Monday, June 4, 2012
Vote Every Day for Human Rights
And, if we’re fortunate enough to live in a country not widely ravaged by war or poverty or some other conflict or devastation, it can be simple to shrug our shoulders, insist that there’s nothing we can do, and go on with our lives. As one character in the film Hotel Rwanda said, “If people see this footage [of the genocide], they’ll say ‘Oh My God, that’s terrible!’ and they’ll go on eating their dinners.” And our culture certainly doesn’t support and nurture positive action. As a friend of mine once said, “To see it [an atrocity or example of exploitation] and not forget about it is tremendous….I think that’s really difficult for the average American who’s going to see Batman.”
The truth is this: What we do matters, we can have a positive effect, and if we don’t do something, who will? Every choice we make is a vote for a certain kind of world; we can “vote” for sustainability, peace, compassion, and justice, or we can “vote” for injustice, cruelty, violence, hatred and devastation. And, when we choose to do nothing, that’s a vote, too.
Through our actions, we can make a positive difference for those immediately around us…and those struggling thousands of miles away. We can buy used clothing and other items, instead of products made in sweatshops. We can buy fair-trade chocolate, tea, coffee, sugar and rice. We can volunteer to help others. We can invest only in just, compassionate, sustaining practices and businesses. We can write letters to editors and corporations and government officials and make sure that our voices are heard. We can educate ourselves and share what we’ve learned with others. We can work to make choices that do the most good and least harm for all. We can strive to live peacefully and justly in our every thought, word, and action. We can support the work of others. We can try to love and accept everyone. We can remember that everything is interconnected and act accordingly.
As humane educators, we can inspire others to think critically about these important issues. IHE’s students, graduates, and staff have created several humane education activities that explore issues related to the rights of all humans of all ages and types. Activity topics include everything from discrimination and genocide to oppression and sweatshops.
If you want to increase your own knowledge about human rights issues, or share such information with others, explore IHE’s always-growing list of sample resources, such as our suggested books, videos, and magazines. Our website also links to several organizations focused on human rights issues.
No one looks at a picture of a starving child, a victim of abuse, a casualty of war, or someone else who has endured suffering and injustice and says “Gee, I wish that were me.” or “We need more of that in the world.” Our choices every day help decide whether or not there is more or less suffering and atrocity in the world. We can make our choices carefully, thoughtfully, critically. And focus on the world we DO want to create.