Rights exist only because there is value. Where we place no value, we do not even begin to think ascribing any right. Because human value is a source of human rights, every time, anytime, is the perfect time to discuss the issue of human rights.
Human rights are naturally controversial in societies that are struggling to recognize the universality of human value. It is easy to accept that we as humans have value but difficult to extend the same human value to others beyond ourselves and those we care for.
We probably never can regard others as ourselves (and our extensions) but a great effort must be exerted nonetheless. Only by achieving a reasonable level of valuing human beings, whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not, can we begin to relate them to rights that they deserve.
The higher we value human life, the greater the rights we will extend to them. Accordingly, the lesser the importance we have for others, the lesser rights we will accommodate for them. This is why we must struggle to raise the level of how we regard humanity as a race.
Otherwise, the value of human life is not only selective but may be extremely so. As the saying from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” goes, some are more equal than others. Applying that disparity into a society of laws destroys all sense of justice. Reminds us of when societies were ruled by monarchies, back then, the inequality of human value was most obvious.
The rights of kings contrasted extremely with the rights of peasants. We can even say that the right to life was not only divinely ordained but shared with human rulers. At the dictates of emperors and kings, millions of human lives would be sacrificed in the altars of wars, the human value which is supposed to be the source of human rights is undermined to its lowest degree.
People were simply like numbers or statistics. History has honoured great personalities and reported all others as mere casualties. This becomes a clear example of low human value, low human rights even with an indication that human value is a source of human rights.
With our background of extended massive poverty, all human rights declarations are theoretical; beyond that, they are hypocritical. Yes, human life is valuable, except that the lives of the civilian count for so much less. We have seen periods when human rights abuses were alleged, especially when media is suppressed.
Whatever caused violent deaths in beloved Zimbabwe or elsewhere is really not an excuse for the deaths to have happened at all. In a free and democratic society, in a nation of laws, hundreds of violent deaths are an aberration. We must not take them lightly, and we must find ways to dismantle that pattern of violence.
The horrible inequality in how we value human lives according to their economic and social categories will be a millstone around the neck of human rights advocacies. I believe that if we campaign to elevate the value of lives, that there is approximate equality in worth and dignity, there will be a clear line drawn against abuses.