A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS Important milestones in the evolution of human rights include (but are not limited to): the Babylonic Code of Hammurabi, dating back to 1772 B.C.; Cyrus the Great’s Cyrus cylinder, issued in 539 B.C; the Constitution of Medina, drafted by Mohammad in 662 A.D.; the Magna Carta, (1215); John Locke’s theories on human rights and the subsequent English Bill of Rights (1689); the United States Declaration of Independence (1776),United States Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (completed in 1789 and ratified in 1791); Henry David Thoreau’s treatise On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849); Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the League of Nations (1919-46), and the United Nations (1946-present). EVOLUTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS When a new organization comes into existence, there are always those conservatives who fear potential changes; they accept the current system—the “status quo,” if we’re willing to use clichéd terminology—as right or at least tolerable, and these people and organizations constitute a formidable barrier to change. This is not to say that possible changes shouldn’t be scrutinized for defects—as humans, for example, we have cells whose purposes include the moderate change. Without these cells, mutations in the reproduction of cells would lead to far more incidences of cancer. However, changes—that is, mutations—provide the basis of the progression of life and, in particular, our innate drive to survive. The example of cancer pertains to microscopic systems, but the same “instincts” live drives “systems of systems,” in higher-level organizations: as in the aforementioned case concerning cancer, an organization’s drives are to live and evolve into more perfect organizational systems. And, as such, degenerative mutative systems in these systems of systems must be neutralized by the supersystem itself. Conversely, there must be subsystems that encourage the propagation of other, evolutionarily beneficial, mutative systems. If we are to summarize the nature of human rights, the basic tenets are these: · “Do unto others as they would have you do unto you.” (I would amend this: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you if you were in their shoes.”) · All humans (I would amend this, too, to say “All sentient beings”) have the rights to life, liberty, property, and privacy. THE LATEST EVOLUTIONARY PROGRESSION The United Nations (UN) replaced the League of Nations in 1945 after World War II; now, all 193 internationally recognized sovereign nations (with the exception of Vatican City) are members of its constituency. The UN was formed in order to facilitate: · cooperation in international law; · international security; · economic development; · social progress; · human rights; and · world peace THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE FUTURE OF INDIVIDUAL AND NATIONAL RIGHTS While I claim that the UN represents the newest and potentially most powerful advocate for human rights the world has ever seen, I am not advocating the demise of national and local governments; these would still exist and have the power to create their own legislation; however, being only systems within systems, they have no legitimate claims as the sole proprietor of an understanding of universal human rights. These institutions and organizations must be held accountable by an emergent system—in this case, the UN. This is not to say that the UN, itself, can claim ownership of any sort of complete understanding of human rights; however, as it integrates the information contained in those subsystems, it is the best judge we currently have. And, nurtured correctly, it has the potential for vast improvement. This process will involve many individual steps, and the proper order of events must be carefully considered. KEYS TO THE EVOLUTION AND MAINTENANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS While humans are basically good in that they tend to do what is “right” according to their perspectives on morality, cultural institutions have the capacity for malignance and, as we are influenced to an indeterminate degree by these institutions, the “moral” codes we develop and adhere to are susceptible to perversion. This leads individuals and organizations, all too frequently, to harm other individuals and organizations that also possess the natural rights to life, liberty, property, and privacy—inasmuch as the manifestation of these rights do no harm to others or, more generally, the common good. Conflict arises from either an individual’s or an organization’s belief in its superiority (moral or otherwise), or from perceived inequity in human rights (among other perceptions—such as those concerning economic inequity—which I plan to address in subsequent essays). To ensure the security of every individual’s or organization’s rights, a universal and equitable set of rules must be established—rules applied universally. In my next post (the full essay is too long), I'll enumerate, in no particular order, necessary actions the UN must take. 1.