

Khalil Gibran

We can, indeed, celebrate notable advancements in various areas:

πŸ’š Technology innovations enable awareness-raising, better documentation, and exposure of human rights abuses

πŸ’š Broader acceptance of women’s rights as human rights with ongoing efforts to address gender-based violence and discrimination

πŸ’š Growing visibility and acceptance of gender differences and lifestyle choices

πŸ’š Increased awareness and implementation of diversity and anti-racism initiatives

πŸ’š Heightened awareness and efforts to protect the rights of indigenous communities

πŸ’š Holding corporations accountable for human rights abuses, with the development of international guidelines for ethical business practices

πŸ’š Emerging recognition of our right to a healthy environment

πŸ’š Escalating attention on the rights of refugees and migrants

πŸ’š Mounting calls for criminal justice reform and addressing systemic issues

So yes, it’s good to look at the big picture and be thankful for the raised global awareness of the many human rights related issues over the past two decades. I appreciate all the risks faced by rights activists and the heightened global solidarity.

To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.

William Sloane Coffin

But I don’t celebrate today. Instead, I grieve.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the pervasive lack of kindness; so much hate, othering, and diminishing as “less than.” This erosion of empathy and understanding directly challenges the fundamental human right to dignity and respect for all.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the suppression of speech; few listen, and too many want to be right. The stifling of voices and perspectives infringes upon the human right to freedom of expression, a cornerstone of democratic societies.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the loss of a moral compass; money and power now dictate policies that benefit a few at the expense of many. This socioeconomic imbalance is a direct violation of the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasizing the right to an adequate standard of living for everyone.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the rise in wealth inequality; the economic system is rigged and social safety nets are broken. Economic disparities undermine the human right to work in just and favorable conditions, as well as the right to an education that should provide equal opportunities for all.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the sluggish, if not faltering, progress made to achieve gender equality; many of the rights I fought for in the 70s are still being fought for today. Persistent gender inequality directly contradicts the principles of equality and non-discrimination outlined in human rights frameworks. (I identify with this πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡ woman!)

πŸ’™ I grieve for the disappearance of integrity and righteousness; extreme hypocrisy, shameless lies, and naked power-grabbing in politics have become the norm. This erosion of ethical standards challenges the principles of justice, accountability, and transparency, which are fundamental to human rights.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the senseless loss of life; the victims and families of insane wars, mass murders, and domestic violence alike. The right to life, liberty, and security of person is undermined by the tragic consequences of conflict and violence.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the decline of justice; the barbarian “eye for an eye” mindset that fuels massacres. Retributive justice contradicts the principles of fair and impartial legal proceedings, outlined in international human rights agreements.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the weakened democratic institutions; the rise of authoritarianism inevitably leads to limiting civil liberties. Restriction of civil liberties directly infringes upon the human rights to freedom of association, assembly, and participation in government.

πŸ’™ I grieve for the lack of political will to tackle the climate crisis; we are on the cusp of animal and human extinction. The right to a healthy environment, increasingly recognized, is jeopardized by the lack of concerted global efforts to address climate change, a pressing human rights issue.

The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible.

Francis Weller

πŸ’™ And, oh yes, I grieve for my once strong and able body. I’ve written at length about the many things I am thankful for in my personal life, my sh*tshow of a body notwithstanding.

Not until my appointment on December 27th will I know the results of the many diagnostic tests I’ve undergone. My ocular oncologist has referred me to another oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency.

In the meantime, I intend not to ruminate on what might be wrong. I am so looking forward to a festive Christmas spent with family, the first one together in many years.

If you share any of my grief, now, more than ever, it’s crucial to turn our grief into action.

Here’s what we can do together:

  1. Keep informed about human rights issues globally. Knowledge is the first step towards change.
  2. Speak up for those whose voices are silenced. Support organizations working towards human rights, and advocate for policies that promote equality and justice.
  3. Engage in conversations about human rights with friends, family, and your community. Encourage empathy and understanding.
  4. Our vote can shape policies that impact human rights. Research and vote for candidates committed to upholding these fundamental values.
  5. Contribute to or support initiatives addressing wealth inequality, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.

Remember, small actions collectively create significant change. Let’s turn our grief into a force for positive transformation.

What can you add to my list? How are you feeling about these issues? Is there one that resonates with you more than others?

The emotionally intelligent person knows how to hope and be grateful, while remaining steadfast before the essentially tragic structure of existence.

Alain Botton

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  • Dearest Francisca. I love love love this sharing. So educational and much awareness raised. I appreciate the panorama of your observations, affirmations of rights that have been recognized, and how we can do our share. In my corner, what am I a voice for? . . . May I ask a favor? Can you share this in our CJCC Messenger group? It connects our soul work with the world. Thank you! And praying for grace on December 27. Hugs.

  • So poignant and yes it makes me grieve and feel ashamed of all that is and has happened. From women’s rights and education to the taking of indigenous lands for mining, strategic value and exploitation. People can no longer afford to live on their homeland.

    • You, too, have taken your grief and transformed it into kind and positive action, Alison. Each of us can only do our bit to make this a better world. πŸŒΈπŸ™πŸŒΈ

By Francisca

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