For the sake of humanity

Thisanjali Gangoda

Human rights is a subject that most people tend to avoid in daily conversation, as a battle of moral values and political banter is most likely to ensue.

We avoid this topic of conversation because of the supposed “complexities” that it entails, like, what are human rights? Time and again politicians and company executives claim to uphold human rights in their domestic and foreign policies, yet they aren’t very clear about what they are actually talking about.

We see it on the television, in newspapers, hear it on the radio and talk about it in class; but still, as a society we can’t conceptualize what human rights are and why they are so important. It’s an issue that is always on the back burner, a position that is chosen last.

As unbelievable as it is, we all have human rights. We all have the right to live freely and peaceably despite our race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, language or any other status that is placed upon us. They are as basic as they are vast, including civil and political rights, the right to food, the right to housing and the right to work.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established in 1948, along with the formation of the United Nations, and it accounts for these and many other human rights. It has become an international symbol for global unity and human dignity and attempts to hold governments accountable for their actions and people accountable for their rights.

The articles laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights aren’t new concepts or ideas on humanity. Making human rights, however, is a priority that has always been in constant debate. World leaders pit national security against upholding human rights law and begin wars in the name of freedom and justice. History has shown us that human rights have been at the forefront of so many internal and external conflicts, yet it bares little consequence in the overall structure of societal concerns.

So, what are we to do, youth of America, Generation Y and Z? We as students watch the world turn day in and day out, watch it crumble under economic and political strife, warfare and technological disillusions. What does it matter that while we have our BlackBerry cell phones and cable television, people in gosh-knows-where live in mud huts or are in danger of ethnic cleansing? It matters because we are people of inherent privilege, youth who have higher education and opportunities galore at our doorsteps.

We have the ability to make our future because our human rights are well-revered and protected. What our founding mothers and fathers of this country endured must not be in vain, as they hoped to build a nation of people willing to take on a revolution. Revolution is never an obsolete event, and it certainly isn’t limited to singular instances or actions. It is for the people and by the people to create when they have had enough suffering.

As students, we can take action for people who struggle to make their voices heard and protect their human rights. We can create a movement to place human rights and social justice alongside economic, health care and environmental concerns. It is as simple as starting within your community by volunteering at a local soup kitchen, writing a letter to your senator, donating unwanted clothes and books or keeping up with news in Burma.

By actively learning about the suffering of others or volunteering your time, you can engage yourself in the most selfless of ways: caring.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].