People are not commodities.
Let’s break that down into simple definitions, just so we are all clear.
- People – persons > human; member of the homo sapiens species. Basically, “homo sapiens” is Latin for “wise man”. The species was named that due to its bipedal locomotion, a fancy way of saying we walk on two feet very well. Given the chaos and havoc mankind has brought upon the environment and the trials and bloodshed of its own species that man has perpetrated throughout the years, one might argue that we are not wise. In fact, an Australian scientist proposed in 2011 that the classification name be changed from “wise man” for just those reasons but so far, no change has occurred. [I personally would question just how able our bipedal locomotion is after having spent a morning chasing a quadro-pedal feline who seemed to move much better than I but I will assume that science knows best and we are in fact “homo sapiens”.]
- Are – to be; exist
- Not – negative; no
- Commodities – something bought or sold; an economic good
Therefore, my topic sentence seems pretty clear, right? Problem is I did not give you the first definition for commodity. According to the five or six dictionaries I consulted, a commodity is “something or someone of value”. Aye, there’s the rub!
This post might have seemed more fitting for Jan 15, Martin Luther King Jr’s actual birthday, or January 20, 2014, Martin Luther King Jr’s federal holiday, but I wanted that day to recognize his life, his courage. Today I want to talk about what I believe the purpose of his efforts was and that is summed up in my topic sentence: “People are not commodities.”
Slaves, and they have come in all colors, sizes, and nationalities throughout the history of the world, were valued for their contribution to the homestead. Some worked in agricultural fields, some in mines, some in houses. Today we call them by other names and sadly their value is still similar to that of a pet goldfish – a dead goldfish. Several years ago, nominees for political appointments were disqualified for having undocumented alien workers who were not paid according to wage and labor standards, in addition to being illegal residents. Everyone has probably been serviced by such a worker, whether at a fast food restaurant, in lawn care, maintenance workers at an office we frequent…the list is endless. No one can say they have not been part of that loop in some way.
Human rights, defined as rights you should have simply because you are human, are interpreted by governments and religions with multitudinous applications, none of which are close to being similar. Martin Luther King Jr was not the biggest man nor the tallest nor the loudest. I know; I once informally met him on the steps of a federal building shortly before a rally when I was a child. He discouraged people from making their point in the biggest way, the loudest way, or with force. He appealed to the sapient in all of us, based upon a simple belief that “People are not commodities.”
Would parents be better parents if they got a raise at work when their child made the dean’s list at school? Would parents know where their kids were and with whom if they got a tax break for raising children that never had negative contact with law enforcement? Would we be better neighbors and coworkers if we were given bonuses for being respectful to others?
Martin Luther King Jr knew that our Good Citizenship Award would determine the future of the world. People who are educated will solve problems and cure illnesses. People who are healthy will be more productive. People who are productive feel valued and respected. People who feel valued treat others with respect, even those who differ from them in race, color, creed, gender, age. People who feel their voice has a place have no need to create terror. People who live in peace….live in peace.
What if we had international stock markets that traded in peace? What if peace became the world’s greatest commodity? Then we would have a future, the future of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. Would that peace was our own personal commodity.