THE BLOG
01/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Today Is Human Rights Day

"The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less." --Eldridge Cleaver

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being on December 10, 1948 through the hard work and leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt and the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations. It's a living document that defines and defends the highest goals of worldwide human rights by keeping us aware of the violations of economic, social, cultural, environmental, sexual, political and civil rights globally and makes us each recognize that dignity is the cornerstone of freedom, fairness and harmony in the world.

Human Rights Day lets us recognize and honor the complexity and diversity of each individual and the basic rights that every human being wants and deserves: to be healthy and clean, to be well fed, to drink fresh water, to breath fresh air, to live life abundantly, to freely become who we are meant to be, to go where we please, to love those we choose, to construct a family in our own way, to have safe shelter, to be secure wherever we are, to pray to the higher power of our choosing, to have honest work and be paid accordingly, to have the opportunity to prosper, to be well educated, to be expressive and creative, and to find an open horizon where we may develop our private thoughts and personal opinions.

We acknowledge Human Rights Day because in all of our apparent abundance and freedoms, there are so many who go without. We often take so much for granted and expect others to do what we are unwilling to do. The truth of the matter is that, now, more than at any other time in human history, the future literally lies in our hands. As members of an enormous, connected human family, not only do we need to care for ourselves, our families and friends but be mindful of our planet, our freedoms, our civil and human rights, and the struggles for those rights by faceless and nameless others across the globe.

Our ever-shrinking world is filled with millions of people for whom basic human rights are only a dream. As citizens of the world, we need to fight to help make their dream a reality. But, unfortunately, as we have too long seen these past 8 years, our "dreams" can turn into other people's realities. Our might, our righteousness, our arrogance, our neglect, our deregulation, our trade agreements, our sense of who we are in the world, can all too easily be used toxically, lethally or benignly to the detriment of the world order and our fellow global citizens.

We don't own up to our own waste; our mass consumption of technology becomes the problem of those who never benefit from these advances; our addiction to unsustainable energy sources become the problems for others to solve, and on and on.

Conversely, living consciously and mindfully of the potential for cradle-to-cradle living and sustainability is empowering enough to make tiny but impactful different choices in our purchases, in our oil consumption, even in how we bring our purchases back home. The choices - good or bad - we make on our side of the globe have a direct or indirect human rights impact on others in the developing world.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."
~Eleanor Roosevelt