Any South African should never forget the history of our Human Rights Day that is celebrated on the 21st March. When you look at its history, you can then begin to ask how can this day even be a day of celebration considering the tragedy of its conception?
A brief bit of history of Human Rights Day. It is a day that was birthed in tragedy, on the 21st March 1960 when ordinary people protested against the unjust laws of the apartheid system.On that day 69 people were killed and another 180 injured at the hands of the then Apartheid officials. Now 53 years later we celebrate this tragedy in that we have freedom from that form of tyranny and a democracy where all South Africans have rights.
My concern and frustration arises when we all emphatically shout at the top of our lungs, that I HAVE RIGHTS! But when did human rights give way to individual rights where you have the right and freedom to do just what you want, when you want and to whom you want? When does your right infringe on another persons and who is the judge of that infringement?
I am not implying that we become so close minded and cynical that we move back to a time where we are forced to endure unfair and inhumane laws and practices, but at the rate and direction at which we are moving in this country also has to raise some concerns.
We all have rights, yes, but I recommend that this right has to be a right to empower those who are without the resources to employ those rights to live as dignified people. Your rights as a human should be interpreted as a privilege as well as a responsibility.
A privilege in the sense that in another place on this planet a person of your age, gender, or even station does not have access to the many facilities and opportunities that you have. They are limited because of violence, segregation, authoritarianism, and a defeat of the human spirit because of being continually abused and trodden on at the hands of those who feel that they have rights.
It should also be seen as a responsibility because when you are “freed” from your oppression, it should move you to do likewise for another fellow-human who has not yet experienced that freedom. The rights that you have is the responsibility given to you for these rights never to become abusive and tools for self-indulgence and promotion at the expense of others.
I have seen and heard that human rights have evolved into my rights, and there is a difference. Don’t get the two confused!