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Basic needs are a human right

Every person living in Bermuda deserves to have their basic needs met so that they do not have to worry about survival. Basic needs are things which every person needs to live: water, food, housing, clothing, healthcare, education, a healthy environment. Without such things, a person’s quality of life is severely diminished.

Bermuda Is Love’s mission is to promote the idea that providing universal basic needs should be the goal of any advanced society. No child should have to go to school without proper clothing; no woman should ever be threatened by homelessness; no sick person should have to worry about receiving healthcare; no plants or animals should be threatened by climate change. Ensuring real justice would mean that we all have access to resources that make sure that tomorrow is always secure, and that our basic needs are always met.

Such basic needs are what citizens need to survive, but they are also the prerequisite for a potential to thrive. The main reasons we advocate for basic needs to be met is because we want to see a Bermuda that is free of discrimination and exploitation; a Bermuda that allows everyone to be whoever or whatever they want to be; a Bermuda of pure scientific and cultural innovation, imagination and progress. However, none of this can happen if one’s basic needs are not met. It is only after basic needs are met that persons can direct their attention to higher goals and purposes. One cannot begin to thrive if one is constantly under the threat of trying to survive. But how do we create a world where everyone’s basic needs are met?

First, we must start to realise that as a society we have the responsibility to meet everyone’s basic needs. We must see homelessness, poverty and inequality as offences against our collective conscience. That by allowing others to live in poverty, we are not only offending them, but ourselves and all of humanity. Every human deserves to flourish and be the best they can be. By not allowing every one of us the chance to do so, we are offending all of humanity. Thus, we must do all that we can to ensure that everyone has their basic needs met.

This means changing our attitude towards certain problems. When we see a child without food, we must not only feel sad for the child, but we must also be offended that we live in a society that allows such things to occur. When we look at an unemployed person who has no health insurance, we should not blame them, but instead, be offended that our society makes it a condition that you need to be employed to receive comprehensive health coverage. Do the unemployed simply not get injured or sick?

Second, we must come to see that we have the power to meet everyone’s basic needs. Many believe that such ideas are idealistic owing to limited resources, or they justify inequality and poverty as the result of nature and evolutionary processes, which creates winners and losers through survival of the fittest. There is also the popular belief in meritocracy; the belief that the harder you work, the greater your reward.

While there are plenty of resources in Bermuda, the problem is that they are not distributed evenly across society. This creates a divide between those who have and those who do not. Implementing a living wage and universal healthcare are two ways in which wealth in Bermuda can be distributed to benefit those who struggle to have their basic needs met.

Further, many people do not understand that the classes of rich and poor are the result of unjust political systems which have been designed by humans. The divide between rich and poor is neither natural nor inevitable. Rather, the system has been designed to benefit the ruling class whose main goal is to perpetuate that divide to maintain its status. We believe that such a system is unjust. It is unjust that 1 per cent of the world’s population controls 50 per cent of its resources. And it is an offence that we allow it to continue.

Moreover, many suggest that you can get rich or become successful if you work harder than anyone else. However, those who are born into well-off families are given a head start, regarding capital, connections and mindset. Further, many attribute the wealth of an Elon Musk or a Jeff Bezos to their work ethic or to their technological innovation. But it cannot be stated that they work any harder than a single mother of two, working as many as three jobs in trying to make ends meet. Or that Jeff Bezos’s innovation with Amazon should allow him to make the annual salary of his lowest-paid employees every 11.5 seconds. This should be viewed as an offence against our collective conscience.

We live in a socioeconomic, political system that is fundamentally flawed. But the problem is not that the system cannot be changed — it has been changed innumerably. Instead, the real problem is that we have not decided to expand it to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met. We can design an economic and political system that puts basic needs first, before anything else; with inalienable rights that are protected by the system itself, not just by the state, or by individuals, or by companies.

For example, in Bermuda every child has the right to free education up until the age of 18. It is universally accepted that children need education to not only survive but to thrive in society and we as a society must make this happen. We accept that the ability to read and write is important, and that every person deserves this. Bermuda Is Love implores the reader to consider the expansion of this idea to include that every person also deserves access to free food, housing, clothing, healthcare, higher education and a healthy environment, and further consider what this would do for everyone’s potential to thrive.

We believe that this is simply the next logical step as we advance as a society. Governments need to accept this premise that food, clothing, housing, healthcare, higher education and a healthy environment are basic needs for every person. We should not be questioning whether everyone deserves to have their basic needs met, but rather questioning how we are going to make it a reality. We have the responsibility, and we have the power. We just have to decide to do it.

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Published May 23, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated May 23, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Basic needs are a human right

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