Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Universal 'Public Safety' Question: How to Ensure "Never Again"

The human rights paradigm outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 came about in the aftermath of World War II. The world community was still reeling from Nazi genocide, the atom bomb and possibly the greatest atrocities known to humankind. More than ever, the nations of the world wanted to find a different way forward. The human rights paradigm was that path they proposed.  It represented a global commitment and common resolve to ‘never again’ revisit the turmoil and devastation of a world at war.

If you think about it, there's a lot of overlap with the public safety concerns of today.

  1. The world community suffered horrible atrocities and horrible losses.  They wanted to do everything they could to prevent that  a recurrence of that kind of violence.  So do we.  
  2. The people who wrote the Universal Declaration wanted to know how to prevent the extremes of human behavior from ever recurring.  So do we. 
  3. They too wanted a climate of peace, freedom and justice all around.
  4. The people who wrote the Universal Declaration  were interested in developing a theory of human nature. If they were going to prevent future violence, they needed to know what they were up against.  Were some of us good and some of us evil?  Were there legitimate social others and if so what made them that way?  If not, what about human nature was getting us into these horrible binds?  These questions, too, are important to resolving our present concerns.  
  5. In addition to a theory of human nature, the people who wrote the Universal Declaration wanted to understand human behavior. What kind of mindset leads to behavioral extremes?  What leads to that kind of mindset.?  Ultimately, the y came to some conclusions in this regard. These too are important consideration for our present challenges. 
Despite the large number of commonalities, there is a key difference between our present circumstances and those in 1948.  At the time of the Universal Declaration, the world community had the benefits of hindsight.  They had made it through the war, and could now reflect together on what went wrong and how to correct it. 

That is an important difference between then and now.  Our world today feels lost and confused.  We are in the throes of conflict, confusion and uncertainty.  In such times, it is customary to resort back to what has always been done.  At the very least, it gives the comfort of the familiar.  

Often, however, that is not the best option. It may just be doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result.  Entrenched problems are entrenched for a reason.  If habitual patterns really are the answer, then why are we here now?  If they had worked, we wouldn't be having this conversation. 

Here is where the Universal Declaration could become of special value to us today.  It's proponents were a group of people reflecting back on some of the hardest times the world has ever seen.  With eyes wide open to potential pitfalls, they developed a road map for how to go forward.  The vision that painted showed a clear and principled path.  It may be especially useful for modern travelers facing troubles like the ones that keep tripping up our world now.  

1 comment:

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