You have a headache so you go to your medicine cabinet where you have a choice of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and many others. You grab two capsules and head for the kitchen sink where you pour yourself a glass of cool water. You take a few sips, swallow the pills and pour the rest of the water down the drain. Since you’re in the kitchen you decide to eat something, so you open the fridge and look through all the fresh food, but you decide you’ll pass on the healthy stuff and instead you grab a bag of high calories chips. All of this happens inside your comfortable climate controlled home where you live surrounded by the many possessions you have accumulated through the years. Everything that you have just experienced was made possible because you enjoy basic human rights.

You are reading this post because you have these rights. You have the freedom to access information. You have received an education that allows you to read and provided you with the knowledge of how to use a computer and the internet. The fact that you are interested in extreme poverty means you have a global awareness that is forbidden in parts of the world where human rights are restricted. If you are reading this at home than you have adequate shelter to protect you and your family from the elements. Chances are you have access to medical care, and there is nutritious food and clean water available. You should feel profoundly grateful because you are living a life that is denied to one billion human beings on this planet.

Human rights provide the freedom that allows a person to live and thrive in a safe and healthy environment. Why should living a life free of hunger, illness and disease be a luxury that is afforded only to those fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy nation? The color of your skin, your economic class, your political views and your religious beliefs should not dictate whether you are allowed to enjoy “basic human rights”. If these restrictions apply than the term is not accurate. The phrase clearly means that these rights should be available to every person on earth. There should be no exceptions because these rights represent the basic necessities for sustaining life and preventing suffering. Do we believe this is an unreasonable concept? Do we have reservations about helping children survive beyond the age of five? Do we want to deny food to millions of people each year? Do we want to withhold life saving medicines and vaccines from entire regions of the world? Would we want anyone to do those things to us?

We enjoy full human rights without ever giving it a thought. We just accept it as our birthright. We never think twice about having access to the best medical care in the world, or having sufficient food, water and shelter. Often the argument is made that these things are not free – we deserve them because we work for them, but that misses the point. We have the “opportunity” to work for them because through sheer genetic good fortune we were born into a part of the world that offers us an amazing array of choices and recognizes our rights as human beings. That does not mean that we should feel guilty about our lives, however, we do have to realize that there are many in the world that are not in the same fortuitous position that we are in. Therefore, we should endeavor to create the same possibilities in their lives that we are blessed with.

Human rights are not arbitrary. They are necessary to sustain life. Humanity’s requirements for food, water, shelter and medical care should never be negotiated or bargained for. They should not be priced beyond the reach of a billion people. Innocent children should not die because governments and corporations are too greedy to support a basic standard of living that no one should fall below.

Part of the responsibility that comes with the good fortune of enjoying full human rights is the obligation to see that those who are denied these advantages are supported and defended until they too receive the same privileges. Because we have the freedom to express ourselves and to take action we must make full use of these capabilities to ensure that the denial of human rights to anyone in the world is immediately brought to light so that appropriate measures can be taken to restore dignity and good health to those, who through no fault of their own, are living a life deprived of the most basic needs that we take for granted everyday. Anyone who denies human rights to others must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The fact that every human being needs food, water, shelter and medical care is not a difficult concept to grasp. It is so obvious that it cannot be denied. But ensuring that everyone has these things seems to be a task we are unwilling to undertake. That is why we need to embrace the idea of basic human rights. These are the necessities of life that should be guaranteed by law for everyone, everywhere with absolutely no exceptions. We have to commit ourselves to the principal that all of humanity deserves these basic considerations. We have to enforce the laws protecting human rights because if we fail to do so people will suffer and die. Human rights are not optional. They are as important as food and water. Without them people cannot expect to lead healthy lives filled with meaning and hope.





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