Thanks to Blog Action Day I've been thinking about "Human Rights" and their opposite "Human Wrongs". The "Human Wrong" most on my heart at present is the waste of human potential that happens when people are unable to find appropriate work.
Lack of work can be actively destructive. It is far more disabling than a simple lack of money. It can eat away at hope, purpose, self-confidence and sense of identity. It seems to me that we are like coals in a fire. When the coals are close enough the fire stays "alive", with the coals "helping each other" to give out energy. There is heat and light, glowing warmth and dancing flames. If the coals are separated from each other, the fire goes out - the coals lose their ability to give out energy.
For many people lack of employment has a similar effect. The lack of work is an experience similar to being put in solitary confinement. Although the confinement is not literal the experience of social and emotional isolation is very real, and so is the sense of imprisonment through circumstances that it seems impossible to escape. This is a Human Wrong.
I only know about this in reality from a UK perspective, but I know it's not just a local problem. It's not only a Human Wrong in the UK, and it's not only a problem for young people (sometimes called the 'lost generation") and it's not just a problem for older people (who have been "scrap heaped"). It's a widespread "Human Wrong"
I believe we need to radically re-think all kinds of issues around Work (not necessarily the same things as "Jobs") and Value and Lifestyles and Livelihoods if we are to address the Human Wrong of wasted human potential.
There are no simple answers, but if we care about Human Rights and Wrongs then I believe this is somethig we can usefully rub minds on.
(For further thoughts on this topic - mainly from a non-UK perspective - see Challenging the lack of employment opportunities)