Today my spirituality is taking me down a political road. A Human Bill of Rights and Responsibilities has been rolling around in my mind the past few days – a spiritually-based statement that acknowledges the importance of basic human needs and our personal role in ensuring their availability for everyone. But before we get to that list of rights and responsibilities below, let’s consider other attempts to outline our “rights”…..
A Bit of Background
When I was a kid, I remember having to memorize certain writings that the adults deemed important but in my young mind they held little or no meaning. Through the years, writings such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and the preamble to the U.S. Constitution have grown in their significance.
Recently words from the US Declaration of Independence have been coming to mind. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The statement is truly beautiful and shows that the writers were highly enlightened and inspired.
To me, some of the key points the founding fathers were making here are the following:
- Certain things just are the way they are;
- One of those things that just is, is that all humans are equal;
- Another one is this – no matter how you think humanity came about, each one of us by the very nature that we exist has rights;
- That the rights we all “just have” are these – life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness;
- That humanity creates governments to ensure we maintain these rights;
- But governments get their power by way of each person granting the power to it;
- And when government stops ensuring we have these rights, then we need to abolish the government or change it.
After winning our independence, the founding fathers met to create a Constitution for our new government. Some argued that the new Constitution should contain a detailed statement of the rights of all the citizens – basically, an explanation of what it means to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Others did not want this kind of stuff in the Constitution. History tells us that the only way the Constitution was ratified by all the states was by way of a compromise where there was an agreement that the first amendment to the Constitution would be a “Bill of Rights”. This compromise allowed the Constitution to be passed over what would’ve been the objection of those who felt it had to contain such a statement from the outset. It’s ironic to me that there are some now in the political arena who believe that compromise is a dirty word when our whole Constitution came about through compromise.
After ratification, we established in the first 10 amendments of the Constitution our “Bill of Rights”. They were intended to limit the power of government so as to protect our natural rights but they were expanded to also include rights around “property”. Originally, these rights only extended to white males who owned land. Over time and through further amendments, these rights were extended to others. There is much good in this Bill of Rights, but they are also product of their historical time.
It’s my belief that a human Bill of Rights would transcend but include the essential elements from the American Bill of Rights.
In 1948, the United Nations crafted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It too, is a beautiful document with much good in it. If you’re not familiar with it, click here to read a copy. One of the first things you’ll note is its length. There are 30 articles.
It’s my belief that a human Bill of Rights would transcend but include the essential elements from this United Nations document.
To me, a human Bill of Rights can be much more succinct and tied directly to our desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So here is my take on it……
A Human Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
By virtue of being infused with the spirit of life, all humans possess the following rights:
- The primary right to express love and receive love fully.
- The right to express their unique human gifts and talents fully.
- The right to fully experience freely all aspects of what it is like to be human.
- The right to fully believe whatever one wishes to believe about life and its meaning.
- The right to fully communicate with others what one believes about life.
By virtue of possessing and benefiting from these rights, all humans also possess the following responsibilities:
- The responsibility to ensure that every other human may freely express their rights.
- The responsibility to ensure that in the expression of one’s rights that they do no harm to any other human.
That’s it. Short and sweet. It could be even shorter and sweeter – ” live life fully with love, assist others to do the same and do no harm.”
What do you think? Is there anything essential that I left out? What would you change, add or delete?
In stating all of this, I reminded of the line from the first Spider-Man film where Peter Parker’s uncle tells him “with great power comes great responsibility”. This is true for all of us.
I’m going to comment on this list of rights and responsibilities in some upcoming articles. But for now, remember this – We’re all in this together. Let’s enjoy life and help others to do the same!
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!