Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit

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Taking 42 Human Birthrights

Living 13 Social Responsibilities

© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Many politicians...are in the habit of laying it down
as a self-evident proposition that no people ought
to be free till they are fit to use their freedom.
The maxim is worthy of a fool...who resolved
not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
—Thomas Babington Macaulay

To constructively use your apparent choice in contributing to our society is to strike a fine balance between taking your human birthrights and embodying your social responsibilities. In America we tend to be extremely oriented toward rights for every living thing under the sun, perhaps because we value freedom so highly. Mistakes and all, one of our most moral Presidents who strongly championed human rights was Jimmy Carter. Most of the world could well emulate the supreme value we place on individual life and human rights.

However, without the harmonizing balance of social responsibilities for being a part of society, the social fabric begins to unravel into devil-may-care lawlessness, chaotic anarchy and amoral permissiveness. It is as difficult to take what you don't know as it is to embody what you have no models for in living. Having said this, the practical value of being specific about your rights and responsibilities is essential to have a vision to aim for, freely choose and assertively attain. This chapter's purpose is to illuminate what these are.

Consider your human rights to be the unearned and unconditional, life-given and God-given rights afforded you by the sheer act of being born and alive. These are not conditional liberties or false entitlements. Although they may appear to be earned privileges, that appearance only belies how uncommon it is for people to recognize, know and own in action these rights.

It is eye opening, if not astonishing, that the need for broad discussion of legitimate human birthrights is still so absolutely necessary. You need look no further than the yearly report by Amnesty International for an accounting of the breadth and depth of human atrocities to our fellow human beings. Couple this with the present widespread non-compliance with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml) passed by the United Nations' General Assembly in 1948, and you begins to appreciate the enormity of this issue and the gap that remains in showing respect and dignity to our fellow humans. Press freedom, that is, the freedom countries grant their citizens, has been developed and is monitored by Freedom House. It offers a map of press freedom (freedomhouse.org/template.cfm? page=251andyear=2008) and an annual ranking of countries (freedomhouse.org/template.cfm? page=442andyear=2008). I assert that all living things, including human beings, have authentic rights beginning at conception whether they know it or not. This holds true even in the face of power and authority figures not appreciating individuals who claim their human liberties by unlearning learned limitations. How dare anyone block another in taking the daily actions to live these rights!

As with all human rights, each truly belongs to you when you take and live it, and not a moment sooner. Being passive by allowing others to bully you or simply do nothing has been a long-standing pattern on this planet and one major way to misplace your human rights. Since the late 1970's and continuing through the turn of the century aggressivity, particularly in the forms of verbal bullying, emotional invalidation and an attitude of entitlement, has become ever more common. Being aggressive by bullying others or intruding upon others' legitimate rights is another way to abdicate your human rights.

The healthy alternative response is in being assertive. You are assertive when you responsibly stand up for your human rights in such a fashion that the rights of others are not injured, compromised or violated. Training in assertiveness was quite the rage in America throughout the late 1960's and well into the 1970's. Unfortunately, like many cultural fads, it had its day and then it largely passed away. Actually, learning to live assertively is timeless and essential for a healthy, respectful life.

You can join the club of assertive individuals who take no nonsense in human relations and set the standard for respectful, responsible treatment. This club admits only those who demand entry and won't stand for anything less. I wouldn't appreciate anyone telling me how to live my life, although I would appreciate any genuine help I could receive. Jesse Jackson once said, "We don't want a handout, we could use a hand-up."

Many of these human birthrights underscore an assertion by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis: "The right to be let alone is the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued in civilized man." This is balanced with being a contributing, responsible part of society. Both are necessary. Here is a respectful invitation to gain a leg-up on the mountain of honoring human rights and societal responsibilities.

No one has a lock on choosing a definitive listing of human birthrights or social responsibilities. Researching these issues and drawing from many respected sources over 25 years, here are my working sets-42 human birthrights to take; 13 social responsibilities to live. Rights and responsibilities are intimately related, for to possess one is of necessity to invite the other. Gerald White Johnson must have known this in declaring: “No man was ever endowed with a right without being at the same time saddled with a responsibility.

George Demont Otis     Cabinat Morrow Bay

You can take your own readout on how many and how strongly assertive you are in claiming your human rights. For each item on the following two lists, please circle the number in which you have fully integrated that right into your on-going life. Check the number in which you have started to take this right into your life, and it's not a majority vote yet. Place a line in front of the number in which you have not taken this right into your life to date.

