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writing for godot

We are ruled by an oppressive market, not necessarily an oppressive state. (David Korten)

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Friday, 07 February 2020 16:38

Human rights: Food for opposing an evil thought  ‘HR to keep us afloat’


Human Rights Reader 515


-Markets are interested in inequality; it makes people yearn to become consumers.


1. Historically, with time, the exploitative process of colonization changed its face and did not need brutal force anymore, because the market, and only the market, became and has become the all-powerful jailer. (Ernest Pepín)


2. A quick arbitrary sample:

  • Take exploitation: When the currency is devalued to boost the export market, the rate of exploitation must be increased or enterprises will foil. Go and figure out the effects of this on human rights (HR)… (Ashok Mitra)
  • Take free trade agreements: What at first may have seemed an appealing trade-off can and has turned into an irreversible sell-out. The international trade dice has become stacked against the South. The North has easily gained twice what it has provided in external funding (alias development aid).
  • Take market prices: They simply do not represent or match social prices. Market prices not only have hidden social and HR costs, but also too often irreversible environmental costs.
  • Take scarcities in the market: Markets also create not only all sorts of artificial consumer needs, but also artificial scarcities, scarcities that we are all tacitly accepting without asking why.
  • Take inequality: Add to all the above the skewed ability-to-pay of vast sectors of the population. I like a quote I heard somewhere: “Whoever said money is the root of all evils must have had a job”.


3. In short, state and market serve the same lords, the same interests. Neither the state nor the market can today revert hunger and end with misery given the fact that they are prisoners of ‘interested parties’. The solution thus is to change the direction of the market and the state, i.e., democratize both(!) so that the state is genuinely public (and centered on HR!) and not a mere subsidiary of the private sector. (Herbert de Souza)


The root of all evils


-Neoliberalism divides the world into winners and losers.


4. As is well known, neoliberalism is the more anti-social version of global capitalism, because it is strictly linked to the interests of financial capitalism. Neoliberalism does not recognize another liberty than economic liberty and this is why it easily sacrifices all other liberties. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos) Moreover, now, when the financial capitalist system based on speculation reigns, wealth creation based on real production has trickled to a minimum. (Sergio Rodriguez G.)


5. But the economic does not exist without the social and the HR. Herbert de Souza famously said: “When workers enter the factory, they are ‘economic factors’; when they leave, they are ‘social factors’”. In recent decades, no error in the advice given to the countries rendered poor has rivaled that which placed investments in their industrial apparatus ahead of investment in their human capital. (John Kenneth Galbraith)


6. Also over the past few decades, neoliberalism has outgrown its conservative roots. It has hijacked the public discourse to the extent that it makes us think in neoliberal terms. Market values have invaded every corner of human life, defining how most of us are forced to interpret and live in the world. As said, neoliberalism divides the world into winners and losers. It accomplishes this task through its ideological linchpin: the individualization of all social phenomena. Since the autonomous (and free) individual is the primary focal point for society, social change is supposed to be achieved not through political protest, organizing and/or collective action, but via the free market and via atomized, dispersed actions of individuals. Any effort to change this through collective, militant structures is troublesome to the neoliberal order. It is therefore discouraged by empty propaganda and is repressed. (Ronald Purser)


7. When greed is not regulated/restrained, the dominant values that unsurprisingly prevail are: competition, individual success, wealth as the basis of social relations and markets as the center of the international relations. This leads to mill/billionaires who do not feel accountable to social values, to HR and to the interests of the community. (Roberto Savio).


Has the IMF had a role in the massification of the pathology of misery …and in diseases like mass unemployment?


