HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE: “What’s Going On” – The timeless message of Marvin Gaye’s song for today’s world

Nate Waters, Chair, Human Rights Committee

As I ponder the circumstances and situations unfolding in our world today, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. The events that grip our attention, the conflicts that rage, the injustices that persist—they all seem like a replay of situations and circumstances from the past. When I was a young boy growing up in the inner city, I heard stories of war, poverty, suffering both at home and abroad, racism, discrimination, assassinations, drug abuse, and the senseless killings of adults and children. It’s as though the characters have changed, but the story remains the same.

Fifty years ago, amidst a backdrop of war, drug abuse, social and environmental issues, and poverty, the world was introduced to the creative genius of Marvin Gaye. He penned a song that vividly captured the root causes of many of the world’s challenges, both foreign and domestic, and offered thoughtful solutions. The song, aptly titled “What’s Going On,” used its lyrics to call out the problems of the time and suggest solutions.

Gaye’s lyrics alluded to the need for love and understanding as a means to overcome the strife, anger, misery, and brutality that often take root in war, violence, death, and destruction. These lyrics remain eerily relevant today because the need for human decency and human rights is timeless.

In 1947, Eleanor Roosevelt drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that recognizes the right of every individual to live in peace. These rights were adopted by the United Nations in the wake of the Holocaust to prevent future genocides, war crimes, and atrocities against any group, regardless of race, gender, religion, culture, or ethnicity. While these declarations are not legally binding, they serve as a moral compass to protect the peace, safety, fair treatment, and wellbeing of all humanity.

Tragically, not everyone adheres to these ideals. Across the world, we witness bombing, kidnapping, and persecution of innocent lives. The question that arises is, for what valid reasons do such atrocities occur?

Marvin Gaye sang, “Talk to me so we can see what’s going on.” While we may not have all the answers, we can start by nurturing strong families, teaching our children values and morals, and fostering a sense of community. Our homes, communities, cities, and nations are all interconnected, and it starts with our families. How we raise our children, the values we instill in them, and the way we conduct ourselves as productive citizens shape the future.

Take a moment to listen to “What’s Going On”.