The Right to be Human

3 min read | October 25, 2018
This is an essay I wrote in October of 2018 for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70th Anniversary and its Lithuanian U.S. Embassy English Writing Competition. Yet again, I did not win anything, but had a great time writing this piece, originally over 1,000 words. The limit was 500.

70 years ago, the world was a very different place compared to today: Lithuania was weighed down by the relentless power of the Red Army, World War II had only just ended, and we saw the devastation of these disasters fuel the desire for peace in the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was written at the time, aimed to outline essential rights for every person. So, I raise thee a question: how has this historic document reflected our lives since 1948?

A lot changed within a few decades: 28 years ago, a tide of progress and good sense seemed to have swept the whole world. In the ‘90s, the USSR dissolved, the Cold War came to a close, and the world’s free countries climbed from 65 at the beginning of the decade to 85 at the end, including Lithuania. This decade was a big step forward in human history: men, women, and children in the Western world soon realized that they were now living in a reality where they had the rights to be human, for example, to voice their opinions. Soon after, the tragedies of the past 50 years were put aside. The average scholar, worker, or elder wasn’t so worried about the UDHR. After all, that’s why NYT published a piece in 2015 entitled “The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, Obviously.” As the quality of life went up, civilians focused on their own families & communities.

However, nowadays, life is much more complex, and our freedoms seem to have led us astray. UDHR’s Article 19 resonated with the cynical side of me, stating “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” Some folk lash out, taking their rights to self-expression for granted. One Guardian article from 2015 reads: “My [eighty-year-old] mother has become increasingly opinionated and upsets people.” But the UDHR was written at a time when a basic foundation of essential truths needed to be established… today it seems oblivious not to acknowledge how we ought to use these rights (morally, logically). In developed countries, helping people express themselves is priority #1. There are thousands upon thousands of people who argue merely to upset each other. Personally, I try to avoid that and intentionally give others the right to speak their mind (even if I disagree with what they’re saying, so long as it’s not inhumane to begin with). Our attitudes have previously changed dramatically within 50 years, why wouldn’t they develop even more over the next 50?

70 years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “[the UDHR] is what we hope human rights may mean to all people in the years to come.” Her and many others’ culmination of efforts reveal that, throughout different strokes of time, the evolution of not only human rights, but humanity as a whole can change dramatically from a world-encompassing war-ridden society to one that is… just lazy. Having this in mind, whatever you pursue in life, any aspect of any spectrum can shift & develop in a society like ours.

SOURCES AND REFERENCES

Background information.

https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/lessons/full.php?lessonID=485

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/nyregion/new-yorkers-self-assured-and-opinionated-defend-their-values.html

The Red Army in Lithuania. http://www.lituanus.org/1986/86_4_04.htm

Best Decade? The ‘90s. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/opinion/sunday/the-best-decade-ever-the-1990s-obviously.html

History of the UDHR. http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/edumat/hreduseries/hereandnow/Part-1/short-history.htm

Opinionated mother Guardian article. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/03/mother-increasingly-opinionated-and-upsets-people

Words of Mrs. Roosevelt. https://www.facinghistory.org/holocaust-and-human-behavior/chapter-11/universal-declaration-human-rights