by Kerry Haggard who suspects that she has the right to a full night’s sleep – but is struggling to convince her two sons of that… Follow her on Twitter @KerryHaggard
As South Africans, we are quick to brag about our Bill of Rights – one of the most comprehensive in the world. The rights of everyone from prisoners to old people are protected – the rights of children too.
What I struggle with, often, is that so many of us neglect to notice that rights come with responsibilities.
Yes, we have the right to free speech. We also have the responsibility to moderate our words to be constructive and honest.
We have the right to equal protection before the law. We have the responsibility to follow that law, respecting our fellow citizens while doing so.
We have the right to practise our religion of choice. We have the responsibility to tolerate the religion of others, and to understand what we have in common with them. You’d be surprised at how much that is…
We have the right to assemble to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with something. We have the responsibility to respect the property on which we choose to exercise this right.
We have the right to fair labour practices. We have the responsibility to work hard, be honest, and earn the money that we are paid.
We have the right to an environment that is not harmful to our wellbeing. We have the responsibility to look after it ourselves, whether it is recycling or spending our money with ecologically responsible suppliers.
We have the right to property. We have the responsibility to purchase it honestly, and to look after it. It is after all, part of our environment.
We have the right to health care. We have the responsibility to make wise decisions about our own health and wellbeing, whether that is by choosing healthy food, or monogamy.
We have a right to education. We have the responsibility to appreciate the value of this, to go to school or university, and to use our knowledge to improve South Africa.
We are blessed to have these rights, among many others. Our biggest responsibility is to teach these rights to our children – and to teach them that these rights come in tandem with responsibilities. Teaching them that someone else is always to blame for what is wrong in their lives, that someone else must always fix the damage, is simply irresponsible.