Cell Phones As Human Rights?

This past weekend, while walking down the street near Union Square, I saw two homeless gentlemen. This, in and of itself, is far from interesting, it’s sadly quite commonplace. Union Square has a healthy population of panhandlers, the high foot traffic makes it a great location. No, what was terribly interesting was that both of the men I saw were completely absorbed with their cell phones. Eyes glued like tweens.

As I walked passed, taking in the scene, one man said to the other without looking up from his phone “did you text him?” My preconceived notions and stereotypes might have lead me to believe he was referring to some one of a more unscrupulous nature. A drug dealer, maybe? But I couldn’t help but wonder if they were referring to some other homeless gentleman friend of theirs, maybe he was pan handling on the other side of the square so as to most efficiently use their space. And it was time to reconvene and pool their collections for an evening meal.

Romantic fantasies aside, it did raise a major question. These men who were down on their luck, who didn’t have some of the most basic comforts, still had cell phones. They didn’t have a home, but they could text. They couldn’t shower, but they had unlimited nights and weekends. Is that how far down owning a cellular phone has gone in the line of basic human rights?

Of course you can chalk this up to a New York moment. And maybe that’s all it was. Just one of the oddities of the big city. I'd like to think of it as something better than just an outlier (or worse depending on your opinion of cellphones). It’s quite a splendid idea to think of technology and mobile connection to the world as a basic human right. Inalienable. Reaching a point where no one ever has to forgo connecting with the ones they love. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It’s far too early to call this a trend, obviously. It was a single instance. But in places like India, there are already more mobile phones than toilets. A great many things have started here in the big city, why not the basic right to mobile as well?

Written By Joey Camire Photo Via