Every month seems to be an awareness month nowadays, children’s rights, women’s rights and the lot. We all can appreciate and accept the fact that everyone has inalienable rights, some would go so far as to say god given rights, but what about responsibilities?
The talk of people’s responsibilities often times gets lost during these discussions, but we do this at our peril as rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.
For example, we have the right to freedom of speech in this and most nations and have had it for years. However the responsibility of the people is to ensure that censorship is called out and that people can speak freely without fear of conviction, for once censorship is allowed in one facet it’s only a matter of time before all subjects are politically taboo.
Another example is the right to a clean environment. It is widely accepted that people need clean water and air, therefore clean air and water are basic human rights. However the responsibility falls on the citizen to ensure that they don’t wantonly dump garbage in gullies or the side of the road and that they ensure that cars are environmentally friendly.
Another example is freedom of religion, long viewed as a core right. This too can also only be upheld through the responsibility of the people who must ensure against theocracy and the domination of one religion to the point that other religions are seen are heretical.
These examples I feel show that rights, while important, can be easily overturned or abused and that is where responsibility of the citizen comes into play.
People have a right to vote, but politicians abuse power, the responsibility is then to hold them accountable. Rights are useless unless we are the people are responsible, irresponsibility and dereliction of duty breeds contempt and slowly erodes rights.
So while demanding that our rights be met and upheld, let us not at the same time shirk our responsibilities. Let’s hold politicians to account whichever stripe they wear, let us scold the person dumping garbage all over the place and let us expel those who wish to shut us up. For if we abandon our responsibilities we can be safe in the knowledge that all our hard won rights will disappear.