Saturday, 3 January 2015

Starting the year with a provocation

Everyone is faced from the beginning of their lives with questions of identity. These questions tend to be formed by opposition to those surrounding each individual. As such, in the first human community, the family, one will identify oneself as a child as opposing to the role of parents. In school one will alternatively be identified as part of a certain class or year of study, as part of a team of sports or other hobbies, as students in relation to teachers and staff, etc.. Outside the school, however, one may even choose the entire school as its identity, the entire city, the entire country or even an entire continent.
I could go on and on about different forms of identity in different contexts. However the point here is that it becomes almost impossible to find anyone on earth with whom someone else would not find at least one identity point in common. In the worst case scenario, if one happens to meet someone with whom no common identity seems to exist, there will still be the obvious common feature: being human.
Now, to be human may seem as the minimum common denominator but it is a huge minimum common denominator. It is the single most important characteristic of any human… This brings a lot of La Palice truth in it. This truth is so obvious that one may question any other form of identity but one may not question humanity. One may mistake a Briton for a Norwegian, a man for a woman and a lawyer for an architect. However, only as an insult can one mistake a human being for a dog, an ostrich or even a monkey.
Being human serves not only as a common minimum denominator between all humans (La Palice again) but as their most important characteristic. But why on earth am I writing this? Should this not be obvious? So obvious that it should even not be mentioned? Well, it should, but apparently it isn't. I realize this whenever I read about supposedly human rights based on different identifications such as “indigenous rights”, “women’s rights”, “minorities’ rights”… Quite frankly, if they are not applicable to all humans, they are not human rights. If any human right is denied to any group based on their identity, than it’s not a human right. In those cases we’re talking about a privilege (from the Latin “privata lex” because it is applicable only to a group).
So, a request to all those who write about these subjects: learn to distinguish between a right and a privilege. After learning this distinction, start using the latter term whenever that is only applicable to a group: indigenous privileges, women’s privileges, minority’s privileges, etc.. If for some reason you have a prejudice against the word privilege, than you should rethink your choice to write about the protection conferred to only parts of humanity.

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