I remember being a 14 year old schoolboy and getting a visit by the local Amnesty International group during a Maths class. At the time I thought it was a welcome relief from trigonometry but after the fifth picture of someone being tortured it wasn't relief that I felt but an unshaken feeling that the world is truly one large cesspit. My class mates' reactions were either angry indignation with a desire to change the world or an indifference that bordered on the inhuman.
The people from AI passed around copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was published by the United Nations in 1948 which demanded of the member nations "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories." This was the UN forcibly trying to make sure that the 6 million deaths that was the "final solution" could never happen again. A guilt ridden cry imploring human beings in all countries and especially governments to get off their apathetic arses and serve the people they're supposed to serve and create a brotherhood of nations.
So here we are in 2008 and I can't remember the last time I saw the Declaration anywhere in any school or any public building. As we see images of the dead in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan (the list is infinite) you wonder what the point of the UN publishing the document was in the first place since the UN have seemingly ignored the millions of violations since 1948 and continues to do so now. When I say now, I mean right NOW.
"Article 9 - No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."
We see images of people in Guantanamo Bay paraded like acts in a Victorian Freak Show and all in the name in protecting our freedom. I want a say in how my freedom is protected and having a group of deluded bastards paraded in orange boiler suits does not make me sleep better at night. It just means that my dreams are filled with scenes of deluded bastards in orange boiler suits. Dreams I'd rather do without.
On Tuesday, 1st April (it's one hell of an April Fool's joke) the UK government will discuss extending the period of detention without charge and stating that locking people up for months without trial will make the country a safer place. Just think that when it's you that's locked up without charge. Don't think it will happen? Look out from your window and onto the streets and make sure that there isn't an anti-terrorism squad ready to kick your door down.
"Article 19 - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Here I am exercising that right by writing this on Google docs and thanking all the techno-heads who created the internet so that people like me and people like you can use it to express an opinion no matter how sanctimonious and self-righteous it may be. But then you remember that Google played lapdog to China and allowed censorship. You can have freedom but as long as it doesn't affect profits.
For most, displaying one's face on YouTube is the epitome of freedom and democracy and that's a problem. Just because you have access to something doesn't mean you're being free. You're just being amused while some other poor fucker is having his genitalia attached to electrodes. Torture is a drag but hey look what I've found, a fat bloke miming to a Euro pop song.
Watcha going to do about it?
Personally, I'm going to read, re-read and re-read the Declaration of Human Rights until it sticks to my cranium. Then I'm going to print it out and stick it on every bit of space that I occupy and get people to read it. It's probably a huge token gesture but if it means that it will stop me dreaming about men in orange boiler suits then you know what, it'll be worth it.