|MAN’S UNIQUENESS. Seen from outer space, planet Earth is an intriguing, blueish-tinted jewel following its path in the cosmos. Nearby, the phenomenon life fills the picture, conspicuous by its boundless variety. One species, homo sapiens, appears to be singled out by being endowed with the power of reason (the capacity to reflect and to make conscious choices) and a conscience.|
These faculties enable it to assume a unique role on planet Earth, a role that is giving it great, and ever-growing influence on the planet and the life that it sustains. This unique role charges homo sapiens (Mankind) with the duty to be the guardian of the planet and its life.
MANKIND? HUMANKIND? HUMANITY? A pronouncement like this sounds irrefutable, but it needs qualification. There was no such thing as Mankind until it could be addressed as such, and that point in time was only attained in the twentieth century. It was after World War II, the war that brought such horrendous squandering of human life, that the world organized itself in a manner that made it possible to think and speak in terms of the whole of the Earth’s population, i.e. Mankind, or Humankind, or Humanity. The United Nations embodied this new organisation, assembling the nations/countries that covered the face of the Earth with their territories. ( Initially grouped around the victors of the war, the United Nations’ membership grew steadily and can now be considered as genuinely representing Mankind on the face of planet Earth). The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights took this a step further by assigning rights to every single human being, in view of it being endowed with reason and a conscience, its dignity. Logic would expect that these qualities would also have led to certain duties to be required from that same human being (the flip side of the coin), but the drafters of the UDHR feared endless ‘metaphysical controversies’ and abandoned that idea. Since then, there has been extensive discussion but no clarity about the nature of such duties.
WHAT DUTIES? In such discussions the duties of a human being are usually conceived as owed to parents, family, country, club, religious doctrines, ideologies, self-interest, etc. etc., but all these entities are part of Mankind, from whom that human being has received its rights in the first place. The resulting conundrum keeps on confusing discussions. The way out of it probably is to go back to the qualities that make up a human being’s dignity, reason and a conscience, and try to formulate a number of duties that are owed by that person to its own conscience. These duties would act as the criteria that a person applies when having to decide between right and wrong, i.e. having to make a moral choice. When such criteria are universalized, there could be a significant aligning of decision-making processes and consequently less strife on Earth, but the most important effect would be enhancement of self-control, at the level of the individual and of Mankind as a whole.
HOW TO ADMINISTER HUMAN DUTIES. Whereas human rights are the subject of rules of law, human duties belong to the field of morality, and should be administered in a manner as close as possible to the individual human being. Fortunately, we now have the internet, that potentially can reach the whole of Mankind. The logical shape of the human duties effort to take is a social network, the Human Duties Network of wise women and men, that deliberates on the list of human duties and eventually agrees on its contents, on a website that can be accessed by anyone.
Just imagine, humanity’s conscience taking shape under the eyes of the whole of Mankind. It sounds like Utopia, but it is a realistic proposition.