Today is Human Rights Day in South Africa.
If ever there was a country which needs to pause a moment in a tumultuous world, and reflect on this day it is us.
We have an unenviable history of the abhorrent use of power by the powerful over the powerless, and it has gone on for centuries. This abuse has been dished out in many different forms from local cultures to colonialists, and it happens still in the corporate corridors of our companies.
For Heaven’s sake, it still happens in our homes.
In a world which has grown up to revere the pictures of superiority and competition, there have been some horrible losers along the journey, and what gets left beaten and trampled the most is the doormat of Human Rights.
So here are two quotes which, when I hear them, stop me in my tracks, and cause me to observe my surroundings a little deeper.
“To deny people their Human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Nelson Mandela
“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.” Desmond Tutu
You would have to travel for a very long time to find two people who have fought as hard as this for some basic Human rights.
Today, 21 March 2020, looks different to any other day we have experienced as South Africans, indeed, as the world. Despite the chaos around us, or, perhaps even more so because of it, it is important to acknowledge our history and our humanity. When, I greeted my petrol attendant today, we bumped elbows through the open window in the newly instituted attempt at some sort of physical bonding in these viral times. “Happy Human Rights Day, we must remember this day.”
“We will remember”, he said, “For we can never forget.”
Sometimes the addressing of the wrongs of the past starts with doing what is right in the present.
And a simple greeting is so NOT insignificant.
We have a basic Human right to be acknowledged, and the sparkle in the eye of the acknowledged leads me to believe that it is the right thing to do.
And to do those things now.
By Steve Hall