This post goes on to begin the rough draft of my current non-fiction WiP, Baby Acres: A possible Vision for Making Society Suck Less, in 60 Years. (Thanks, once again, to JYP and Tammy for the title ideas!!) The overall goal has been to lay out a roadmap for a fully inclusive society for all of us, so, I am turning, this week, to the introductory chapter, Chapter 0, of the book, in the hope that All HumanKind will eventually have each person’s basic needs met. This book lays out one possible path for getting to that point.
Introduction: Empathy-building as an ongoing part of all
Having cited some of the reasoning which led up to the inception of this project, we now delve into the foundational concepts behind each phase. Empathy-building, through various means, is a continual part of each phase, as without empathy, no society can be just or safe or kind.
This vision of one potential just society is based on the ideas that such a society must be defined by its levels of both empathy and of full respect for the Human Rights of every living person. Such rights as the right to equity, the right to help create peaceful change, and to have each of those four freedoms that President FDR spoke about, embody the essence of a just society. But that essence still requires some tangible way to measure the level of justice, change institutions and systems that need changing, and to define specific ideals upon which those justice seeking institutions build, and to what particular ends.
Human Rights must be the starting point for any society which seeks to be a just society. The application of named rights for each human being in an equitable manner is essential for a
society to be truly just. Some way to measure that application is also necessary. John Rawls proposed a test for determining whether a given society could be considered just, via a thought experiment. While that test will neither be debated nor explained in full here, further exploration of his writings will show that his proposal involved imagining oneself, after having designed a just society, as being given the choice to become part of that society, but without any knowledge of the position in which one, personally, would enter it. Rawls suggested that if a person would not be willing to enter a given society with no knowledge, or under a thick veil of ignorance, as to what that person’s position would be in the society, then that society might not be a just society. For example, no reasonable person, not knowing what position he or she might have, would consent to become part of US society, because if the position of that person turns out to be one of a homeless person, then the lived experience of the vast majority of people who experience homelessness would indicate that entering society in that position would very nearly doom one’s chances in life. Thus, Rawls’ test would show that the current state of American society is not that of a just society. As many have pointed out. Like Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky and others have written many books and articles detailing a variety of critiques of US and other current societies, in terms of the damage that governments of the United States and other developed nations allow to be done in the name of economic competition. A just society must be just for its own citizens, and must also promote the ideals upon which it is founded in its dealings with other societies. On that basis, Chomsky finds that US treatment of other nations is especially unjust, and that injustice is a reflection of treatment withing US society of the most vulnerable communities within US society, as well, such as Black Americans, refugees, and women of all races. So, the treatment of citizens within a just society must also be mirrored by how that society treats those outside of its boundaries with whom it has dealings, as Chomsky points out on page 83 of his book Profits over People: unfairly vilifying and then crushing a nation for the sake of economic competition is unjust not only to those outside of a society, but even to those within the ‘winning’ society, as the reality of such behavior is evident even to small children, when viewed without the coloring of propaganda. The effects within US society, for example, of the embargo against Cuba over the long term, have been to harden views in some quarters against any compromise or opening of discussion on the topic, while others in American society have come to see hard-liners insistent on the embargo as both anti-Cuban and even anti-immigration. Thus, unfair treatment of outsiders by members of even a just society affects all members within that society, causing divisions and even justifying mistreatment of dissenting opinions, rendering that formerly just society unjust in the act. This shows that even a just society would have to have ways of interacting with other societies that set boundaries and spell out ideals to which all connected societies could aspire.
Eleanor Roosevelt, in helping to redact the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, drew heavily on the concept enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence “that all
men are created equal… that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…” which include the right to be treated with equal dignity to that of every other human being, regardless of momentary state of being, such as poverty or wealth, gender, religion or lack thereof, etc. As crucial as to whom these rights apply, the document defined an international standard of what rights should be considered as basic to all human beings. The right not to be tortured is, for example, a basic human right which applies to each and every human being at all times and under all circumstances. Likewise with “the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”
Certain rights, such as that negating slavery, which is in direct contradiction to the 13th
Amendment to the US federal Constitution, were visionary in their global scope, considering that many nations had not yet completed the rebuilding from the destruction of the second world war, and even that of the first, the Great War. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is thus a fitting starting point for our definition of what, in terms of tangible rights, a just society ought to look like. The definition of those rights does not, in itself, show us all of what a just society looks like, but it is a start, beginning at where we are today, from a documentary and international legal point of view. It shows that to build a truly just society, we do not really have that far to go. With a set of basic human right in place to which everyone around the world has agreed, in principle, we can move on to look at ways in which those rights could potentially be implemented in a way that would be equitable for all human beings on the planet. Given that the current global systems of finance, trade, etc, are clearly highly inequitable, a just society must therefore have mechanisms in place to allow the peaceful changing of the systems of governance, and even of government, allowing citizens within the society to change parts of the system of governing that show themselves to be unjust. Such peaceful revolution, though, revolves around several connected but distinct types of justice, and depends upon the ability of all citizens to make their voices heard in absolutely non-violent, non-threatening, and non- aggressive manners, so that all citizens can feel both heard, and protected.
That is the rough draft of the first part of my introductory chapter.
Last week was the second installment of this series…
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