MARCH 21 is dedicated to human rights, set aside so that we can be reminded of our entitlements as human beings, as members of society. As a member of any group there are rights and obligations by which every member has to abide.
Ignore our multicultural society, ignore our different levels of education, ignore our religious views, ignore our different levels of wealth and ignore our genders – as none of these are pertinent to our human rights. We as human beings are entitled to be treated with dignity, respect and consideration.
A nice to know piece of theory, but how do we apply this to our lives?
South Africa had laws which were completely contrary to the principles of civility. This has shaped every person who experienced them.
The attitudes we hold on to despite the change in laws have some feeling superior, and others lacking self-respect and self-worth, because their treatment has been void of this. How can anyone who doesn't experience self-respect and doesn't view himself or herself with value pass on self-respect and self-worth to the generations to come?
How would you feel if you went to work, and you were given separate cups and utensils to eat with? Or people changed to a different language in your presence?
Or that you were pushed aside by someone walking past? Or your prized possession has been stolen?
Hurt, helplessness, anger, resentment and frustration would be some of the emotions which may give rise to rage, violence and force against weaker people. The cycle of violence continues and we cry out: "When will the rapes, violent crime, murders stop?"
It is up to each of us to decide.
For those of us fortunate enough to have experienced living abroad, surely it was evident that those societies worked better and had less conflict.
So, how do we apply these principles of civility? Every practical piece of advice won't fit in this letter.
However the main actions are to consider how your actions will affect other people's feelings, show respect by acknowledgement, display dignity towards others by speaking kindly and keeping healthy boundaries.
We can all contribute to building each other up, instead of tearing down. Make today the start of your personal growth in fulfilling your obligation as a member of our society.
Claire Crone, Port Elizabeth