Published on 19 June 2006
Translations available in: Español (original) . français .

Experience and Dialogs on the Charter of Human Responsibilities: Ethics, Responsibilities and Justice

by Carlos LIBERONA
Associated Central Topics: Governance, Human Rights, and responsibility .
Associated General Topics: Ethics .

In the insistent efforts to develop a proposal to humanize the planet and the country, the Charter of Human Responsibilities meeting allowed us to truly envision a NEW PILLAR FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A WORLD IN SOLIDARITY. The Charter, along with the Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter, confirmed our need to work on building a Culture of Human Responsibilities.

We need to make clear that we began setting up support for the circulation of the Charter and its seeding in the day-to-dayness of our country. The pain endured in every corner of our country made thousands of Chileans reticent, even more distrustful than in the past, hesitant to build hopes once again, hypercritical of anything proposed to face the future. As the Charter is an ethical proposal of great importance, we gave a lot of thought to how it could be circulated and how to open up a process that would lead to true endorsement of it. How? With whom? Uncertainty is usually a wise component in deciding on a strategic initiative in our country. After much discussion, we decided to find a method that would root the Charter in the wounded conscience of our societies, whether of mixed culture or native, integrated or excluded.

It was natural that we should choose dialog and thinking as an essential element of our method, applied to women, young people, intellectuals, artists, immigrants, or natives. By the way, this dialog is just beginning to mature at not much more than a year after it was started.

At the end of 2003, we finished the strategic-planning stage, which consisted in conversations with various sectors, excluded or included. It was in Coquimbo, a small northern coastal port, during a small workshop with 23 people, that we established a clearer construction line. José Huanca, an Aymara leader—Aymaras being a native population living in northern Chile, a large part of Bolivia, and southern Peru—after listening to the discussions on the Charter, its content, its history and the question “What is the Charter and how do we promote it?”, pointed out:
This Charter is a good seed, but good seed requires care. We have to sow, knowing that doubts, questions, and new plants will flourish, we cannot make this into single-crop farming, a single truth: that would bring us misfortune.”

What we learned is evident: to place great care on the methods for relations and approach, as much, if not more than on the purpose. We found that the correct attitude is one of caution and observation, of learning from the different views—we should not reject them—and of reflecting on the doubts.
José Huanca reminded us what happened with the beautiful gospels, the beautiful proposals that instead of bringing human beings to open up made them intolerant, sectarian, and aggressive. He recalled for us the history of the Aymara people and we needed no further explanations.
There, in Coquimbo, we confirmed that the construction of the Charter includes several rules, such as to listen and to learn how to learn, because it will only be enhanced if we get many different people, sectors, and groups to own it, consider it, and reconsider it.
That is how our method was affirmed. This was followed for immigrants, academics, artists, women, young people, and workers.

From the beginning, we knew that it was very important to open a dialog with intellectuals, with the awareness that Chilean society continues to be swamped in fragmentation and distrust. We needed to come closer to different sensitivities of the academic and intellectual world and we did. We approached intellectuals of Christian trends, of the political center, of the Old Left, as well as of the trends emerging from the search for new proposals. Beyond the differences, the Charter, however, brought about a quick consensus. Besides the academic groups of the University of Chile, of the Bolivariana University, the La República University, we managed this first year to stir up interest in about 70 percent of the existing universities in Chile. Espoz, Tapia, Lastra, Duhart, Medina, and dozens of university professors gave us their opinion on the Charter, with the concept of responsibility very closely connected to the concept of ethics.

An insight on the interpretation of the sense that we were looking for was expressed by Dr. Luis Weinstein (psychiatrist, academic, and poet) in a contribution on Human Responsibilities. In it, he states that “the right of others becomes one’s duty, insofar as responsibility exists.” Weinstein continues: “Responsibility, being responsible, answering to what, in the current common sense means being the author of an act and accepting the consequences and the possibilities of sanction that are derived from this act. With an outlook to development, to culture, to experience focused on the human being, in the basic right to being human, the required responsibility goes beyond what is implied by this or that act, what is assumed is the need to transform financial globalization and individualistic pragmatism into the unity and the diversity of humankind in tune with the planet and with life, it is no more and no less than the RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING HOMO SAPIENS.” (These paragraphs are contained in the lecture Responsabilidad por la Humanización, July 2003.)

This is a text that marks the beginning of the re-creation of the Charter in Chile.

So far, we have published about 20 texts in five different publications. Each of them manifests a different hue, a different focus of attention. Some seek in the modern world the moment when we humans were robbed of our responsibility in history, others examine the history of the profound and original peoples that live in Chile, others express a feminine or youthful view. What is interesting to highlight is that the process has acquired speed and depth and it demands from us further study, larger efforts, both intense and natural, associated with the thinking on Ethics.

