Human Rights Day: John, Julian and Veracity
December 8th marked the anniversary of the death of a music icon, the assassination of John Lennon, a bright star who marked my generation with his music and his politics. His vision of peace, articulated in his music and his life, helped stir revolt against an unjust war, making him feared by the American government. In a short tribute recently published in the NYT, Yoko Ono wrote,
“He believed in truth and had dared to speak up. Without the truth there could be no way to achieve world peace.”
This week we also saw the detainment of the transparency advocate and Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. Julian Assange is being vilified by the American government, as was Daniel Elsberg, following his release of the Pentagon Papers. Rather than another witch hunt, the debate on Wikileaks should be framed as an opportunity to address a serious issue – the issue of the interdependent relationship that must exist between good democratic government and transparency. The Wikileaks disclosures are exposing our ‘dirty laundry’ – how and why our government is spending our tax dollars, and especially a budget of over $577 billion allocated to the Pentagon and our wars.
Today, December 10th, is Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the unanimous adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In 1948, leaders and visionaries, abhoring the genocide and grave human rights abuses of the past years created a charter of 30 articles listing key civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights – a hopeful initiative and a basis on which to build and sustain the conditions of human dignity and a more peaceful world.
This week’s events, including the detainment of Julian Assange, a proposal for tax cuts that will grow our democratic deficit by institutionalizing the growth of income inequality that is unmatched in western democracies, but also a meeting of global leaders in Cancun, and the evidence that while it is easy to change the tax code, we cannot change the laws of nature and 350 parts of carbon per million is still what it will take to save our planet from global warming – these events should solemnly remind us that history does and can repeat itself, and that democracy is in the care of informed and vigilant citizens.
Let us take five minutes of every day to “Imagine” a better world, a world where the virtues of transparency and accountability in government are expected, where human rights are respected, and where it is torturers rather than those who bear witness who are demonized and held accountable.
“It’s easy if you try.”