Companionship Is a Basic Human Right

Food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention are widely considered basic human rights that should be guaranteed to all people. Without food, we die. Without adequate clothing and shelter, we fall ill and can also die. Without medical attention, illnesses we have are bound to get worse and lead to death. But I would like to add another item that is equally important and that many people on the autism spectrum lack- companionship. While the effects of a lack of companionship are not as obvious as the lack of the other items, a lack of companionship can be just as serious. When people do not have friends they can relate to or family and others to take care of them, they can go into deep depression, and study after study has shown that both loneliness and depression can lead to a decline in both mental and physical health, and this in turn can also lead to early death, either by complications from a disease or by suicide.

We have largely solved the problems of lack of food and clothing, at least in the developed world. The prices of these items are low enough where even the poorer people can get an adequate supply of them. Maybe not everyone can afford caviar and Prada, but poorer people in this country are not so poor where they can only afford simple grains and only one meal a day or (with a few exceptions) where they do not have warm clothes for the winter. Housing is expensive in many cities, but most people can still find adequate shelter if they select a place in a cheaper area, move to a smaller house, or get affordable housing. With medical attention, we are not quite there yet, but we do have many Democrats (and some Republicans) on our side. With companionship, however, we are far from there.

We regularly have food and clothing drives to ensure less fortunate people do not go without them. Many of us also openly give food to beggars, seeing them as people who need our help. Many of us even intentionally go to feed the homeless if the local jurisdictions do not ban the practice, and so that there won’t be homeless people lacking shelter (or at least fewer people in that situation), we create more affordable housing. With companionship, we do not have anything like this, and when less attractive people beg others for companionship, they are often more likely to accuse them of harassment than seeing them as people in need. One might ask oneself why we still have many cases of harassment. The answer is that we do not have support for companionship lackers. Sir Thomas More, living in a time where food was not seen as a human right, wrote that no penalty, no matter how harsh it is, will stop a person from stealing bread if that is the only way one can get it. Because we do have support now for those who cannot afford food, food theft is only a rare occurrence.

What that I am suggesting is that we have companionship drives now. The same school and religious groups that now deliver food to the homeless and volunteer at soup kitchens should volunteer directly with people with disabilities who lack companionship. This volunteering should be done by nonjudgmental people who see themselves as friends rather than as professionals working with them. Furthermore, the matchings should not be restricted to the respective age range and gender of the volunteers, as many people get along better with another age group or gender better than they do with their own and when people are exposed to others who are in a different category they gain a greater understanding of people. The volunteers should go to lunch with their clients on a regular basis and also do other activities with them that they may enjoy. The volunteers should also introduce their clients to their friends and family so that the clients will feel like they are part of their circle and not excluded. Likewise, the clients should also introduce the volunteers to people in their circle. If we have this, the world will be a much better place.

Someone who did not agree with me on this issue once asked me if sex should also be considered a human right. My answer is no. The negative effects seen by a lack of sex are not the same as the ones caused by a lack of companionship. Furthermore, declaring sex as a human right opens the door to a lot of abuse. It can, for example, allow a rapist to get away by saying that having sex is a human right. Furthermore, rapists and sexual predators commit their crimes because they are violent, not because they lack companionship. There is a major difference between those individuals and ones who beg for companionship.

-The Aspergeric Free Spirit

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