This way, from dialog to dialog, the seeds are sown deeper and deeper. Young people, squatters, artists, environmentalists, feminists, young people from the working classes of Valparaíso, have also appropriated the principles of the Charter, put their name to a Park of the Arts, declared their will to change Valparaíso into a TERRITORY of HUMAN RESPONSIBILITIES, have entered the network that supports the Charter, seek to become involved in the ALLIANCE FOR A RESPONSIBLE AND UNITED WORLD, have integrated the proposal of a new Social and Environmental Pact, and decided to place the Charter and the agreements of the pact in the construction of the local, to dignify life, to work for peace, to propose a paradigm for meeting in which participation reigns and which places human development at the core, which respects social autonomy, with the purpose of advancing in new ways of thinking, in community building.

E’s are abundant in the idea of a TERRITORY OF RESPONSIBILITY: Ecology, social Economy, Ethics, spirituality (Espiritualidad) and hope (Esperanza), all as an expression of activism in one’s life. The Karens, the Nicoles, the Kapurras, the Chagos or the Alejandros are working in Valparaíso on the construction of a Territory of Human Responsibilities. For them, culture, art, communication, and the bishops are allies of the Charter.

Step by step conscience is growing and above all, a coherence in endorsement of the Charter.

This is what is novel about the process of the Charter: how multiple initiatives are integrated with it. We started out with the circulation, with long conversations, now proposals are being born. Among them, the Multiversity or the School of New Thinking and of Human Responsibility, which will be an itinerant school with the premise “learning to learn.” Its development will begin next May in several regions of Chile. The Charter has brought about the Center of Indigenous Ethics, the Art and Ethics initiative and many other actions. Small initiatives appear, grow, then grow stronger by the day. Not everything is fine as there are also resistance, doubt, and rejection. Let us see the most significant of these.

On resistance

The resistance to the Charter we have found is much less than expected, approval prevails. Resistance appears as tension with the theme of rights in societies in which the majority lack these rights, as distrust, mainly related to the idea that business executives want to share responsibility and not wealth, and lastly the question arises as to what the current order of responsibilities is in Chile.

Feminist sectors have been more explicit in resistance to the Charter. The most explicit statement that we have heard and which we quote below, was expressed by the sociologist and university professor Teresa Lastra. We asked her to write a report on Women and Human Responsibilities. Her judgement is categorical:

An eminently patriarchal society like the Chilean society makes women responsible for the family, education, health, memory, social traditions, morals, etc. For this reason, for women the current task is to demand and to practice their rights” (Dialog of June 2004).

It is the opinion of part of the feminist movement that the great responsibility of women is to exercise their rights. This opinion and others motivated us to prepare a meeting, a workshop in which we will analyze the resistance and hope to clarify the doubts.

As another form of resistance, we have found other views, which on reading the proposal of the Charter insist that in Chile the priority is to demand justice, they direct us to take into account the specificity of our country, its most notorious features at the present time. Let us examine the thoughts of the playwright Juan Radrigan, one of the outstanding ethical figures in the field of art and culture, whose view is permeated with the suffering in Chile produced by dictatorial repression. In a very interesting conversation, he told us the following:

"Nothing can alter—despite the existing pessimism, despite the despair—the responsibility of finding them (referring to the missing). As long as this country is a vast tomb, where thousands are looking for the bodies of their dead, nobody will be able to build an ethical proposal without truth and without justice.”

After this conversation we looked in Radrigan’s texts, for references to this theme so we could understand him. Suffice it to quote this paragraph from the recently published MEMORIAS DEL OLVIDO (memories of what is forgotten):
This is an unlikely country where love dances with death and misfortune plays the violin, where the dead are not dead, and the living are not alive.”
This painful statement causes desolation, pain, surprise, and sometimes nervous smiles; however, looking reality in the face one realizes that the dead are alive in the memory of thousands and thousands of Chileans, that in hundreds of houses rooms are strictly kept by mothers waiting for their son or daughter to return; that many older men or women, with very open eyes and a closed heart know something about a man or woman who disappeared more than 20 years ago; that others are awaiting the announcement of someone’s return from exile. They are thousands and thousands. Knowing this, we understand Juan Radrigan, the moral spokesman of the victims, when he tells us that “we cannot be joyous, because that joy would be an insult to those who were tortured, those who were murdered, because without punishment for the guilty, without justice, civilization is not possible here.” For Juan, the prime responsibility of society and of the State of Chile is to deconstruct impunity and to build truth and justice, and the most prime of our prime responsibilities, according to Juan, “is to bring love and trust back” to this little country.

As you can see, there is a variety of views on the Charter. They require that we learn, listen, and dialogue. For this reason, José Huanca continues to guide our work. His proposal to us was:
We live under a dry deluge, of pollution, of individualism, of indifference, we need to build a new ARK, but an ark for all of us, made of the best dreams, of the clearest ideas, of hopes; the Charter can be a powerful paper ARK” (Workshop in Coquimbo).

We have learned a little, we have confirmed a single possible, participatory method, among peers, with the doubts of Teresa, with the Trust of the Luises, the creativity, of the Chagos, the Kapurra, the Karens, the Nicoles, the Huinaos. With the ability to listen to different views, we can make the Charter a NEW PILLAR, but we need teams, we need to increase our coherence. We have barely opened this dialogue; we will however continue to take up the challenge.

puce Web Site Map puce RSS puce In-house news puce