Universal Human Rights and Pride versus Dignity. By Jeffrey Imm


Our Universal Human Rights of Dignity for our "human family" are not based on arrogant pride, but on the compassionate respect for dignity of the individual as a fellow human being. Such human rights must also include mercy, not just for those like us and those we like, but also an outstretched hand of mercy for our human family. Conceitful pride is not dignity, and superiority is not equality.

In our challenge to those whose cruel actions, ideas, and even anti-freedom regime defy our universal human rights, let us not use our own cruel arrogance and pridefulness that we are superior to other members of our human family. We seek to urge change, not because of pride of our "superior" knowledge, but because of the need for respect and mercy in our human family.

Seventy years ago, the nations of the world made a decision to take a different stand on the "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind." In Article 1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, world leaders stated: "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."

Too often, the lack of mercy in society impacts our language and how we communicate. But let us be clear, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not speak to our "pride," on which so many activists base campaigns. Instead, it speaks to "dignity." This declaration begins with the "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." It is not a recognition of superior pride or conceit. Dignity is primarily defined as "quality or state of being worthy." Pride is primarily defined as "inordinate self-esteem : conceit." We have allowed the words pride and dignity to become interchangeable, but they have very different primary meanings as words.

This misunderstanding of dignity has a tremendous negative impact on campaigns for human rights. We can endlessly and pridefully have those pointing their finger and with upraised fists against "the other," who is "wrong" and must be challenged. But if we accept our universal human rights of a "human family," we must also realize that those who reject our shared human rights are also part of our same "human family." They ARE us. We are shouting at a mirror of who we are or who we could be as well. While we may choose our friends, we cannot choose the members of our shared "human family." Our human family is our greatest and our most ignoble, our strongest and most vulnerable, and our most compassionate and most cruel – all together.

The concept that they ARE us, must give pause even to our most fervent activist opposed to "the other." While we may reject ideas, acts, and organizations, prideful rejection of human beings is a rejection of our human family. Some find this impossible to accept, and instead allow their pride to redirect their blind rage from "the other" in their human family to humanity itself. Conceitful pride can blind us to not only human rights, but also to our shared humanity. Conceitful pride can actively call for hate as "the answer" to challenges in our society. But we know that hate only leads to futher hate. Our Declaration of Universal Human Rights calls for us to act with merciful "brotherhood" to promote such human rights and equality. We can not do so in a spirit of hate, superiority, and contempt for the members of our "human family" with whom we disagree.

Hate is Not the Answer. But to too many, Hate is not only the answer, it has become normalized as a solution to our human rights challenges in our world. This is how blind pride can damage our vision on universal human rights.

It is the "non-conformance" of rejecting pride, hate, and selfishness, which is essential to pursuing consistent equality and meaningful respect for dignity for our human family. The great human rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often warned about pride, which is often forgotten. He warned that "dangerous passions of pride, hatred, and selfishness are enthroned in our lives."

The anti-human rights threat of pride has been lost in the shouts of rage and frustration of billions. This message of this human rights leader on pride has been lost in a world with billions shouting in megaphones all at the same time, and we forget that to respect dignity, we must also shelve our conceitful pride to listen occasionally.

The blinding sun of pride and rage does not outshine every word of wisdom from the past on mercy and restraint. I have a handwritten note from the human rights leader Dr. King on "Pride." On it, he had two remarks: "Augustine said sixteen centuries ago, ‘What could begin this evil will but pride, that is the beginning of all sin?’." He also wrote C.S. Lewis in our day declares: "Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind… Pride is spiritual cancer; it eats up every possibility, of love, on contentment, or even common sense."

Let us look forward beyond Dr. King’s comments and spiritual notations on pride, and reflect on our human family and the call for mericful brotherhood as part of our Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us consider the damage that such conceitful pride does to both our human rights, and very dignity of our human family we seek to defend. To reflect on these quotes documented by Dr. King, let us also consider the challenge of pride in human rights terms.

Pride is a human rights cancer. It corrupts the best hopes and best intentions of campaigns for dignity of the individual through mercy and compassion. It is a superiority that rejects the equality that so many work to achieve. It is contempt for the humble understanding that our universal human rights begins with respecting our shared human family.

A commitment to equality is not one of arrogant pridefulness and superiority. Prideful superiority is the opposite of our equality. We cannot work to be both superior and equal. We must choose. Let us choose support for true equality, and find the courage to seek humble solutions by changing hearts of those who are part of our human family, even (especially) for those not like us and those we may not like. Responsible human rights activists do not merely stand with upraised fists of pride against others in their human family, but they must find the courage to speak to and offer compassion to those in our human family who have lost their way in human rights.

