May. 20th, 2014

serina_ds: (Dark eye)
I was having a conversation about human rights campaigners, and a comment came up about the 'genuine' or 'good' human rights campaigners. This got me to thinking about the subject. What is a 'non-genuine' or 'not good' human rights campaigner? Is this someone who campaigns for human rights for the people you disapprove of or disagree with? (I'm including terrorists and criminals in this category.)

Surely it's a mark of our humanity - not how we treat those we approve of and agree with, but whether we treat even those who have done something we consider horrific as human. Because we must never, ever, forget that they are human, just like us. We can, and should, punish them for hurting others, and perhaps even lock them away forever if they're a continued danger, but we must not stop trying to reach them or rehabilitate them. We must not stop thinking of them as human. If we forget that, if we try to treat them as just monsters or boogeymen, then soon we can pretend to ourselves that 'our kind of people don't do these things', and only the monsters do it, and we stop watching ourselves for signs that we are doing bad things. Instead of thinking of ourselves as people who do decent, good things (which we generally are, of course), we start thinking of ourselves as just decent people who of course will never do bad things, and therefore things we do must be good. It happens - decent, genuine, honest, kind people doing horrific things because they've assured themselves that it's for the greater good and they're being selfless, and they wouldn't do something bad because 'they're good people'.

We need to keep thinking of ourselves as 'people who do good things'. We need to remind ourselves that this is an ongoing struggle, and that we can't be complacent. We need to keep examining whether the things we do are genuinely helpful and kind and beneficial.

And one way we can do that is by extending humanity even to those people who we feel don't deserve to be treated as human (and yes, sometimes I feel that way about certain people too. Rapists, murderers, child molesters, etc etc. It's very tempting to treat them like monsters). But accepting a world in which we can designate some people as 'not deserving of being human' is not a good place to be. Who gets to choose? Who gets to decide whether we are deserving of being treated like a human being? Who gets to decide the criteria by which this is decided?

In reminding ourselves that we can be monsters too, we remind ourselves of what it is to not be a monster. To be a human who treats others well to the best of our ability.

The good we can do, instead of the bad others can do.

Humans aren't automatically nice, but they can be good. We can be good. We just need to keep an eye on ourselves, and keep campaigning for a better world, in which it's easier to be good. This world is not yet it.

Also, I just want to point out that I don't necessarily think of human rights campaigners as innately any better or worse than, say, soldiers, as people. There are good and bad people in every profession. We should all be striving to make society a better place, in any way we can, no matter what our job.


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