42 Legitimate Human Birthrights to Take

1. The right to have my own feelings, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences and known convictions.

2. The right to my own morals, ethics, values, standards and goals as well as to be left alone if I so desire.

3. The right to not respond to requests or demands you choose not meet and that you do not want.

4. The right to not respond to a person or situation demanding your response and be left alone.

5. The right to set limits and not participate with anything, when you don't feel ready for it yet.

6. The right to not comply with anything you perceive as unsafe, coercive, or injurious.

7. The right to feel and express uncomfortable emotions like pain, grief, rage and despair, even with someone I love.

8. The right to my own actions, behaviors and eccentricities, no matter how workable or unworkable they are, so long as they don't harmfully intrude upon other living things.

9. The right to learn or not learn from my mistakes, missteps and errors.

10. The right to be the final judge, mediator and arbiter of my feelings, experiences, thoughts, values, priorities and behaviors, and know them all as human and legitimate.

11. The right to be free of all inhumanity, indignity, injury and sickness whenever possible.

12. The right to not agree to anything that violates your privacy, values, morals, dignity or integrity.

13. The right to be in a non-abusive, non-harmful and life-affirming environment that suitably meets my needs.

14. The right to protest mistreatment, coercion, disrespectful behavior and decisions perceived as unfair or unjust.

15. The right to respectfully interrupt in order to set appropriate limits, stop harm and follow through with needed consequences.

16. The right to do what is essential to safeguard and protect "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

17. The right to make friends or not make friends and be as close to or as distant from people as I desire.

18. The right to put myself first some of the time, and even a good deal of the time, as a healthy, self-supportive choice.

19. The right to not be responsible for another's behaviors, feelings or problems.

20. The right to not have to anticipate other's needs, wants and wishes.

21. The right to not give reasons, explanations and justifications to anyone over anything, including your feelings, thoughts, attitudes and actions.

22. The right to refrain from having company or social interaction, when you prefer and need to be alone or somewhere else.

23. The right to ask and keep asking for what I want, desire and need by making direct and responsible requests.

24. The right to request another to listen, help and offer emotional support to myself or someone else.

25. The right to ask for further clarification, gain clarity of mind and negotiate for needed changes, corrections and adjustments.

26. The right to have my own needs and preferences for personal space and time honored.

27. The right to determine my own priorities, choices and mind.

28. The right to receive honest and respectful treatment from others who have it to give, that is, trustworthy individuals.

29. The right to not have to be flawless or ideal, know everything, have an answer to every question and a solution to every problem.

30. The right to not be concerned about other people's positive opinions about you and their good will.

31. The right to receive appropriate recognition for my efforts, ideas, work, achievements and contributions.

32. The right to change my mind, go my own direction and decide upon a different course ofaction.

33. The right to say, "I don't know", when this is true.

34. The right to be as serious and intense, or as playful and frivolous or anything in-between as I choose to and is appropriate to the situation.

35. The right to be as healthy or unhealthy, enthusiastic or stoic, and lively or dead as I choose to be and express, even beyond that expression of those around me.

36. The right to not have to follow conventions, have to be reasonable and keep within the rules, so long as society, other living things and you are not damaged.

37. The right to enjoy adequate, even superb, health, education and well being for my family and myself.

38. The right to exercise my freedom of nationality, religion, press, speech, travel and peaceful assembly.

39. The right to have equal employment opportunities and equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or age.

40. The right to eat, wash, shelter, protection, rest, all bodily functions in privacy, own property, work, love, nurture, marry, raise a family and be free of all inhumanity.

41. The right to be respectfully addressed by a name that conveys thoughtful, kind regard that the listener wants and prefers.

42. The right to be happy, satisfied and even fulfilled.

No matter what the current readout is, you can make it a priority to begin to take these birthrights into your life, one by one. Pick one to work on for several weeks, notice your progress, begin integrating it into your daily living and then move on to another one. Periodically you can retake the oil in your assertive vehicle, perhaps every three months or so. It's gratifying to see the progress you've made. Wouldn't it be something to own all 42 human birthrights!

