Human Rights, duty of word

Friday, February 1, 2013

The full exercise of human rights will not be achieved until human beings can express themselves freely, until their voices are heard and heeded by those who exercise power in their names and on their behalf. It’s not by chance that in the UNESCO Constitution the “free flow of ideas by word and image” appears in the same article (Article I) in which education is defined as the means for achieving the supreme gift of the human species, freedom, together with its essential companion, responsibility. “Free and responsible”.

Centuries ago, a few people who were ahead of their age underscored the need to express opinions in order to live “humanly”. Quevedo’s poem is famous in that regard: “I shall not remain silent, despite your advising silence or threatening fear / with a finger touching lips or brow. / Can’t there be at least one valiant spirit? / Must we always feel what we say? / Are we never to say what we feel?”

But the majority of citizens continued to be silent subjects, passive spectators, mute and terrified witnesses of the events around them. And gave up their lives without a word.

I have been impressed by the capacity of several leaders to attempt to interpret unspoken and repressed voices and cries: “Let me listen to that deafening silence”, said President François Mitterrand.
In 1969, Professor José Luis Aranguren wrote “Intellectuals give voices to some as their spokesmen, and with their own voices they attempt to awaken the voices of others, those who are alienated and manipulated, those who in the words of Ortega aren’t conscious of their own existence which, as I have said, isn’t only their own, but rather is always entwined with the existence of all others”.

“We still have words”… repeated Fernando Buesa in the plenary sessions of the General Assembly of Alava (1983-1989). A victim of ETA, the Foundation that bears his name perpetuates his shining memory under the title “The Value of Words”. The assassins put an end to his physical existence, but we certainly have, and will always have words, his words.

Duty o word, of speakin up, to give full effect to human rights. For the transition from a culture of imposition, violence and domination to a culture of dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace. In inspired verses, Luis García Montero has reflected the dawning of a new era of understanding and conflict resolution through dialogue: “Come to me, / in the eyes of that child who raises his hand / and asks to be heard, / and who simply places his trust in words…”.

As we grow older we tend to remain silent instead of learning to be less inhibited and to openly express what we think.

Years ago I read that “parents teach their little children to speak; and once they have grown, children teach their parents to remain silent”.

The silence of the peoples strengthens absolute power, the arbitrary acts of government leaders, and the obedient behavior of parliamentary representatives who ignore the meaning of “parlare”, who tow the party line and follow orders without any objection.

“In the times in which we live,” wrote Manuel Cruz recently in “El País”, “no one should remain silent concerning matters that affect us all”.

Today, luckily, (and I like to repeat this because it’s a basic element of the hope for change) the time for silence is over. “The crime of silence”!... because thanks to modern communications and information technologies the historical turning point from force to words is near.

Human rights, duty of word.