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writing for godot


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Saturday, 16 November 2019 15:46

Human rights: Food for a dying thought  ‘Democracies can die democratically’


Human Rights Reader 504

1. Democracy is a constant struggle for compromise --forever a construction site. An end is never in sight as people will always have to renegotiate how they live together. This highlights the necessity of seeking compromise that always takes some back and forth, some give and take. The process is exhausting, sometimes even painful, but requires a forceful people’s stand from a position of power --just keep in mind the early 20th century introduction of the women's right to vote or the civil rights and anti apartheid movements --they sure were more than worth fighting for. (Deutsche Welle)


The danger (problem?) is that democracies die democratically (Boaventura de Souza Santos)


-Unless we realize that our economies are run by unelected and unaccountable pseudo-technocrats, committing one gross error after another, our democracy will remain a figment of our collective imagination. (Yanis Varoufakis)


2. A choice between two candidates for president every four years corresponds to a flow of info of 0.25 of a bit per year which is hardly enough to guide a complex society. Worse, today’s formal electoral representative democracies are sick democracies. No military coups are necessary any more to kill democracy. (Maria Angelica Illanes)


3. The great convergence of oligarchies the world over has come about precisely to impede the advance of the democratic forces (human rights forces included!). Democracy and human rights (HR) are increasingly (and effectively…) manipulated by fake news, by generous investments in conservative think tanks, in friendly political parties and even in militias that (can) intimidate growing social movements --but everything deviously done within the ‘democratic frame’.


4. ‘Malevolous ignorance’ is the more anti-democratic form of ignorance being pushed; it hides from democracy the true facts. Starting from the 17th century, modern science consolidated itself as possessing the monopoly of rigorous knowledge. Anything that is beyond or outside it is ignorance. This type of ignorance, ‘arrogant ignorance’, represents the ignorance of those who do not know there are other domains of knowledge with different, not always innocent, criteria for rigor. But there is enough power in the elites to massively impose ‘their ignorance’ (false knowledge) as the only truth. Its producers are fully aware that it is produced to block the emergence of true knowledge that could overtake the implanted ignorance. This is the domain of fake news, i.e., the malevolous spreading of ill-intended ignorance. Spurious social networks have a crucial role in disseminating them. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)


5. As an aside: Democracy can be a perfect tool for the legitimation of a dictator. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting ‘in the name of the majority’, against minorities. This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected by their people. (Roberot Savio) …and now Duterte or Bolsonaro?*

*: This ‘process of barbarization’ should not let us forget an old adage: People have the government that they deserve... (R. Savio)


Policy makers generally lag way behind in regulating especially in developing countries (Jomo Sundaram)


-Just as a progressive taxation tends to redistribute wealth, regulations tend to redistribute power. A truly democratic state is one that controls and contains powerful interests on behalf of the powerless. (George Monbiot)


6. So often, policy makers just offer a cocktail revolution spiked with a shot of democracy. (Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things) It often feels like they are firefighters ignoring where the wind is really blowing from. Deep down, this ‘policy inertia’** (pertaining badly needed policies) has four determinants: private sector opposition, ‘independent’ scrutinizing by self-appointed experts, government reluctance to tax and to regulate, and public interest civil society organizations’ (PICSOs) weakness/ apathy/inertia.***

**: In last instance, it is policies that underpin both ‘the system’ and its context --and a context is the consequence of political decisions! (Isabel Alvarez)

***The problem of unorganized claim holders thus is that they are ignored by modern, so-called, democracies. This because, as said, these democracies are held captive not just by money, but by the ideas that money buys. (William Greider)

People must be convinced


7. Claim holders must accept that democracy is not just about voting once every n years, but about fostering equitable representation and continuous popular participation in all areas of governance, including the economy.**** People must not tolerate paternalistic decision-making either, must know their rights and responsibilities and must ensure they are consulted in every matter that affects their lives. (Dato Anwar Fazal) But Beware: Communities are not homogeneous or conflict free groups of people; they are often divided; they are also stratified along the lines of social class.

****: Revolutions melt if there is no palpable economic progress for people. Democracy can wait (even if it seems the norm to follow), but economic welfare cannot. (Fernando Ayala)


8. As long as there is no credible alternative to capitalism --i.e., continuing to tolerate the excesses of sham and illegitimate democracies-- the situation and rights of the workers, of immigrants, of retirees and of all those other rendered poor (including those coming from the middle classes) will not improve significantly. (B. de Souza Santos)


Bottom line


9. Can democracy be destroyed by a couple billionaires? It would more than seem so… The question points towards a classic case of false consciousness, i.e., voters totally duped by the press going into overdrive attacking the redistributive policies of progressive left parties and, on the other side, by billionaires and TNCs pumping millions into ads all over the media and billboards proclaiming “Let’s Make This Country Great Again”  …very depressing. The Left is left gutted and wondering what the hell went wrong. (Fran Baum, David Legge) So, it is then the mass of claim holders that must undergo an apprenticeship in new and higher forms of democracy so as to make HR a way of life for all. (Shula Koenig)


10. In last instance, only a consensus-based direct democracy with commensurate social mobilization (also called practical politics) is a healthy democracy. (Occupy Wall Street Movement …and now Chile)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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-A distinction must be made between nation and state; they are related, but different. Nation is the soul whereas the state is the body. Formal state institutions can only work well where people share an understanding of purpose. But, what comes first nationhood or statehood? The nation state must preserve internal peace, be accountable and transparent in its governance and secure access to justice and social inclusion. As there is a reduced credibility of liberal democracy as a global model, and formal elections do not solve the problem of national ownership of national destiny, it is totally counterproductive when Western experts are called to contribute to drafting new constitutions in countries rendered poor. (Michael von der Schulenburg) your social media marketing partner
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