I once heard that everyone is either standing up or leaning on someone else. While we have explored the value of being interdependent in which times of being dependent is balanced with times of being more independent depending on the needs and wants of the situation, the above statement as a generality does tend to hold true quite often. To be standing up as a contributing member of our society does require that each individual carry their own weight by acting in accord with fundamental social responsibilities.

The alternative to being socially responsible is to be some form of dead weight for the other members of our society to carry-what a drag for the carrier and how invalidating for the carried! It is not the place for society to tolerate, and certainly not support or reinforce, repeated irresponsible acts that show blatant disregard for other people, living things and our environment. Each individual contributes to society by honoring and living their social responsibilities. Freedom fighter Dolores Iberruri, known as 'La Pasionaria,' said in a 1936 speech in Paris, "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." She understood the value of being "response-able," exercising your apparent choice, and then acting on it.

Once again I encourage you to take your own readout on how many and how strongly you meet this list of socially responsible behaviors for being in our society. When you are willing you can do this: For each item on the following list, please circle the number in which you have fully integrated that social responsibility into your on-going life. Check the number in which you have started to take this responsibility into your life and it is not yet dominant. Place a line in front of the number in which you have not taken this responsibility into your life to date.

Thirteen Social Responsibilities to Live

1. Work: Be responsible to honestly earn, by legal means, your daily bread, shelter, clothing, health care and everything else.

2. Be an upbeat, not a deadbeat: Be responsible to pay your bills and other debts you have taken on and to circulate monies to companies and individuals providing services and products to you. Be an affirmative, positive presence radiating energy, passion and vision instead of being a negative, critical, judgmental, pessimistic and cynical presence, that is, a negative energy drain sucking all the lifeblood from everyone and everything around you.

3. Regularly vote and be a participant in our society: Be responsible to constructively engage and participate in societal decision-making.

4. Recycle precious resources: Be responsible to constructively participate in societal conservation of natural resources.

5. Support "pay your way" spending: Be responsible for your purchases and support not taking on debt as well as paying off any personal debts as well as support local, state and federal organizations, companies and governments in not taking on or carrying debt or deficits.

6. Actively participate in family, school, church, court and the marketplace: Be responsible to constructively support healthy societal institutions with your engagement, time, monies, input, volunteer help and other projects.

7. Clean up, landscape and beautify your environment at home and work: Be responsible to not litter or make the environment ugly. Regularly beautify your patch and pathways of society, whether you rent it, own it or work in it.

8. Be a good citizen: Be responsible to obey society's laws. An exception is if the law violates the Higher Law of God or true human decency, fair play and justice if the stakes are important enough. In these cases consider using Mahatma Gandhi's "love force" or Satyagraha, a non-violent civil disobedience, to be a better citizen on the highest level.

9. Live and let live: Be responsible to respect the rights of others as you would wish they would respect your rights—an updated Golden Rule by which you can live and thrive.

10. Appreciate diversity by leaving alone what is not your business: Be responsible to leave other people and how they live alone, including their livelihood, family, religion, spirituality, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation and beliefs, so long as they don't violate your life.

11. Take a personal stand and encourage others to be a stand for a safe society: Be responsible to create a safe society by reporting any illegal, dangerous or suspicious behavior that violates the safety and laws of society to appropriate, trustworthy authorities.

12. Be responsible for yourself and the consequences of your behavior as well as take a fair share of responsibility to set workable appropriate structures and limits for your children, their attitudes, words and behavior: Be responsible for what you have control of, that is your behavior, words and some thoughts. Do all you can to take the responsibility of being a parent seriously. Be responsible with providing spousal and child support and taking preventative measures from contracting or spreading contagious/infectious or venereal diseases/sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), becoming HIV positive and AIDS.

13. Be responsible to harmlessly recognize and meet your real needs, wants and what you are called upon to be and do. Conduct your life in such a manner that neither you nor other are hurt, burdened, or have an obligation put upon them that has not been freely accepted. Above all, vow to do no more harm in thought, word and deed, moment by moment.

George Demont Otis     Bakers Beach

No matter what these readouts show, you can make it a priority to begin to take these human birthrights and social responsibilities for being a part of our society into your life, one by one. Again, you can pick one to work on for a month or longer, notice your progress, begin integrating it into your daily living and then move on to another one. Periodically you can take another readout on human birthrights and social responsibilities and obtain feedback about your health as a citizen. It's most gratifying to experience the progress you've made. You can feel fully human and humane in knowing you are doing your part to make a better society and world.

© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

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