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HUMAN RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES

The Development of Human Resources

by Hugh M. Lewis

 

The "Solution" to modern development is human development.

 

The exclusive emphasis upon industrial development in the world today has led to a de-emphasis upon the possibilities of human development, even though it is generally acknowledged that even small investments in human development yield large, if ultimately immeasurable, dividends for any society. Seeing that we are rapidly developing ourselves to death, it would behoove us to reconsider alternative possibilities for human development than are available to us today.

Capitalist development ideology has critically ignored the importance of finite natural resource bases in its formulas for economic success, leading to irreparable loss or ruination of many natural resources available to humankind. On the other hand, it has also critically ignored the possibilities of greater human resource development, construing for the most part the masses as a vast docile and obedient reserve labor pool for its industrial production and service, and as the vast market for the consumption of industrial goods and services.

A consideration of the cultural economy of the world would lead anyone to the conclusion that the best solution to our ills of over-development and underdevelopment is to shift the emphasis from material development which rapaciously exploits the natural resource base, and instead to begin developing the human resource base as a vast, potentially untapped reservoir of energy, talent and cultural capacity while adopting a more conservative policy towards natural resource expenditure. The means for effecting such a transition in the cultural economy of the world are readily available, and the benefits accruing to humankind for such an institutional transition are much greater than will be otherwise if we fail to develop our human resources.

 

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How shall we define our human resources? We can refer to the energy, intelligence, creativity and spirit to accomplish great feats with restricted budgets as a sure sign of the maximization of such a resource. Bringing human talent and potential to full fruition, in the realization of many different styles of cultural genius, can be considered a means of developing and realizing our human resources.

Such development does not require a marketplace of human talent in which only the best-paid brains are winners. Human talent does not require the same kind of economic motivation as does human greed and power mongering.

One thing remains clear. The development of human resources will depend directly upon our capacity to bring to the world greater realization of human rights and responsibilities. We are left to reconsider the issue of human rights, their honor, their meta-ethical status, their realization and failure, their philosophical and scientific basis of justification, and their prospects for fulfillment. We must distinguish between basic and derived human rights, as well as the sense of social responsibility that accompanies the freedoms that are concomitant to their fulfillment. We must also identify some of the many means of their systematic subversion, as well as non-violent strategies for their promotion in the world.

Ideally, human rights can be said to be the foundation of human law and political action in the world--it underlies all legal and political structures at every level of social organization. Its relative fulfillment or failure constitutes the moral basis by which we can adjudicate the legality or illegitimacy of a particular law or legal action

Rights and responsibilities cannot be separated--each entails the other. The basic rights have in the course of development become extended and include a much wider base than they were conceived to in their formulations in the doctrines of the late 18th century. Today we can easily include among the basic rights of humankind the right to health, to home, to education, to work, to job security, to a natural, clean environment, to volunteer to fight and give one's life for one's country. We can also distinguish basic human rights from more specialized, derivative forms of rights and responsibilities which are more context specific.

It is important to understand how forces in our world have persistently, deliberately and systematically striven to undermine and usurp and prevent the realization of human rights. This kind of activity has especially occurred in the gray areas of derivative and pseudo-rights. It is important to understand also that human rights protect basic human freedoms, assuring liberty and emancipation from exploitation or domination, and is our best guarantee for relative equality in the world. The primary motivation behind the systematic usurpation of human rights in the world has been the desire to deprive human beings of their basic freedoms, to exploit and dominate them, and to block their access to resources. But freedom, and our rights, can only be assured in a democratically organized society, and only if human development includes the cultivation of basic human responsibilities towards one another, their social system, and to humankind in general. One person's freedom ends where another's rights begin, and only one's sense of responsibility and the other's sense of justice can determine this line. In general, rights and responsibilities are negotiated and transacted. The basis for our conception of a meta-ethical moral order for humankind and of our sense of universal justice lies in our faith in the virtual, sentient equality of all human beings. We are, from the standpoint of our sentient humanness, all potentially equal.

We can see clearly the relationship between a pacifist and nonviolent orientation and the realization of human rights; and freedom. The greatest threat to human rights and freedom is the tyranny of fear and threat of violence that defines ultimate political authority in the world.

It should also be apparent that human development rests upon the realization of human freedom, which in turn rests upon the realization of human rights and responsibilities in the world. We can properly speak, in a functional, if not "utilitarian" sense, of each person's pursuit of freedom, and of the "invisible hand" that leads democratic, open social organization to prosper culture economically.

American society has always been hooked upon the horns of a basic contradiction. On one hand it has framed and mostly upheld as the foundation of its constitutional democracy the values of human liberty, justice, equality and human rights. On the other hand, the same doctrine frequently dictates a universal moral attitude based on the assumptions of global humanitarianism, which places its most vital moral interests at odds with its more predominant national interests in the pursuit of power, military strength, economic prosperity, etc. In other words, when the realization of its basic moral doctrine in the world must lead it to compromise its national interests in strength, security and solidarity, the pursuit of the latter national interests frequently leads it to compromise its higher moral ideals. And this is a basic ethical dilemma which all of us must face in one way or another whatever our specialization in the world. In an earthbound world, we can only be assured of the greater urgency in resolving this dilemma both collectively and in each of our lives. We now live in a world in which socio-economic success and prosperity frequently runs counter to our more global earthbound interests, and in which the pursuit of earthbound interests may amount to practical social suicide.

The human development of responsibility then must be seen to include the resolution of such a basic ethical, existential dilemma. It would seem to ultimately dictate a kind of normative education for independence and responsibility that will lead to the positive valuation and embodiment of the altruistic ideals of Kohlberg's post-conventional stage of moral development. We urgently need an active army of many minor Gandhi's and Kings who walk the common paths of the world and effect many small changes in people's lives. Perhaps such an expectation is too idealistic to come true, but if we can easily convince young adults to sacrifice themselves for patriotic ideals of national interest, we can just as readily induce them to give themselves for more human matters of peace and justice. The optimism of humankind is that if given a real choice, they will have the courage to decide for themselves.

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Cultural and psychological evidence strongly suggest that the realities of modern development rarely if ever live up to its promise. Developed peoples give up the chronic diseases of poverty for the diseases of over consumption. A sense of belonging in a simpler world is exchanged for a sense of isolation, anomie, chronic separation and purposelessness. Those who have achieved development do not construe their own lives in the same way as they are seen by those who most desire to be developed. To be sure few people in the developed countries would willingly give up their lives of material plenty to lead a life of misery, poverty, lack of opportunity, that is the common lot of most undeveloped people on earth. But development does not come without its psychic, emotional and cultural costs.

From an anthropological perspective, it is not too much to suggest that the viable alternative to the kind of economic development the world has been so hurriedly and so single-mindedly pursuing would be the kind of human development; that would raise the human collective consciousness, lead to the greater emancipation of humankind from the evil which has long beset our civilization, and promote the prosperity of peace through the greater realization of human rights and equality in the world.

It is a paradox that in the long run, and in the final analysis, such an alternative would most likely cost much less and yield much greater profits for humankind than if we continue down the path we've been upon.

 


Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, 2005. Use of this text governed by fair use policy--permission to make copies of this text is granted for purposes of research and non-profit instruction only.

Last Updated: 03/07/05