Rights vs freedoms

There is a lot of talk about rights in this beautiful country of ours, and that’s understandable. It is a fairly new concept to the majority of our nation, like children tasting sugar for the first time. It’s sweet and makes one happy. However, too much of it will rot your teeth. So when does it become too much? What do I mean by that? Well let me answer firstly by asking everyone, “What is a right?”

Rights form many categories in countries around the world from basic human rights to employment rights and even copyright law. For this essay I would like to focus on basic human rights. Basic human rights were first created by the newly founded United Nations in 1948 after the atrocities of World War II. Even the concept of establishing official moral laws in which human beings are protected was fairly new.

I think my favourite South African Constitutional Right is the right to human dignity. This spans quite a few of the 30 official basic human rights.

#1. We all are born free and equal.
#2. The right to be individuals without discrimination.
#12.The right to privacy. i.e. information or within our homes.

I find this right interesting because it may be one of the more difficult rights to enforce. It is one thing for a child to be bullied on the playground, and some may see these incidents as minor infringements, but what about when we look at the paparazzi in the United States of America? Where are all those celebrities’ rights to privacy?

Being in the public eye, not just in films and on script written television shows, but in scandalizing magazines and free press newspapers destroys some of these peoples’ lives. Which brings me back to my earlier point about it becoming too much. The free press may claim the right to freedom of information, and in some extreme cases the right to an education to learn from the mistakes of others, but I hear the same thing from kids of my generation street saying it is their right to drink or smoke.

However, this is not a right, it is a freedom. Do our fellow citizens know what a right is? Number fourteen on the United Nations Declaration of Basic Human Rights grants the people of the world the right to take refuge in another country should their safety be compromised. Take my previous question into account when we look at the 2008 xenophobic attacks.

So, let the rights to the freedoms of speech grant me this. Let me challenge our view of what rights are. A right is not just some freedom to drink and smoke or to do what we please. I would challenge that they are rather responsibilities; responsibilities that we have to care for others. To help them so that we may expect the same in return, and only then might we experience the freedom we have for so long been waiting for.