November 20, 2017

Human Responsibilities

Just because something is legal doesn't make it moral. And not everything illegal is immoral.

The crusade to convince humanity to embrace responsibilities and obligations is thousands of years old. It hasn't taken yet, but perhaps we are closer to universal acceptance than ever before.

We hear a lot about human rights these days, as we should. They are critical to sharing this world in harmony and with peace for all. What you don't hear much about, are human responsibilities. But freedoms and rights in the absence of responsibilities and obligations is a dangerous state of affairs.

We have many lists of critical human responsibilities, for every major religion has one of its own. They are all very similar.

“I truly believe there is a common ethic running through all the world’s major religions. The basic values, the ethical standards, needed for a peaceful society, are shared.” 
- Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia (1975-1983)

Mahatma Gandhi crafted his own non-religious list, his Seven Social Sins.

There are also the Seven Deadly Sins, and Seven Principal Virtues that may be more familiar to many than Gandhi's list.

We have a responsibility and obligation to adopt acceptable standards of behaviour.

More recently, The InterAction Council, a group of former heads of states, brainstormed a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities to go along with the UN adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have summarized the document below.

"The InterAction Council has been working to draft a set of human ethical standards since 1987. But its work builds on the wisdom of religious leaders and sages down the ages who have warned that freedom without acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are balanced, then freedom is enhanced and a better world can be created."

Each of us has the responsibility and obligation to:

- Treat all people in a humane way.

- Strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.

- Promote good and avoid evil in all things.

- Accept a responsibility to each other, to families and communities, races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity.

- To put into practice the motto: "Do unto others, as you would want them to do to you."

- Act in peaceful, non-violent ways, and respect all life.

- Protect the air, water and soil of Earth for the sake of present and future life.

- Solve disputes between states, groups or individuals without violence.

- Promote sustainable development globally in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.

- Ensure that economic and political power is not handled as an instrument of domination, but used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of all humanity.

- Codes of ethics should reflect the priority of general standards such as those of truthfulness and fairness.

All together we have a "Handbook For Living Together On Earth". We know what to do, and have known for a long, long time. What are we waiting for?

We may be approaching a time when we finally adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, and use it to be better people, and therefore form a better world. I see a golden opportunity, and hope that each of us chooses to seize it.

Let us build on our advancements over the decades, centuries, and millennia. We have the potential to create a wonderful balance between the rights we enjoy and the responsibilities and obligations we have to each other, and the planet.

Is there any other endeavour more worth doing?


  1. Anonymous11/22/2017

    I think to practice of the way is a transcendence of codified rules. There would be no need for rules if people could truly cultivate their consciousness. From experience when people have to work in justifying behaviour the behaviour isn't part of the way.
    Nice article by Monbiot today on consumption:

    1. Alex,

      Cultivation of consciousness is preferred to rules. That and practicing loving kindness and universal compassion would go a long way to eliminating many of the problems we are faced with today. That takes more work and discipline than accepting a set of rules (and not following them).

      Good article by Monbiot. I don't think we will stop until we absolutely have to as conditions force our hands. Cultivation of consciousness, like the simple living movement, threatens the power of the elite, and it will be belittled ("navel gazing", "lazy hippies", eco-terrorists") laughed at, and discouraged at all costs. The pressure and oppression is enormous, well-funded, and all-pervasive.

      And yet, those of us that have broken free will find a way. Not by rules, but by our actions and our results.

  2. I don't know if this thought goes here or under consumerism and violence, but I have been thinking about the sense of entitlement people with power have. Somehow they have the right to grab women, spill oil on the land, skip taxes. Somewhere the greed, lust and gluttony just take over every shred of humanity and justify horrible behavior to that person. That insatiable appetite they are trying to feed turns to taking the rights of others to give their egos a new high.

    1. Annie,

      This comment would fit in pretty much anywhere on this blog. Extreme craziness and lawlessness by those at the top. How much will the people take before they are in the streets? This will not end well.


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