Happy New Year or the right to have rights - Mark Blaisse
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Happy New Year or the right to have rights

I just had dinner in Vienna. On my way to the restaurant I have encountered more than ten beggars. They are on the run for wars, poverty, exclusion. They have no rights because they have no nation to protect them. They are Roma, Syrian refugees, African nomads without papers or future. In the International New York Times I saw a cartoon with a little boy asking: ‘What does it mean, happy New Year?’ While having dinner I thought about the cartoon and the beggars. I wondered whether having the right to be worthy is a human right. Whether respect for one another is a human right. Or whether Hannah Arendt was right when she said that there is only one human right, ‘the right to have rights…’ All of us are preparing to celebrate New Years Eve, but what are we celebrating? The fact that we live in a world with a minority of people with rights and a majority without these? Can we accept this and look at the fire works with a clear conscience? I believe it is a human right to have a place to live in dignity, to be part of a clan or family, with or without a flag. We let refugees drown between Africa and Italy; we let millions of displaced persons live in shelters and camps and find them rather bothersome. We hear about the more than one million Syrians who have fled their country and we look away. Not our business. We believe we are true believers in democracy and freedom, but we don’t care if others live in fear and oppression. Nothing new, I know, but still: it is not enough to give two euro to a beggar for Christmas. To live a full life between hunted, lonely, begging survivors and have another bite of turkey seems so not done and yet…Maybe we got used to a status quo and started to believe that this is just how it is. Cheers. Or do we have the human right, not to say obligation to contribute to more rights for all human beings, with or without a passport, a job, a business card? Is our dignity not depending on theirs?

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