What does it mean to be human?

Human footprint in sand.  What does it mean to be human?


The Prem Rawat Foundation asks this question in its video release to mark the 2014 International Day of Peace.

It’s just there in the flow of the narrative.  What does it mean to be human?

Sometimes, the questions we ask, are the most significant thing.  Some questions create new realities.  They lead to discoveries we didn’t imagine before.  So, what does it mean to be human?

If we look back into the history of human rights, we find similar transformative questions asked which opened a new future.  For example, what does it mean to be a woman? was a question repeatedly asked throughout the struggle to achieve gender equality.  In the movie Gattaca, we see science fiction employed to explore the same question.  Are human beings no more than the sum of their genes?   Bartolome de las Casas encountered the question of what it means to be human in his work for human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the 1500s.  The men and women who worked for the abolition of the slave trade also implicitly raised this question when they used the slogans “Am I not a man and a brother?   Am I not a woman and a sister?

It took the human rights movement centuries to produce an answer accepted by the world as a whole.  But when it did it was beautiful and the answer appears in the first and second articles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We are still learning what the answer means.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.




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