Human rights are not negotiable

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Neimoller

The problem is that all too often people don’t act until they can see the chain of implications that leads to them. They won’t act until the threat to them is immediate and obvious. Some of us – because we’ve learned from history, and we’re anxious and we know we are marginal in some way – see how one thing is likely to lead to another. Some of us looked at the attacks on trans rights and knew that this would be the opening move leading to wider and deeper attacks on the LGBTQ community as a whole. Some of us looked at the way in which attacks on trans folk were being framed in terms of biological essentialism, and could see the dangerous implications for all women.

But it shouldn’t be about that. Supporting each other’s human rights should not be dependent on being able to see how our own human rights might be specifically threatened in the future. Human rights have to be universal – question that and the whole thing becomes unstable. If anyone is placed outside the embrace of human rights, then anyone can be dehumanised. Human rights only work as a concept if everyone has them, and they are not considered negotiable. The rights of people to live peacefully on their own terms should not be overruled by the entitlement of people who have a problem with that. Either we all have human rights, or none of us do.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Human rights are not negotiable

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