Right or Privilege?

By: Mostafa Aniss

Water. Is it a human right, or a privilege?

The argument for privilege is convincing. After all, water does not just become clean. It goes through rigorous testing, filtering, and cleaning before reaching our faucets. In other words, our water gets serviced. And it gets serviced by people. Understandably, these people want to be paid for their service, which means clean water, from these service peoples’ perspective, cannot and should not be free water. As such, people must have enough money to pay for access to the service (privilege) of clean water.

On the other hand, water is necessary to live. In that way, it is like air. And we do not pay for air. So, why should we be required to pay for something that is needed to for all humans to survive? The “service people” would respond with: Air and water are not the same! Well, sure, they are not exactly the same. But what they have in common is that they are necessary for “living.” When it comes to air, I mean literally living. But for water, I mean doing all the conventional things that human beings do when they are living, such as taking showers or washing hands. Do those things seem like privileges?

If one needs to take a shower before a job interview, but they cannot do so because they cannot pay their bill, then are they not in an endless cycle of poorness? That is, they must be presentable to get the job, but they cannot be presentable because they cannot do what people conventionally do to achieve that. What then?

Part of the answer to these questions lie in the extent to which we agree that we should provide water to everyone. Indeed, if we agreed that clean water should be provided in all houses and buildings in a city via the tax dollar, then we can make sure service people get paid while also putting poorer folks in a position to get that interview and begin contributing to society. But, we do not agree on that. So, we are back to square one.

Is water a human right or a privilege?

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