8. Hey IMF!:

  • Slums are not places, they are people!
  • You are asking for too many sacrifices from the average claim holders’ families and are imposing too few restrictions on those rendered rich!
  • Better late than never, time has come for you to think household entitlements, class entitlements and HR!
  • You are not the development guru you purport to be; stop actually waiting-to-see-what-will-happen to only then explain your mistakes away if they fail --instead of forcefully correcting course; that way HR are falling into oblivion, because you repeatedly say they are none of your business!
  • You are making the countries you make perennial debtors to be like patients hooked-up on life-saving systems! (Susan George) No country ought to pay more than ten percent of export earnings for debt repayment!
  • You hide the fact from us that the Gini Coefficient and the poverty line you peddle to the four winds poorly hide the real tragic consequences of having subordinated the economy to the international financial interests! (Jorge Zabalza)
  • Last, but not least, never forget Robert Kennedy’s now famous speech in which he noted that, in an effort to simplify, “the GDP measures everything, except that which makes life worthwhile”!


9. Yes, the IMF’s traditional operational style has been inflexible, mechanical, technocratic and constructed around a narrow economic agenda. The Structural Adjustment programs of the 80s and 90s were focused on ‘poor countries’ and not on people rendered poor --and not on grassroots communities.*

*: As an apart, be aware: Communities are not homogeneous or conflict free groups of people; they are often divided; they are also stratified along the lines of social class. As a matter of fact, we are all passengers on the Titanic, although some of us are traveling first class… (Susan George)


Is the oppressive market’s public relations strategy backfiring?


-The corporate social responsibility trend, in which every TNC issues flashy reports, is where their public relations are portrayed far better than their real practices. As much as they try, time and time again, the profit-motive shines through when it conflicts with any aspirational social, HR or environmental goal. (Nick Buxton)


10. The mainstream corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach has shown itself to be just a tinkering exercise ultimately dealing with corporate priorities rather than fundamentally rebalancing them. The persistent social-ecological costs of runaway going-for-shareholders-interests-only has finally exposed CSR as incapable of reining in the capitalist crushing force, let alone driving any meaningful transformative change. The profit motive has punctured the earnest belief that markets-properly-regulated can manage complex human-biospheric processes. Corporate social responsibility has run its course. It is high time we focus on altering the root causes deep in the DNA of corporate design.


11. Corporations are constitutionally incapable of harmonizing their ultimate ends with planetary survival. Their conduct will require long-term shifts to even get close to systemic social-ecological well-being. Only through a deep shift in their purpose and structure can corporations be reinvented as forces for long-term social betterment --including HR.


What then is the long-term potential for socially responsible investing?


12. In the best scenario, investors would force corporations to adjust their purpose statements and governance structures. But this remains a naïve ‘greenwish’. Meanwhile, time is running out. A bold transformation strategy commensurate with the magnitude of the crisis awaits realization. Employee-elected worker representation on the boards of large companies…? Transnational control of TNCs…? …Better though: pressure from public interest civil society groups, labor organizations and other organizations to converge under the banner of corporate redesign. Needed: a compelling counter-vision, strategy, and action plan. With the shortcomings of ‘incrementalism’ so evident, it is time to close the CSR chapter and embrace the next chapter of the movement to reshape the corporation. (Allen White)


So, no later than next Monday…


13. In the interdependent ‘jail-world’ we live-in, plagued with scarcity for the many, take action! For instance, on the fact that if some of us consume more, others must of necessity consume less. (Philip Handler) Options do exist and are available… But will behavior changes of many in the North take us to the changes needed? I’d say no. These Readers have emphasized this endlessly.


14. One of the important first tasks I would say is to explode the myth that there has been a redistribution of income or a meaningful ‘trickle down’. In the long run there must be nothing less than a real, substantial redistribution of wealth and a transfer of purchasing power.


15. For anyone interested in the reality rather in the rhetoric of capitalism, globalization and neoliberalism be warned: We are in for a heroic battle of ideas (and deeds) against a whole host of special interests that will require nothing less from us than a second adolescent rebellious crisis if we are to win (at least in the case of all of us adults). All of us individually and collectively must embark in all possible actions to right this choking international political and economic disorder and lingering injustice.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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