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Social Change and Human Rights.

256px-UniversalLinksOfHumanRightsWITADA is about social change – and most particularly, why change does not occur. It is also about human rights and why we have failed to ensure that the human rights of all people are protected. I believe that the movement toward a more peaceful and equitable world must be based on the primacy of our collective human rights.

There are many different perspectives about social change and many theories about how change occurs. However it also appears that there are many obstacles and I find it disturbing that in 2014 we have still been unable to change some of the most basic conditions of so many people’s lives so that they might live a life free of violence, abuse, misuse of power, poverty, malnutrition, and inadequate health care and education. These are the basic human rights that most nations have subscribed to and yet we have been unable to ensure these rights are met – not only in developing nations but also in affluent ones.

I wonder why this is. Why have we as a society not been able to say that these issues are unacceptable and we will do whatever is required to put a stop to them? When I raise this question, people often respond with the assertion that we do know why things don’t change, that it’s to do with the structure of society and power imbalances etc., however, this is clearly still not enough to produce meaningful change so we must be missing something else. It seems quite clear to me that despite how much we know about society, and the individuals who make up society, our understandings are still not complete enough to bring about meaningful and sustainable change in some important areas.

The reason why I think we need to give attention to this issue is that humans have the capacity for high levels of consciousness, which means that we have the capacity to change things. Being conscious means that we are self-aware; that means that we can reflect on our actions and develop an in-depth understanding of them, analyse what works and critically explore our actions, and then we can incorporate all of this and make changes as a result. This is an incredible capacity and yet I don’t believe we use it regularly and especially not when we turn our attention to questions of social change. I don’t believe that we really understand why these issues are occurring, at least not in a deep enough way. So if our understanding is not deep enough then our actions are unlikely to be effective in generating change.

If we do have this ability for consciousness and therefore for informed change, why are we not using it to create a different world? I think this is one of the most critical questions for our time.

This issue has been of great interest to me for many years and it has formed the basis of my research and much of my work in general. In many ways it is this question that is at the center of WITADA and I believe that it is a legitimate question – both as a challenge to us individually and collectively and as a form of intellectual inquiry. I’m hopeful and optimistic that there is more for us to know and I’m also quite desperate to see some things change in the lives of the people that I, and many of us, work with. I do think we are in desperate times; I do think that these issues are desperately serious and that there is a sense of urgency to address them in some meaningful way.

I love the saying – when in deep water become a diver – I think we’re in deep water and it’s time for us to dive in deep and see what we can find down there that might be stopping us from moving on in a more peaceful way. These are the questions and issues that I hope we will turn our attention to here at WITADA.

Jenny