Article 13

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

It is so easy to say that this is an area where the Western World has moved out ahead compared to the rest of the world. After all, for the most part you just need some simple documentation to prove that you belong in your homeland (ie, a passport) to return. You don’t have to generally carry ID to move about in the States, and there is public space for everyone to move through for free and to even squat on, while camping, for a relatively small fee. These are both good things, but they miss an essential point that I so far haven’t brought up in these essays: human rights are not only capable of being violated by the state.

Our space is becoming increasingly private. People wall themselves off in gated communities, barring strangers from even walking down their streets. Racism was not the only cause of Trayvon Martin’s death. Classism and a siege mentality by those in the upper middle class contributed to an atmosphere where it is perfectly reasonable for one stranger to a demand of a second an explanation for what he is doing in open space.

Rather than shop on Main Street, we do so in malls, or in privately managed shopping districts, where private security has the right to push “loiterers” out if they are deemed undesirable. The elderly are no longer taken care of by family or nurses in their own homes, but warehoused in “assisted living communities” where they are often made to make themselves accountable for their whereabouts at any given moment. I know this latter example is done in the name of taking care of these people, but what about their basic dignity? What about making sure that people are incapable of taking care of themselves before putting them in that situation?

It is easy to think of these rights in the terms of state vs. private individual or in terms of the classic violation of those rights. There are plenty of examples where this is the case, Cuban refugees where clause 2 of this article come to mind. Still, power is power and state power alone is not the only threat to human rights. It becomes more obvious every year that private power, corporate power, and the collective power of the moneyed interests threaten human rights and we need to remain vigilant and united if we are going to have a chance against that power.


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