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writing for godot


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Tuesday, 25 June 2019 09:16


-Our human rights (HR) advocacy always involves taking a political stand and this often antagonizes the government. But how much of a dent does this make?


Do we human rights activists lack political capital due to the little institutional and ideological support we muster?


-…and do our strategic enemies know this?


1. Take these extremely interesting reflections of a high level staff of the World Economic Forum in Davos: “We see with great sympathy the mobilization of civil society. Thanks to them, several gaps in the field of medical assistance, museum and art care, and many social problems, are taken care. This has a double positive effect: It reduces the social tensions, and keeps the volunteers busy, and out of the worrisome political engagement.” In other words, civil society activists, especially youth, are seen as hamsters: running all the time, and going nowhere… (Roberto Savio)


2. Like it or not, laws are made in parliament, and outside protests, large as they can be (think of the women’s and youth movements), can be perfectly ignored, at no risk except before impending elections perhaps. The political system today is simply not a free one either. It is manipulated by finance moguls, by corporations, by trade wizards, by armaments dealers and by technological development pushers (e.g., just think how many more people will be made jobless by artificial intelligence than by migrants…). The political system is hardly the representation of citizens, in the old sense.*

*: There are 32.000 lobbyist in the American Congress, and 16.000 in the European Parliament: hardly a symptom of unfettered democracy… (R. Savio)


3. Mark my words: If the system will not hear the voices of women and young people, the gap between political institutions and citizens will increase. And history tells us that voices from the street can be ignored once, twice, many times: but not forever.


4. If the political system ignores the latest mass movements, it will take an unprecedented risk. What will happen will be something that will shape history for the coming decade. If ignored, democracy will be in great peril --or will radically change parameters…To kill idealism is a very heavy responsibility… (R. Savio)


Remember: Politics is (ought to be) the praxis of ethics


5. Essential for us in HR work is to incorporate the ethical concepts of dignity, equality and democracy into our political work. I agree with someone who said that the politics of HR is “a mental floss that prevents moral decay” --and with someone else who said that “politics without ideas stimulates corruption”.** (facetiously redefined as ‘envelopmental development’. (Revista Primera Piedra, Chile)

**: This slogan is not chosen haphazardly or as a joke. It predicts what happens when the traditional Left has allowed itself to be coopted by the capitalist system making a mockery of the ideas of true social change that were its true raison d’etre to begin with. The phenomenon is generalized and, today, the corruptors, the owners of the financial capital, attend ethics classes in ‘for-the-rich-universities’ and many a head of state keep their fortunes in a fiscal paradise and play dumb and/or use their influence to protect corrupt judges. (Primera Piedra) Governments have always been the (not so) silent partners of business. (Adam Smith).



Politics and ideology


-To add to the above, ideology has been defined as: A systemic scheme or coordinated body of ideas about human life and culture.


6. In the context of development (and of HR work), ideology carries the additional connotation of a commitment to action. Therefore, ideology is not simply a body of ideas pointing at goals, but also includes the instruments, strategies and tactics to be used in planning for social, economic, HR and political change (…or, for our opponents, the tactics to keep the status-quo…).***

***: From a historic materialism perspective, ideologies are not defined by personalities or groups and are time-bound. Take fascism: fascism is an exceptional form of the capitalist state with unique characteristics. It came about when bourgeois democracy faced a profound crisis. Fascism is a historical category unique to the inter-world-wars period that will not actually be reproduced equally, because the objective conditions are now different. (Atilio Boron)


The ideology of the Left

-Not being facetious, a proverb says that the Left unites only in front of a firing squad…

-The Left is now at the center, the Center is to the right and the Right is at its very extreme. (Guy Bedos)


7. We will have to agree on what the hell the Left is, given this wave of shiftings to the center and the right. Fortunately, the grassroots struggle to defend democracy is still alive despite this political uncertainty and despite growing repression and terror. Our enemies dwell on diagnosing what is happening to the traditional Left. This, while the grassroots are not necessarily short on concrete proposals, but are short on coordinated actual struggles against neoliberalism --despite having no doubt of who the main enemy is and towards whom they have to aim all their arrows. Excess diagnostics, no; (paralysis in analysis, no); actionable plans for concerted tasks, yes. (Sergio Rodriguez G.)

8. Questions we simply have to ask are: Why do we so often see that, in the socialist realm, errors of the capitalist sphere are repeated precisely in the construction of anti-capitalist alternatives? Is the Left really immunized against the games of power? Should we be more critical? Why can a comrade leader of yesterday so easily become a magnate of today? (Marcelo Colusi)

And then there are our bad politicians (not in a facetious mood)


-Ignorance is bliss for many politicians (and bureaucrats…).

-Politicians do not have ideas, they have interests.

-I hate (US?) politicians that operate in ‘an evidence-free zone’. (Steven Nissen) Idiotic mumble by fly-by-night politicians seems to please crowds. (Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim)


9. There are politicians whose public life is like an after-dinner hour with a cigar --easy, pleasant, empty. Why should they then run about making a great noise about issues when they do not really care that much?****

****: It is extraordinary how so many politicians go through their political life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. It may be that it is this very dullness that makes life so supportable to them. (J. Conrad)


10. It takes 50% of the people to get the attention of politicians. It takes only a 10-15% decrease in commerce to get the attention of businessmen AND of politicians. Do we then have to get business leaders concerned about HR to make it more feasible to influence bendable politicians running the power structures? (Andrew Young) Hmmm… Rewording the above: Business has always been the silent partner of politicians. (misquoting Adam Smith)


11. Corollary: Many among us ignore for what and for whom we are working simply limiting ourselves to comply with a daily routine. But those who give the orders (and their masters) do know the whats and the whoms!


Do we need a conflict to awaken people?


-People need to take their fates in their hands, and that, most governments do not like and will violently oppose.


12. So far, we have lose networks working on HR, not militant networks where the relationship is based on a shared vision and the political outlook needed to achieve a threshold of creative anger impelling us to act.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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Postscript Marginalia

-Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. (Albert Einstein)

-Those who believe in neutrality, frequently become prey of the agendas of other social forces. There is no neutral territory in combatting poverty and oppression. (Firoze Manji)

-The truth is not arrived-at in beauty parlors or golf courses. (Marcos Aguinis)

-The word ‘radical’ comes from the Latin ‘radicalis’ that means ‘relative to the root’. So, when we propose a radical solution, we are doing nothing but to suggest attacking the problem at its roots. Unfortunately, we too often tend to go by the branches ‘metaphoricizing’ everything… I say this clearly and radically, not going by the branches… (Louis Casado) your social media marketing partner
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