South Africa


This year our solitude can be our solidarity

Our parents’ generation have not witnessed a global pandemic or global camaraderie quite like this.


This article is part of a series of reflections from Young Maverick writers about what Human Rights Day (21 March) means to them.

Some days, human rights seem like a mirage. Some days there is an overwhelming sense in the air that humans have to fight for every scrap of empathy, safety, respect and self-expression – things which I think underpin the human rights project.

Have things changed in our striving for human rights since my parents were my age? I am not sure.

In one moment, I think yes – more humans are able to express themselves and have the power to claim these rights today. They are able to feel safe in this world.

But in the same instance I think no – only those with certain privileges can realise their human rights. Some rights of some people seem to matter more than others.

But it is not the case that someone either completely has or doesn’t have human rights – someone might have some but be denied others. Humans come in so many different sets of intertwining circumstances.

And I’m a human, so where do I fit into all of this? I can hear the chant: “Rights come with responsibilities.”

This Human Rights Day, it is likely that most humans will be separated from other humans in South Africa if they are serious about their social responsibility to self-isolate.  

 Won’t that be an odd experience? 

 No crowds pressing together at a concert or to hear a speech. No mourners walking slowly at Sharpeville. No face-to-face gestures of care. 

This year our solitude can be our solidarity.

Up until now, I don’t think my parents have ever seen a global pandemic or global camaraderie quite like this.

 And this moment of seemingly desperate times actually gives me hope in human rights. Maybe it will shake us and remind us that we are part of this world and not above it. That we all want empathy, safety, respect and self-expression. 

We have got to keep on keeping on – what else can we do? 

We’ve come this far, after all. DM



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