The slogan “one love” was made popular by Bob Marley in his song by the same name, but it is an ancient concept in the realm of Human Rights where ‘one love’ speaks to equality of all people.
The idea of ‘one love’ was conceptualized as long ago as 576 to 530 BC by the Persian King, Cyrus the Great; a King who had created the greatest empire of his time, stretching from the Balkans in the West to the Indus Valley in the East.
After the conquest of Babylon, Cyrus the Great freed slaves and declared everyone free to choose their religion. It is argued that this was the world’s first charter of human rights and the beginning of what we know to be Human Rights. King Cyrus’ decrees were recorded on a clay cylinder, called the Cyrus Cylinder.
THE CYRUS CYLINDER
The Romans considered the concepts on the clay cylinder to be ‘natural law,’ since it seemed natural that all humans should have freedom of choice and bodily integrity. Yet, persons who wielded power still oppressed less powerful people by stripping them of their freedom entirely.
It was not until approximately 1215 AD that a document was issued by King John of England codifying the notion that not even a King could countermand the rights of people. This document, the Magna Carta (translated:’The Great Charter’), is one of the most celebrated documents in history, establishing the doctrine of the rule of law. It contained 63 clauses, but perhaps the most prominent and influential clause was the 39th, which declared that all ‘free men’ were entitled to justice and a free trial.
Most of the core principles in the Magna Carta are still reflected in constitutional documents across the modern world. In addition to the Cyrus Cylinder and the Magna Carta, modern day human rights principles can be attributed to the Constitution of Medina (622), Al-Risalah-al-Huquq (late seventh to early eight century), the Twelve Articles of Memmingen (1525), the English Bill of Rights (1689) and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).
Throughout history, despite growing acceptance of equality for all, there were still persons who objected to equality and freedom of the human race. Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, sought to conquer France and when he did, he declared himself the ‘Emperor of the World’. It took the combined efforts of the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia to overthrow him.
When he was finally defeated in the Battle of Waterloo, European leaders made fair efforts to secure and maintain natural human rights. Unfortunately, they did not extend these efforts beyond the borders of Europe and ironically, during this time, the rest of the world was being invaded and dominated by European countries.
It took a great effort, scores of years and many lives lost, to push that movement beyond the borders of Europe, and activists for human rights were and still are faced with a moral dilemma: How do you fight for your human rights without encroaching on the rights of others?
Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi of India circumvented this dilemma by employing non-violent civil disobedience to campaign for equality and human rights in general, despite the threat to his personal health and despite being arrested several times. Many people were empowered through these peaceful campaigns. Yet again, there were people who disagreed.
Just when it seemed that Ghandi and other activists had made strides for human rights, two World Wars erupted. Between 1939 and 1945, the education of females in Nazi Germany was geared completely towards producing children.
Women were prohibited from voting, becoming professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and from even wearing make-up or perming their hair. A woman’s role in Nazi Germany was completely relegated to bearing children and supporting their husbands from home. Legislation that restricted the issue and repayments of loans based on how many children a family had was enacted. For example, if a family had four or more children, they could keep the money they borrowed.
Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party in Germany, in the promotion of his racist ideology explained in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ that “Blood mixture and the resulting drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is continued only in pure blood. All who are not of good race in this world are chaff.”
Hitler, in his attempt to create a ‘superior racial stock’, ordered the massacre of approximately six million or two-thirds of the Jewish population on earth and over seventeen million persons in all; including ethnic Poles, persons of African descent, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents, to name a few in an extensive list. These persons were either rounded up and slaughtered in the most savage, inhumane ways in extermination camps or hunted down and killed.
Hitler alone, it seemed, had succeeded in making Human Rights seem obsolete.
In 1945, when World War II finally came to an end after the Axis countries surrendered, yet another attempt was made to attain a better world for all. In a desperate move to restore the state of human rights, the United Nations was formed.
Under Eleanor Roosevelt’s guidance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established containing thirty (30) articles which establishes the worth of all people and the equal rights of men and women, finally concretizing the ancient concepts and principles of human rights.
Today, the idea of ‘one love’, though widely accepted and acknowledged, is still not extended to every person, as it should be. Acclaimed international Human Rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, courageously and fearlessly, in her first speech at the United Nations Conference in 2016, addressing the plight of the Yazidi people and women in particular, chastized the member states of the United Nations for putting national and economic interest before human interest.
She reminded those in attendance at the conference that the United Nations was created seventy years ago as a way of ensuring that the genocide on such a scale as was carried out by the Nazis was never repeated.
She reminded them of the genocide of the Tutsi that took place in Rwanda, where the United Nations responded a little too late, and she finally implored them not to let ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) get away with another genocide which they are in the throes of executing.
Mrs. Clooney appeared at the United Nations along Nadia Murad, a woman who had been lucky enough to escape bondage in the ISIS camp. She, too, spoke at the conference and testified to the horrors that ISIS inflicted on her people.
She described how they were bought and sold in a marketplace alongside fruits and vegetables and she, bravely in a faltering voice, recalled torture and suffering at the hands of her captors. Both of their speeches were met with a standing ovation and the hope that steps would be taken to bring those responsible to justice.
It seems that there will always be challenges to the idea of ‘one love’, but history has also shown us time and time again that in the face of adversity, love always conquers.