Individual (Legal?) Responsibility and Liability for Global Economic Justice

Over the weekend, I had the great privilege of attending a conference on “Rethinking Human Nature”, an incredible array of scholars and activists who, rather than protesting in the streets, demonstrated, by their examples of dedicated service, through their studies and their occupations, their deep and abiding concern for humanity. The conference theme was about evolving and developing the capacities of the higher human nature.

Among the many brilliant presenters was a young lady who is working on her PhD thesis whose presentation was entitled “What Can Justify Duties of Global Economic Justice? Individual Responsibility, Human Consciousness, and the Oneness of Humankind”. Her name is Shahrzad Sabet. In asking the question, she began by sharing with us the globally accepted UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. She the began to dissect the responsibilities for the implementation of these rights. To be fair to Shahrzad, I will state that the remaining text is my perhaps feeble understanding of the arguments she so simply and brilliantly presented and perhaps, at some point, I will have a chance to speak with her further to clarify or to refer on-line to her thesis work, but I can only say that after hearing what she had to say, I was completely overwhelmed by her convincing arguments recognizing that there really isn’t a minute to lose in beginning to bring this argument forward on a wide basis, and I am also quite convinced that someday this young lady will be amongst the Nobel Peace Prize winners because these same arguments will force all nations and all people of conscience to take action. Such action will come in the form of adopting laws and practices which will require all citizens of the world (or at least those who have the freedom to vote or make buying decisions), all business leaders and all government leaders to act forcefully in upholding these Human Rights by taking practical, direct and personal responsibility for implementing Global Economic Justice through their votes for responsible government representatives, those who will make the necessary revisions in government institutions, and in turn, through laws which will require all people to make these Human Rights a reality.

In nations such as Pakistan, Haiti, India, Indonesia and many others, billions suffer under the oppression of poverty, the lack of a suitable infrastructure, and through catastophic environmental impacts, while much of the world continues to enjoy their freedoms without paying much attention and governments pay immense amounts of money towards military spending and the expansion of environmentally destructive practices which only serve to further human suffering.

Her arguement goes something like this:

The majority of all nations on earth have accepted the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

A “Right” as opposed to something else (e.g. an idea or a privilege) is essentially the entrenched global and national liability of society to provide something to each individual. As the majority of nations, and their electorate, having elected their representatives, have accepted that this right exists, then the responsibility to implement this right also exists.

She then asks the question “whose responsibility is it to implement these Human Rights?

Since it is ultimately the responsibility of global agreement and therefore global and national institutions, including national, (as well as regional and local governments) and global (as well as national and local) businesses, and since those government and business institutions are made up of individuals who have power to vote, to make their voices heard, to individually make decisions within businesses, and to take actions such as deciding what goods to purchase and what institutions to purchase from, thereby supporting and upholding these institutions, we also must understand that as individuals we have a legal liability to make decisions which support Global Human Rights (including our own).

While I may not do full justice to her argument, it was too powerful to ignore. And, while it would certainly be better to hear this argument directly from her, owing to the fact that, while my statement of the argument probably has holes in it, she covered off these holes masterfully and it is a message that needs to be heard by everyone and it needs to be heard now, especially by business and government leaders who have yet to act on this responsibility. Any human being who enjoys these essential Human Rights must also acknowledge that if, for some reason, they lost the benefits which are bestowed by these fundamental Rights, they would very quickly be calling for own government to impose laws and regulations to restore them. Since these institutions are the result of our personal choices, we also have the legal and ethical responsibility to make the appropriates choices on behalf of those who have not had the benefit of these Human Rights.

Practical Applications

In writing this article, I am making an appeal that all readers contemplate what they are reading to the depths of their heart, with full consiousness, to recognize their own nobility of spirit and to understand the very real obligation it imposes on them. The responsibility for Global Human Justice is as much yours as it is mine.

What might our actions be?

