The common sense of humanity

By Melissa Martins Casagrande

The journey of humanity is punctuated by inventions, co-operations and resistance initiatives as unique and at the same time as similar as human experience can be.  Certain books, movies and songs are timeless and universal. No matter who we ask, some stories and protagonists are always mentioned. They are classics!  Different opinions about what makes them classics might come up but every time a person hears a song or reads a book that is considered a classic they will associate it with a personal experience or something that hits ‘close to home’ –  regardless of where they are from and what their life story might be.

The scope and value of human rights cannot be compared to books, movies or songs but they are very much alike if we consider the impact they have on every person and their everyday lives. Human rights are the ‘common sense’ of humanity and shared efforts have been made throughout history to write down what rights are inherent to all humanity and should be respected by everyone, everywhere. There is much debate over human rights’ universality and the lack of compliance with the standards established in international declarations. The strength of human rights, however, resides in their glocality.

Human rights are usually recognized as law by international organizations or national governments. Their applicability, however, can only be enjoyed and respected locally, even if facilitated by global efforts. Human rights are proclaimed in general terms, so that every local community might interpret them according to their reality and the needs and uniqueness of every person might be acknowledged within them. That’s why in some ways human rights are just like classic books, movies or songs. They are transmitted as the same text, image or melody to everybody but everyone is reminded of something very unique and personal when reading, watching or listening to them.

The same thing happens when different people read and interpret human rights. They can be associated with the most diverse experiences and situations that each person or community faces. Everyone, as a person or a group, has different understandings of what human rights are and what they represent. This also brings different approaches to address the lack of compliance with human rights standards, be it resisting intimidation; seeking and spreading information about human rights violations; and many other creative ways to make our local communities and ultimately the world, a fairer place to live.

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