I don’t know that it is.
On thinking, I’m finding my brain in a squidgy place, pondering what makes a right a right. In theory, human rights must be universal needs, applicable to everyone, things that should never be contravened by anyone. Inalienable protections.
The fact is that right now people are dying from a lack of things more basic than internet access. Vinay Gupta tells us there are six ways to die (too hot, too cold, hunger, thirst, illness, injury). He also notes that the number of people dying from poverty (roughly equated with lack of access to protections from those six basic problems in their simplest forms) is 20 million a year.
That’s a lot of people dying. You should think about that for a moment.
Feels bad, doesn’t it.
So there’s some basic things that everyone who isn’t dying should be doing to make sure that stops happening. That’s a first step, right there. I don’t know what the actual step is. It probably involves more than giving money to a semi-random charity once a month and the hand-wringing about what to do, but I haven’t figured it out.
So people have a right not to die because they’re poor. That’s a start. How far does that extend? I mean, we’ll all easily agree that torture is out. Freedom of speech is a bit trickier but quite important. Freedom of religion too, for many. What about being killed? What about in wars? Some people think those are okay, is there a blanket rule about killing? Where does collateral damage come in?
My this is bleak.
It disgusts me how many things are denied so many people. With the weight of an institution behind you, it is suddenly okay to wage war. War kills people. It’s shocking but true.
I think human rights should actually be extended properly to everyone, there should be a baseline that is considered important. Mutual respect, for everyone.
Kind of impossible.
For a start, my personal baseline would probably make it impossible to imprison people, which makes justice improbable, which makes the whole thing fall apart. Potentially.
But we asked about the internet, and I’m ignoring that.
The interesting here, everything I’ve just ranted about, is stuff that I know about in more detail because of my connection to the internet. A world of information, solutions and people, at your fingers, on your screen. It’s kind of miraculous.
And it might be a start to some answers. Access to things like Appropedia genuinely has the potential to help people get out of poverty. Extending the internet to everyone everywhere could potentially change the shape of the world, allowing people to support each other directly. Building new futures for communities that were unimaginable before.
The only reason I can see to making that a human right would be if the rights we’ve already got were being enacted.
Which would be worthwhile, presumably.
We can’t let bits of the world fall apart.
Because we are world.
Illustration by Jaime.