The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was written over 70 years ago and at its core is the recognition that when we value the inherent dignity (from Latin; dignitas: worthiness) of every human we will create a world of freedom, justice and peace. Little wonder it is the most translated document on earth, its founding principle holding a universal truth, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. But whilst the tenets of the Declaration are paramount to a life worth living, they also reflect a thinking that has reached its limit. When the Declaration was written it was enshrined in a belief that a person's dignity is largely bestowed by Governments and legislatures, as difficult as it is, it is time for us to wake up and realise that a person’s (and planetary) dignity or worthiness cannot be determined by someone or something else. When we believe external systems confer worthiness (and inadvertently decide what’s unworthy) we are perpetuating a false picture of worth in our world.
Kath and I work with people in Jaipur who have had every human right denied them (often by the very systems supposedly protecting them). Some have experienced child trafficking, others denied access to water, food and education, yet they often demonstrate a dignity we don’t readily see at home. They are a reminder that every human is born wholly dignified, perfectly designed, divine and with purpose. The real injustice are today’s economic, political and legal systems that prevent us from remembering this worthiness. The amnesia is so strong that we impotently continue to give the responsibility for nurturing our dignity to 'outsiders'. Outsourcing responsibility for one's own worth is about as effective as thinking armaments create peace, why put your power in other people's beliefs?
GPD measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.Robert F Kennedy
There is no doubt that seventy years ago the authors of The Declaration had the right intention (a bit like religions), but thinking that your value is upheld primarily through laws and governments has dangerously undermined true worth. Why? Because these systems have continued to debase and exploit anything whose worth is immeasurable, such as our river systems, the air we breathe and the societal contribution of stay at home parents. How can we expect current systems to embed inherent worth in their judgements when today’s mindset of leaders, legislatures and governments narrowly equate value to rises in GDP or growth in shareholder profits at the expense of all else. We witness this in Australia as our politicians refuse to acknowledge the impact of climate change on our flora and fauna, in fear that it will lower the value of the(ir) economy.
Freedom, justice and peace remain fundamental rights of each one of us, but it is the limited way in which we have come to believe they are created that needs disruption. Freedom is not created by increasing incomes, we know this by the mental health epidemics that have strangled affluent communities. Environmental and social justice is not being dispensed by systems that keep only on the ‘side of profit’. And Peace will never be bestowed by parliamentary systems that continually perpetuate the myth of ‘other terrors’. What we need is a transformation in thinking, one that realises our personal worth is immutable, and when exercised with personal responsibility, we naturally claim back our dignity, our worthiness, our value and our power.
It’s time to dismantle systems that no longer serve true worth on our planet. Yes, we have a right to freedom, justice and peace, but we also have a responsibility in creating these for ourselves. Current systems based on entitlement without responsibility are narrow and patriarchal. There are many inspiring projects working to enable mindsets to move from ownership and into better relationship to ‘things’. The circular economy is one such framework, it emphasises a re-evaluation of what we waste and promotes greater personal responsibility for the world’s resources (this includes your heartspace). For too long we have wasted our individual power and value by handing its measurement over to others, as we re-store them, we will find that we don’t need external charters to tell us something we already know - we’ve got this Greta - individuals count.