The Right to Say Hello

Cameron waves "hello"
Cameron waves "hello" by katiecarma

“I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello…”

For those too young to recall, this song was entitled “Hello, Goodbye,” written and performed by The Beatles and released as a single in November 1967. It topped the charts in the United States, the UK and Norway.  This very memorable jingle describes one of the most basic communication exchanges:  the ability to say “Hello” and “Good-bye” and maybe probe a little deeper as to some underlying motives.

The second decade of the 21st Century has brought with it the power to now “say hello” instantaneously and halfway across the globe, in some cases matching a face with a voice.  The ability to communicate with each other is one of the great inherent gifts of humanity.  As civilization grows, so should its ability to communicate. From prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, France to that tweet you might need to send off before Monday’s staff meeting regarding Rafael Nadal’s French Open win, it’s our basic human nature (and right) to communicate.

It seems the status of more sophisticated methods of communication, through cyberspace, just received a boost, from privilege to right. On May 16, 2011 the Human Rights Council of the General Assembly of the United Nations issued a report of the Special Rapporteur “on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression” and “

of all individuals to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet, not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also a range of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole”.

The currently official global concept of the right to communicate originates from Article 19 of the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”

With communication comes power.  According to an organization called The Right to Communicate in the Information Society, ”Communication rights are not tantamount to freedom of expression, but include democratic media governance, linguistic rights, participation in one’s culture, and rights to privacy. These rights are questions ‘of inclusion and exclusion, of quality and accessibility. In short, they are questions of human dignity’”.

Noam Chomsky has referred to “cultural imperialism.”   An example would be the recent Internet blackout imposed among Arab nations during the spring uprisings in order to preserve the prevailing regime.  It’s time we end this form of repression.  Not only is it a basic human right to communicate, question, and exchange ideas with our fellow human beings, but also  with this communication comes the most basic means of a society to advance.

The report from the UN refers to data showing that the total number of Internet users has risen to 2 billion worldwide.  That’s very encouraging.  But it still leaves just under 5 billion still unplugged.    The report also mentions that there has been a surge in the number of active users on Facebook, rising from 150 million in 2009 to 600 million this year.  That’s an incredible 300 percent increase in two years.  My own friends list has risen even faster during that period, to over 770.  These very special people include old friends, newer friends and many friends of friends whom I have met since establishing my Facebook page.  My life has become incredibly enriched as a result of sharing chatter, news, music, professional information and mutual interests with them.  There’s no going back for me.

The global community that we call humanity needs to know its neighbors. Individuals need to know that they are not alone in their daily struggles for dignity and in some cases subsistence. It’s also nice to know when our new friend’s birthday is by seeing the announcement on Facebook.  Now that we are all becoming empowered with a 24/7 universal ability to communicate with one another, I say hello, dear friends.  I don’t know why you say good-bye.

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