A Children’s Tale on Human Dignity


Two intelligent monkeys explain the concepts of intrinsic human dignity and human rights

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Umpala-Kongo jungle, two intelligent monkeys sat down to take a rest in a clearing. “Well, I do say,” say the older of the two monkeys, who was rather a posh monkey, “these human beings do seem to have some confused ideas. I mean all I see when I go over to the Kimpala town is people abusing and killing each other. They’re really quite insane, I think.”

“I quite agree”, said the second intelligent monkey, “yet things are not perhaps all that they seem from the outside. These people are the minority, and there are many of these humans who work very hard to ensure that positive human values are maintained in society; values of family, mutual respect, and most importantly, intrinsic and integral human dignity. You know, in 1948, a group of dedicated humans got together to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which outlined the human rights of each human being, simply for being human, regardless of their race, religion, sex or background. There are thirty fundamental rights listed in the Declaration.” “Ah that’s fantastic,” said the first monkey, sarcastically, “and what makes these human beings think they have such rights?”

“Well, you see, in fact these human rights are grounded on the fact that every human being possesses intrinsic human dignity. This intrinsic value cannot be granted nor taken away by any human community. It is upon this dignity that these rights are based.”

The two monkeys were exhausted from the day’s events, but all the same the sun was setting in the jungle and it seemed a beautiful occasion to share some thoughts.

Suddenly, a toucan appeared in the branches, and squawked: “My dear fellows, I have traveled, and I have seen and experienced far more of this world than you two monkeys have. It seems to me that more or less the humans have come to agree that human rights should be respected, whatever the philosophy or thinking behind their existence. More and more, people are thinking as a global community, or as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi explained, a ‘Global Family’. Humans are thinking more and more about how we can guarantee these rights and responsibilities for everyone.”me thoughts.

“Ah that is fantastic”, said the first monkey, “I definitely agree with what you said about values and responsibilities for constructing a better society” said the toucan, “what people often don’t realize, is that they have rights but also responsibilities. I recently read Mumammad Zufralla Khan who declared “emphasis must be laid on man’s obligations and duties towards his fellow beings as the principal means of securing his own rights, freedoms and privileges, for they are the obverse and reverse of the same coin.” You see in order to ensure our rights we must first ensure the rights of others.”

“Ah I see,” said the monkey, “because humans have intrinsic dignity they have human rights, but also their dignity means they have the responsibility to help guarantee the rights of others”

“Yes that’s quite right”, said the toucan.“But if you don’t mind all this talk of dignity and human rights is rather exhausting for me, “said the two monkeys, “we’re going to get some rest if that’s quite alright”. “That is quite alright,” declared the toucan, and the three of them slipped away, happy with their new appreciation of the dignity and rights of human beings, into the leafy bushes of the Umpala-Kongo jungle.

Written by Fiona Pitt, Intern at WYA Europe. 

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