It is time to balance the Declaration of Human Rights with the Declaration of Human Responsibilities. Now that would be an evolutionary step.

We have rights, but what about rights AND responsibilities?

On December 10th, 1948 in Paris the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This very significant declaration is held in theory as a practice in most of the countries in the world, particularly the developed ones. (It can be argued that the declaration is only followed loosely. When I read through the key features of the declaration I see evidence of it being applied only when it suits, which is not the purpose of this conversation.)

Human rights are essential to uphold. However, human rights are only one side of the coin. Without the equally vital responsibilities, rights are just an egoic way to demand more entitlement. Indeed, we now live in a world where entitlement is so out of control it is difficult to see a way forward.

We need rights AND responsibilities.

We in our luxurious developed countries demand more and more each year. Right down to the belief that I am entitled to x or y because I deserve it. (And for no other reason!) Or if you didn’t put a sign up saying I may slip on this path and I slip,  I deserve to be paid compensation. What if I was intoxicated when I slipped? Or on my mobile phone texting? Or simply not paying attention?

In the USA there is some sacrosanct right to bear arms. Where is the responsibility that matches this right? From over here in Australia, I see little evidence of that responsibility. I only see rights and a lot of death by shooting.

Our company structures are set up to limit our responsibilities. It is called limited liability. We can extract, contaminate, exploit and pillage and not be responsible. Where are our rights AND responsibilities?

Where is our definition of social responsibility?

It is time for us to start taking more responsibility, in partnership with our rights.

What is integrity when it comes to responsibility? And as Integrity Architects, how do we redesign whole systems that account for the parts?

Ken Wilber describes the best map of rights and responsibilities as anyone I know in the contemporary world.

The following has been adapted from Wilbers, “A Brief History of Everything.”

Please note the use of the term HOLON. Holon = a term coined by Arthur Koestler to refer to an entity that is itself a whole and simultaneously a part of some other whole. (a whole atom is a part of a whole molecule, which is a part of a whole cell…. for example)

In the Wilber model of Integral Theory, there are three different types of value when we consider ethics, rights and responsibilities.

1. Ground value – ALL holons, from atoms to apes are perfect in their own right.

2. Intrinsic Value – as a WHOLE, the greater the depth of a holon, the greater the intrinsic value. An atom has less depth than a molecule, which has less depth than a cell, which has less depth than an ape. Or, to put it another way, an ape contains atoms, cells and molecules, and therefore has greater depth, and greater intrinsic value. Both the ape and the atom have perfect and equal ground value. Both the atom and the ape have intrinsic value, but the ape has more intrinsic value than an atom. The greater the intrinsic value, the greater the level of consciousness of the holon.

3. Extrinsic value – as a PART, a holon has value for others. It is a part of a whole upon which other holons depend for their survival. An atom is a part of more holons than an ape, so it has more extrinsic value than an ape. Destroy all apes, and the Universe stays functioning quite well. But destroy all atoms and everything but subatomic particles are destroyed.

As a WHOLE a holon has rights which are the conditions necessary to retain its wholeness. If the rights are not met, the holon dissolves into its subholons. Rights express the conditions needed for a holon to maintain intrinsic value, its depth. It does this through agency.

As a PART, each holon has responsibilities for the maintenance of the whole. Responsibilities express the conditions that a holon must meet in order to continue to be a part of the whole. Responsibilities are about relationship and the development of width or span. A human has more responsibilities than an atom because more conditions must be maintained to keep a human viable.

Human beings have more depth than an amoeba, they therefore have more intrinsic value and more rights. They require more conditions to sustain their wholeness. However, they also have more responsibilities.

We have responsibilities to the human societies to which we are a part, but also to the communities of which our subholons are parts. Remove the human from the earth and there is no great drama to the earth. Nature will flourish. However, if we are not RESPONSIBLE for the care of the parts, the physiosphere and biosphere, then the conditions under which our holons and subholons can exist in communion will be no longer viable.

We need to balance rights AND responsibilities.

Meeting our responsibilities is a condition of existence.

However, many humans at this time want our rights while refusing to accept our responsibilities.

We want to be whole, without being a part. We want to do what the hell we want to do as a separate whole. And this is unsustainable, because like it or not, we are a part as much as we are a whole.

Wilber describes Basic Moral Intuition as “to protect and promote the greatest depth for the greatest span”. Better to kill a carrot (less depth) than a cow. Better to kill Al Capone (depth, no span) than a dozen apes (depth and span). When we apply these tenets of rights and responsibilities to very high moral questions, particularly if they involve the loss of humans, they provide some form of moral code to aid in deciding pathways through very complex issues.

To summarize succinctly, unless each of us now start taking responsibility for our PART in the WHOLE, unless we are willing to consider the field effects/precessional effect of our actions, then the conditions of existence will no longer be viable to sustain human life. This is not just about the big picture. It goes right down to the small details.

Attend to these red flags…look at where you blame, point the finger, use the words they don’t or they should, or..its their fault…her fault, his fault…

Or…ask questions like…what can I do, what does this situation need of me, how will this action affect x, y, z, how did I contribute to this, where am I responsible? Am I behaving like an active citizen? Do I contribute to my community? Is my business considering the whole as well as being a part, right down to the corporate structure/ legal entity/governance? How do I enable individual contribution to occur within community in a way that enables synergy?

It is time to balance the Declaration of Human Rights with the Declaration of Human Responsibilities. Now that would be an evolutionary step. And it starts, as always, with you and me.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash