We live in a society where the majority of people use social media, magazines, and television as their main sources of news. Not everyone reads the newspaper every morning, nor do they keep up on the latest political, or economic topics of interest in the United States or other countries. People today are more concerned with what the latest fashion trends are, which celebrities are dating, or what crazy things are happening in America, that in the grand scheme of things, mean very little compared to other national and worldly crises.
I found this editorial cartoon depicting how ignorant and unconcerned the United States media and its followers were to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In the picture you can clearly see that tons of photographers, videographers, writers, and reporters are flocking towards the scene of an O.J. Simpson press conference. One of the reporters is saying that he knows another reporter from somewhere and is trying to figure out which of the most recent events they might have met at. He mentions the Bobbitt Trial and Tonya Harding, but when he brings up Rwanda, another reporter is confused as to what Rwanda is and what has happened there. It’s honestly sad to think about how privileged Americans are that our biggest concerns and topics of conversation are about a few crazy people in the United States who are becoming rich and famous for silly little incidents, when at the same time there are innocent people being slaughtered and murdered in other parts of the world.
Any genocide violates human rights. Specifically those mentioned in articles 3 and 5, which mention “the right to life, liberty, and security of person” and that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” When reading the Universal Declaration of human rights, one really stood out to me as relating to the ideas in this cartoon. Article 2 states the following:
“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.”
There is no question that the Rwandans experienced a violation of their human rights. Article 2 of the declaration was clearly violated because the American press and the American citizens were concerned with the happenings of people from the United States, but not those living in Rwanda, who are just as much entitled to all the human rights as anyone else. In the video “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire” there is a quote that relates very well to this idea. “Every life counts; the soldier, the innocent bystander, or the villager. They’re all human lives.” It is the responsibility of all humans to respect each other’s rights and protect each other from those who disregard them. But unfortunately our own lives and other happenings get in the way far too often. This isn’t to say that the reporters should have gotten on a plane and flew to Africa, but simply raising concern about the Rwandans who were truly in need of support could have gone a very long way. The way I see it, if even one life were saved from an action of an American citizen involved in the media, it would have been worth it.
A more recent example of a violation of this same human right is the issue of female genital mutilation in African countries. This is a violation of women’s human rights that doesn’t get nearly as much publicity in America as it should. Again, people today are more worried about what the best getaways are for spring break, getting in shape for the summer, and the new colors of lip-gloss and nail polish that Kylie Jenner just released. And we wonder why people dislike or look down upon Americans? It’s because we’re so wrapped up in our cushy, luxurious lives and we don’t take the time out of our day to think about or contribute to worldly issues such as this one. Its nauseating how little global treatment of these types of issues has changed in the past decade. We have so much fantastic technology that can spread news in a matter of seconds but we aren’t using it for the right things. Imagine how knowledgeable we could be about worldly issues if we read the newspaper or discussed global problems just one tenth as much as we check Facebook, emails, and text messages.