Do we believe infant children are born with contempt towards our shared human rights? We know better. While there are those born with illness, the idea that our new life is born with inherent contempt towards such universal human rights rejects the very words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Not "some," but "all." Not just those we like or those like us. But "all."

But we see those willing to reject humanity altogether, if they cannot guide members of their fellow human beings in the path they believe is right. Where in our Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are we called to abandon our fellow human beings, when we do not get our way? How are we working to promote freedom and equality in dignity and rights, by turning our back on humanity itself?

The cancer of conceitful pride can rationalize such illogical concepts. Such pride can rationalize hate, when we are called to show compassion. Such pride can rationalize inequality, when we are called to work for equality. Such pride can rationalize contempt for other members of the human family, when we are called to promote dignity and brotherhood. This is the destructive power of pride. It can even corrupt the logic of the values we claim to support.

Not only does such pride allow for hate against our fellow human beings, but also such conceitful pride will rationalize hate against humanity itself. Calls for human extinction can be rationalized by pride, as for the "common good." For who? It allows for the public calls that human beings should be ruled by machines, as humanity should be allowed to make decisions on its own future. It even calls for human beings to be altered to be more like machines, and less like human beings. This is the destructive power of pride.

Conceitful pride can rise to a level that not only destroying human rights for "the other" is acceptable, but also calling for the very "extinction of humanity" can become a normalized and acceptable concept, even published in a major newspaper. This week, the New York Times ("Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?") published a column stating "the extinction of humanity would make the world better off." This is the destructive power of pride that can harden the hearts even of those who believe they are doing "good," to accept that the very destruction of human life itself would be a noble accomplishment.

Early in R.E.A.L.'s human rights campaigns, I came across a man who I spoke to, who seemed to have great concern for human progress. When I mentioned the word "human rights," he spit on the ground in contempt. This is the alienating damage achieved by the association of pride and superiority of too many campaigns that claim they are for human rights, but which are really for group superiority. The concept that universal human rights are only deserved to selected few is the very antithesis of the meaning of "universal human rights." We do not work for equality by demonizing members of our shared human family.

In R.E.A.L.'s human rights campaigns, the idea of "universal human rights" is difficult for some to understand, even in 21st century America. In New York City, I had serious difficulty explaining to a police detective who had to approve a R.E.A.L. request for a freedom of speech demonstration, because the demonstration application was for "universal human rights." He couldn't understand the point of this demonstration. But "universal human rights for who, exactly?," he asked. "For all people," I replied. But "for what people?" he asked again. The concept that human rights campaigns are only for selected groups is so ingrained in public thought, that the very idea of supporting universal human rights, even in the city where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, is inconceivable. This too, is how far away from shared human rights, that too many prideful-based campaigns have led us.

In challenging human rights abuses, we must remember those who are lost travelers in our human journey need our guidance, as must as their anti-human rights actions or concepts deserve our outrage.  Hate-filled pride is provides no guidance for change.  Our campaign for humanity and human rights must be a lighthouse to the lost in the seas of life, not a flaming torch to destroy those who actions and ideas reject our universal human rights.  If our Universal Declaration of Human Rights challenges the "barbarous acts" of the past, we must not seek to change with our own "barbarous acts" of the future. Hate-filled pride is not the answer.

The challenge of allowing pride to overtake our campaigns for humanity, and our individual lives is not a struggle for only for a few. It is a widespread problem for society, and we would be deceitful if we did not say it was a struggle for us as well. R.E.A.L. has worked to mitigate such challenges, with a moral compass of compassion and mercy.

To those who seek to defend the path of pride and hate as righteous responsese to abuses against human rights, pause and consider.  Without the uplifting strength of compassion and mercy to our human family, where will this path take not only our humanity but also our world?  Mercy is our greatest strength. Love and Compassion is our greatest power.  If you consider yourselves to be in a human rights "war," would you use the weakest "weapon" of pride and hate, and leave our greatest strengths behind?  This is how much hate and pride can blind our reason.

We do not offer an outstretched hand of human rights out of weakness, or lack of outrage in recognizing abuses. We offer an outstreteched hand of human rights to all, especially to those we challenge, because we know that an upraised fist of pride and hate will only bring more of the same. If we believe in our human family, and the merciful brotherhood and conscience we are called to show, we must seek the reunion of all of our family to share equality, liberty, rights, dignity, and mercy.

Our Universal Human Rights of all – for every individual – begins with the humility and compassion that, in our human family, the human rights and dignity of every member matters equally.

We urge all to be Responsible for Equality And Liberty – for All.

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