No! It is a serious question – not a laugh!
Bertrand Russell, in On Education in 1926 (p127), wrote: A truly robust morality can only be strengthened by the fullest knowledge of what really happens in the world. Russell was a Nobel laureate for literature as well as being a professor of mathematics and philosophy. In essence, he challenged many of the irrefutable assumptions of society which to him appeared to be accepted because that was the way it had always been.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) seems to be one of those current unchallengeable notions. So, is it absolute? It takes much of its philosophical authority from the US Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French Rights of Man (1789). Both of those documents drew on the ideas of the Enlightenment, from thinkers like John Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire.
They lived in the 17th and 18th centuries when the population of the planet was less than 1 billion people, in a time of institutionalised slavery, child labour, minimal education for the majority, when many women were seen as possessions whose roles were domestic and to rear children. A lot has changed in the world – mainly with the population now well over 7 billion and heading towards 8 billion within ten years. Some progress has been made toward equality, although the lack of many rights continues with the slavery of poverty, huge economic disparity across the world, racism and sexism … to name a few.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights is very light on responsibilities, particularly the requirements on those in power, those who control the wealth, those who can make a difference through their decision making.
Is it time to look beyond the blind aspirations, to note what is actually happening in our world and to question whether or not our moral assumptions need to be recalibrated in the present situation? Are there social responsibilities to be considered? Is there a role for considering context? Or, is our version of morality absolute? (See previous blogs)
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