What Are You Writing?
(Editor's note: In college, Doug Kamholz named his dog after Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish economist who served as secretary-general of the United Nations until he died in a plane crash. Doug's dog symbolized the hopes vested in the UN, which produced a lasting document about living free with dignity that celebrated its 75th anniversary this week.) by Doug Kamholz We planted people in the audience during our annual peace center celebrations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On cue they popped up and spouted “Number 14! The right to asylum!” or maybe “Number 24! The right to rest!” The United Nations adopted this stunning set of 30 articles at its meeting at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, on December 10, 1948. The Universal Declaration stood as response to nightmarish barbarism during World War II. The authors’ goal was inclusive of all cultures, nations and regions, of all races, ethnicities, religions and genders, of all languages and opinions, of any class or status of birth. They proclaimed inalienable rights entitled to all human beings simply because they are human beings. As one would expect, there is lofty language such as “All human beings are born free” but there’s an equal amount plain-speaking. Take Article 24 from my opening paragraph: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” Guaranteed vay-kay, as the kids say. Today we live in a fatally fractious world (and country), a reason for pessimism. However, it was nations often at extreme odds that produced perhaps the finest compendium of human rights ever inscribed. To accomplish this, they worked through divisions to achieve union, a reason for optimism. Capitalism and socialism have been the two major currents of political philosophy for a century just as they were in 1948. It is fun (I can think of no better word) to read through 1,773 words of the Declaration of Human Rights and pick out which articles were drawn from capitalist-leaning societies and which were likely offered by the more socialist side of the world. Here are a couple examples of each: — Article 12. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence . . .” Capitalism has always championed individualism and personal privacy. — Article 17. “Everyone has the right to own property . . .” Private property is the bulwark of capitalism. — Article 22. “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and . . . free development of his personality.” Socialism leans more to collective goodness and opportunity. — Article 25. “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services . . .” This is the essence of socialist societal obligation and of socialism, itself. In 1945 President Harry S Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to the U.S. delegation helping to form the United Nations. A year later Norwegian Trygve Lie, first U.N. secretary general, asked her to help form a formal human rights commission. She chaired the group drafting the Declaration along with representatives from France, Lebanon, China, Australia, Chile, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. “[W]e are all conscious of the great responsibility which rests upon us,” she said upon her appointment, “to help the United Nations achieve its primary objective of keeping the peace of the world by helping human beings live together happily and contentedly.This Declaration was Roosevelt’s focus for two years. The result remains an unmatched articulation of human aspiration on earth. One measure is that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most translated text in the world. For Moxie readers in the U.S., there is a recent sad chapter. The president before Joe Biden pulled this nation out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in June of 2018. It happened the day after U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the Council “a cesspool.” She resigned her ambassadorship at year’s end with some speculating she sought distance from Trump in order to mount a 2024 White House run against him. She’s currently second in polling to her ex-boss. Biden’s request to rejoin the Human Rights Council in his first year in office was granted by the U.N. General Assembly. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is now Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She is a career diplomat whose major work has focused on Sub-Saharan Africa as well as serving the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. - 30 - Important note 1: Here are all 30 Articles, all 1,773 words: