The curse of human rights activists

If we look at things based on how boring they sound or how important they are then human rights position right next to the notion of the Goldilocks zone that describes a region around a star within which the planets that are capable of sustaining the right atmospheric pressure can hold liquid water on their surface. What makes it so interesting, except maybe for the fact that if the Earth would not be located in the Goldilocks zone then our planet would not have any water, or us for that matter, on its surface?

We all live in a complex point of equilibrium, the likes of which may perhaps be possible in space elsewhere, but are still rather unique. The first time when this knowledge came across to the habitants of planet Earth in a particularly interesting and emotional way was in the year 1968 when the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission photographed the Earth the way it looks from the Moon. This picture alone made a spectacular contribution in the spread of green thinking around the world.

The significance of human rights is also likely to come across to a vast number of people only when there is a magnificent narrative or a breathtaking visual to describe it. The only problem is that there already has to be something seriously wrong for this graphic material to emerge. Perhaps there is already something wrong with us.

Only after wars, massacres or just serious violations of human rights, after human relations have scattered around like a detached pearl necklace, would we start eager discussions about how to prevent the repetition of the worst, and re-establish the norms and limits the necessity of which has never been contested. To avoid anyone becoming too powerful, mechanisms to counter such power would be proposed, because people would be afraid that sooner or later such power would lead to abuse.

New people would be born and grow up while the visuals would become forgotten or simply too conventional to matter anymore. People would soon start doubting the necessity of the established declarative norms. As a matter of fact, the explanation of their necessity would get gradually more difficult. There once was an outcry of injustice, but a new generation would never really resort to that, now would it? There will be a day when the norms will be seen as an obstacle that will have become obsolete in terms of time and technology, and unless they would be perfectly functional, a new generation could run headlong into an opposite direction and discard the entire historical experience.

It is happening again and maybe in an exceptionally distinctive manner, because there is modern technology in the hands of people today, providing them with possibilities that have never before been available. At that, many may think that for example the principle of separation of powers, constituting the grounds for democracy, is irrelevant in the times of iPad apps, that privacy is a thing of the past anyway, and so forth.

Power is once again converging like a dark maelstrom, as it has done for so many times in the past. This situation may even seem beautiful, desirable and free, especially if we all consider ourselves to be on the winning team and represent the ones who would silently put on a magical ring.

At the same time the human rights activists, who are usually blessed with clear eyesight, must face the current problems as well as the new optimists who are intoxicated by the wit of the new generation. Who would want to listen to these activists at times like these? What is the value of their exhortation if it contrasts with all these new enticements?

By the way, this introduction was not meant to be pessimistic. It was intended to emphasise the point that human rights activists matter, and it was supposed to offer consolation that contrary tour planet’s location in the Goldilocks zone, human rights represent a field where each and every one of us has a chance to make a contribution.

Daniel Vaarik