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Happiness Tuesdays

Rights & Freedom

Are Our Rights The Problem With Society?

I recently had coffee with my childhood piano teacher. It was really nice to catch up. 

She is getting older, but is still very up on current world events - she loves to get together with her former piano students to keep up to date with them and to “stay young” as she put it.

We had a very interesting discussion about personal rights and freedoms. I did not agree with everything she said, but I do believe that our elders often have a lot of wisdom and insight that we would be wise to consider.

She talked about how our extreme fixation on our personal rights is creating a selfish society that only looks out for ourselves.

Part of me agrees with her. We have lost sight of how our need for our personal rights might affect someone else.

I’m not saying that our rights don’t matter, because I believe they do. However, there is more at play than just the singular person.

Our actions affect others, even when they involve our personal rights. Think about your personal right to freedom of speech. I believe strongly in our freedom of speech. Yet, I also believe that we must be careful with our words because they affect other people. 

It doesn’t mean you can’t say what you believe - but how the message is delivered really matters.

We’ve lost sight of the balance between remembering that our actions and words matter and managing our personal rights.

Since I sat and discussed this topic with my former piano teacher, I have thought long and hard about it, and I believe that she might just be onto something.

What do you think? Do you think our personal rights trump everything else?

Recommended Book

The Human Rights Revolution

Oct 03, 2023
ISBN: 9780195333145

Interesting Fact #1

By freeing slaves, allowing freedom of religion, and establishing racial equality, King Cyrus the Great of Persia (600-530 BCE) recognizes a basic concept of human rights.


Interesting Fact #2

In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which establishes “fundamental and inalienable” rights for all people.


Interesting Fact #3

In 1993, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk win the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in South Africa and peacefully ending apartheid.


Quote of the day

"We the Peoples of the United Nations, determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small..." —United Nations Charter

Article of the day - 10 Reasons Why Human Rights Are Important

Interest and awareness of human rights has grown in recent decades. In 1948, the United Nations released the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has become the most important document of what should be considered the standard for basic equality and human dignity. Why do human rights matter? Here are ten specific reasons:

#1: Human rights ensure people have basic needs met

Everyone needs access to medicine, food and water, clothes, and shelter. By including these in a person’s basic human rights, everyone has a baseline level of dignity. Unfortunately, there are still millions of people out there who don’t have these necessities, but saying it’s a matter of human rights allows activists and others to work towards getting those for everyone.

#2: Human rights protect vulnerable groups from abuse

The Declaration of Human Rights was created largely because of the Holocaust and the horrors of WII. During that time in history, the most vulnerable in society were targeted along with the Jewish population, including those with disabilities and LGBT. Organizations concerned with human rights focus on members of society most vulnerable to abuse from powerholders, instead of ignoring them.

#3: Human rights allow people to stand up to societal corruption

The concept of human rights allows people to speak up when they experience abuse and corruption. This is why specific rights like the right to assemble are so crucial because no society is perfect. The concept of human rights empowers people and tells them that they deserve dignity from society, whether it’s the government or their work environment. When they don’t receive it, they can stand up.

#4: Human rights encourage freedom of speech and expression

While similar to what you just read above, being able to speak freely without fear of brutal reprisal is more expansive. It encompasses ideas and forms of expression that not everybody will like or agree with, but no one should ever feel like they are going to be in danger from their government because of what they think. It goes both ways, too, and protects people who want to debate or argue with certain ideas expressed in their society.

#5: Human rights give people the freedom to practice their religion (or not practice any)

Religious violence and oppression occur over and over again all across history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust to modern terrorism in the name of religion. Human rights acknowledges the importance of a person’s religion and spiritual beliefs, and lets them practice in peace. The freedom to not hold to a religion is also a human right.

#6: Human rights allows people to love who they choose

The importance of freedom to love cannot be understated. Being able to choose what one’s romantic life looks like is an essential human right. The consequences of not protecting this right are clear when you look at countries where LGBT people are oppressed and abused, or where women are forced into marriages they don’t want.

#7: Human rights encourage equal work opportunities

The right to work and make a living allows people to flourish in their society. Without acknowledging that the work environment can be biased or downright oppressive, people find themselves enduring abuse or insufficient opportunities. The concept of human rights provides a guide for how workers should be treated and encourages equality.

#8: Human rights give people access to education

Education is important for so many reasons and is crucial for societies where poverty is common. Organizations and governments concerned with human rights provide access to schooling, supplies, and more in order to halt the cycle of poverty. Seeing education as a right means everyone can get access, not just the elite.

#9: Human rights protect the environment

The marriage between human rights and environmentalism is becoming stronger due to climate change and the effects it has on people. We live in the world, we need the land, so it makes sense that what happens to the environment impacts humanity. The right to clean air, clean soil, and clean water are all as important as the other rights included in this list.

#10: Human rights provide a universal standard that holds governments accountable

When the UDHR was released, it had a two-fold purpose: provide a guideline for the future and force the world to acknowledge that during WWII, human rights had been violated on a massive scale. With a standard for what is a human right, governments can be held accountable for their actions. There’s power in naming an injustice and pointing to a precedent, which makes the UDHR and other human right documents so important.

Question of the day - Do you think our personal rights trump everything else, or do you believe that we need to find a balance?

Rights & Freedom

Do you think our personal rights trump everything else, or do you believe that we need to find a balance?