For one, we can all be making these responsibilities known to every elected government official that we know by writing to them, by speaking to them, by holding sessions with them and by educating them. We can tell them that we expect them to implement these rights Globally. How otherwise can we truely protect our own Human Rights? We can simply present the same arguments to them as were presented to us. The implication of this responsiblity is profound. It would require that all Governments meet together, not just about global economics and not just about global security as in G8 and G20 meetings, but about informing all citizens of the world about their legal responsibilities. Our Government officials would be morally obliged tell the world’s electorate that they are also ethically responsible to vote for those who are best suited to implement these Human Rights regardless of which party affiliation they may hold. The elected officials might in-turn, take efforts to share these concepts with their fellow officials, and to encourage the position of their respective governements to also begin making these Global Human Right their top priority and to initiate a global discussion on how to most effectively implement them.

We might also invite our neighbors to share this message so that each person has the opportunity to deeply understand the implications and to begin to take action on addressing this liability and acting with ethical responsibility. We can do so using all our resources, in our homes, our schools, our government council halls, our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other centres of faith.

For those who have the skills to do so, we can speak in public or in business gatherings inviting consultation on the implications for each of us individually and collectively. For those who have the skill to invite, we can invite others and host meetings. We can call upon our business leaders to invite speakers to speak about this approach to every employee.

We might begin to insist that our tax dollars be spent on the reconstruction of our global society by first addressing the most serious Global Human Rights infringements. After all, some day those infringements may be against us. As I am currently sitting on Vancouver Island, which is beautiful but which at some point is destined to experience a severe earth quake, I can only contemplate the rights which have been denied the people of Haiti as a result of a similar force or, perhaps more potently, the Human Rights denied the millions that have suffered at the hands of climate change, and for which we all share the burden of responsibility. What would it mean if all the world’s available resources were spent in solving the most grievious problems first? How quickly would we be able to address our relatively minor local concerns if the world’s government and business leaders would learn how to work together? And at the same time, rather than placing the responsiblity of our relatively minor local concerns on our elected officials, we could work together as neighbors to begin to address our local concerns in service of each other, and encourage our elected leaders to think globally to address the most serious of our personal legal liabilities (i.e. the oppression and poverty of countless millions) on our behalf.

We might insist that our elected officials vote on laws that require our countries’ taxes to be diverted away from military spending, to require that military only serve the purpose of implementing Global Human Rights rather than causing violations of Human Rights. Imagine, for example, that only 50% of global military expenditures went directly into implementation of these legal responsiblities to relieve Human suffering, provide education, protection of personal rights, provide the right to work and to provide adequate food and shelter. How quickly would things change? And in finding global agreement on our personal resposibilities, how quickly would governments be able to jointly resolve issues such as terrorism?

We might ensure that, until these rights are imparted in action to every citizen in the world, we would continue to insist that this be top priority for all governments and businesses that we support.

We might take some time to educate ourselves on the causes and sources of these violations and expose sources that we are aware of (e.g. environmental and other violators of human rights), not for the purpose of condemning them, but for the purpose of raising the awareness of those involved in either actions or through neglect of action, that they (and we) are responsible and help them to make the necessary decisions, providing all assistance we can muster, to rapidly revise their course of action. It is not so much that people wish to do harm, rather that due to human weaknesses, a lack of awareness of the harm we cause, and a lack of discipline (i.e. the lower part of human nature), that we fail to make the efforts required of our higher nature (read that again, it is “required” of our higher nature for what is is after all to be “Human”?)

This is a very deep topic and, I can only hope that others will go deeper than I have and present this arguement with more accuteness and more forcefully than me. I am deeply hopeful and recognize that inside each of us is seed of a higher nature which can grow and which through our collective efforts will grow into a fruitful and beautiful tree bearing many fruits.

I’d love to hear your comments and questions.

Please spread this message in any way you can, by e-mail, by your voice, by inviting people, by speaking on it, by letters, by referal.
Please call if you have any questions.
Please invite me to speak to your group or organization on this vital subject.
Please keep your eyes open for the brilliant potential of the higher human nature wherever it may arise.

My best wishes to you all,
Garth Schmalenberg
Ph: 416-919-6598

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