Recently, I wrote a blog that expressed a belief the nation would rebound from its current nationalist contraction and emerge as a more inclusive society. (Click) During the interim, the danger is that we lose faith in our nation and its institutions.
My hope for the future may seem simplistic to worried readers, but data exists to support that hope. Kathryn Sikkink has published a book that lays out some of our progress: Evidence of Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century. (Reviewed by Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2018, pgs. 186-187.)
In her research, Sikkink filters out the noise attendant to government. Politicians like to make news. Media likes to sell ads and non-profits use the noise to encourage donors to increase their contributions. The sky may be falling for those who seek benefits, but Sikkink advises us not to listen. The world really is become a better place. Admittedly, more work lies ahead, but she reminds us that conditions aren’t as bad as they were. Incidents of genocide have declined around the globe, for example. The number of international and civil wars has declined. The death penalty has fallen out of favor in two-thirds of countries around the world. Women are gaining long sought after rights. (Ibid pg. 187.) And, I would add, we’ve made progress for LGBTQs, too.
Though headlines provide a never-ending litany of chaos, those stories do not represent an increase in human rights violations, says Sikkink. They represent a greater willingness to report those violations because there is a growing faith in civic justice. “Naming and shaming” is part of that system.
Also behind the news is the people’s growing respect for human rights workers. Once viewed as “’ handmaidens ‘of powerful donor countries,” (Ibid pg. 190) victims turn to them now, convinced these workers are trying to help. This is a sea-change from the past.
Despite the dystopian headlines, the underlying fact is this: the human race is progressing in its quest for social justice. We have more work to do, granted. But we should celebrate our achievements rather than despair about our temporary failures.
(Originally published 6/29/2018)