While human rights are the legal entitlements that belong “equally” to all of humanity, income inequality refers to the extent to which money is distributed “unequally” throughout society. What does severe income-inequality have to do with human rights? As money is the basic means by which populations allocate and distribute resources, the distribution of income therefore determines which people have enough money to pay for the resources necessary to live according to our human rights and which people do not. Therefore, severe income inequality is a violation of human rights because; it causes those with less money also to have less opportunity to live equally according to their human rights.
Solving Global Problems at the Local Level
1. Define the problem.
2. Determine the cause of the problem.
3. Design a solution that you are able to participate in at the local level.
4. Join the community of responsible global citizens to stand as the change (in the small) that, you care to see in all of humanity.
Defining the Problem and Determining the Cause
Although the United Nations say that, human rights belong to all human beings equally, billions of people still do not have the opportunity to live equally according to their human rights. This is the problem. In order to determine the cause of this problem, let us have a critical look at some of the articles of international law, based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Okay, so we are all born free and equal, but what happens after that? Where are the guarantees that, all human beings will have an equal opportunity to live dignified lives?
Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” If everyone is really entitle to the rights and freedoms provided for in this declaration; why are there still so many people dying without the opportunity to live according to their human rights?
Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” This is perhaps the most important of all the articles. Although, article 3 acknowledges the right to life, liberty and security, it fails to guarantee everyone the right to the resources needed to survive, be free and be secure. Thus, it is like saying to a person who is dying of thirst: you have a right to drink water, but you do not have a right to touch the water.
Article 4: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” This article represents a form of hypocrisy written into international law. For example, let us look at the reality of billions of people’s lives. Imagine you live in a very poor country, where there are plenty of natural resources, but you are still hungry and thirsty because, the corporations that own the resources refuse to share the food and water with you unless you first give them some money. Furthermore, the only way for you to get some money is to work for them for $2.00 per day, i.e., agree to work like a slave. This is how the structure and design of current world-system traps billions of people into slave-like working conditions. According to the UDHR, you have the right life and you have the right not to be held in slavery. However, the UNDHR does not guarantee us the right to the money that is needed to acquire the food and water that we need to stay alive. Consequently, in order for the poorest people to get money that they need to stay alive, they often have no choice but to accept slave-like working and living conditions. Thus, even though it is illegal to hold people in slavery or servitude, it is apparently not against the law for corporations to create the conditions that leave people with no choice but to agree to live and work as slaves.
In the beginning of this article we read that, severe income inequality is a violation of human rights because; it causes those with less money also to have less opportunity to live equally according to their human rights. In order to test this hypothesis, we can use the data in charts and graphs to compare measurements of income inequality with measurements of characteristics associated with human rights.
As you can see from Figure 1, countries with higher rates of income inequality also have higher rates of health and social problems. This is because, when people have less money, they also have less ability to pay healthcare, education, security and so on. If the right to life were indeed applied equally to all, then the right to health and social services would also be applied equally to all. The reason that, health and social services are not applied equally to all is because of the unequal distribution of money. The less money one has, the less ability he or she has to pay for the resources and social services needed to guarantee equal human rights. Within the money-system of humanity, we are able to quantify every form of inequality, which brings us to the following question. How are we able to use the money system and its currencies of money to assist us to bring about equality within humanity?
Standing as the Change that we Care to see in all of humanity
It is impossible for the minority (that make up governments and organizations such as the United Nations) to change all of humanity for the better. Why? Because, humanity is the sum of each person’s standing in relation one another. Herein, the first point for global citizens to see and understand is the point of self-responsibility. Change for the better, in the whole of humanity will only come from individuals changing themselves for the better. For example, one I-change for the better + one I-change for the better + one I-change for the better… adds up to a humanity that has changed for the better. The opportunity to create a better future for all of humanity is right now, and our participation begins as soon as we accept responsibility for solving the problems of humanity wherever and however we are able. In some cases, this means rewriting the current rules from a starting-point of what is best for all. For an example of new version human rights written by global citizens, have a look at The Bill of Rights by the Equal Life Foundation.