Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Access to water is not a human right... except that it is

Judge Steven Rhodes is in agreement with the fact that, “water is a necessary ingredient for sustaining life.” However, if you are poor and cannot afford safe, clean drinking water, you should probably just die already, because Rhodes does not feel that, “there is a fundamental enforceable right to free or affordable water. There is no such right in law. Just as there is no such affordable right to other necessities of life such as shelter, food and medical care.”

Arguing that money is more important than human life, Rhodes has decided to let water shut-offs continue in the city of Detroit against those who are behind on their bills because, “Detroit cannot afford any revenue slippage, and its obligations to its creditors require it to take all reasonable and business-like measures to collect the debt that is owed to it.”

As we move further into the future, and resources become ever more scarce, remember this logic, and don’t be surprised when it is applied to the air we breathe. There is no right to clean and breathable air, after all, and our “creditors” will always demand their due…

…except that there is a right to clean, breathable air, clean, drinkable water, nutritious, healthy food, clean, safe shelter and proper, modern health care. These are human rights, guaranteed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are the greatest thing humanity has ever invented, and if we allow our legal and economic system to ignore human rights in service to monied interests, we are committing a grave injustice to ourselves and our future.

Philosopher Peter Singer once said, in contrasting the experience of the poor in first world countries with those in the third world, that, “Without in any way minimising the economic and psychological blow that people experience when they lose their jobs, the unemployed in affluent countries still have a safety net, in the form of social security payments, and usually free healthcare and free education for their children. They also have sanitation and safe drinking water.” The fact that Singer's observation is rapidly becoming untrue is a sure sign that the United States is plunging into third world status because of our economic policies and moral attitudes.

Creditors have been moved to the top of our moral concerns, over the poor, over our children, over the sick, and over our future and as long as this remains true, our society has no moral gravitas and no cause to think of itself as special or great.

We as a culture are lost, but if we restore our commitment to protecting, enforcing and expanding human rights, without regard to a person's economic status, we may find a way to save ourselves and build a better world in the future.

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