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writing for godot

In politics, everything boils down to knowing who wields power with what purpose and in the benefit of whom. (Louis Casado)

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Saturday, 18 July 2020 15:57

Human rights: Food for opposing a dominant thought  ‘HR and the political status-quo’


Human Rights Reader 536


In the class from which most of us come from, overriding emphasis is placed on preserving the status-quo

-If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize. (Voltaire)


1. The juridical web that allows and regulates life in societies often has imprinted in its genes the particular interests of a certain social class that impose them as if they were the interests of society as a whole --conveniently hiding their own domination intentions. Therefore, constitutions --as also other laws, policies and regulations-- are nothing but the expression of the correlation of force between the dominant group and the immense majority of citizens. A constitution can thus be seen as an enabler of an unfair politico-economic model.* Changing the constitution is thus not a juridical, but a political issue. (L. Casado)

*: Political economy is the branch of economics that studies the defense of the economic interests of individuals, families, countries, corporations, unions, social classes… as a result of their respective economic activities.


2. In human rights (HR) work, we cannot thus look at political actors in the development scene without looking at their history and their cultural markers of class and education. These markers are not invisible, if we look for them. Their identity is always embedded in a social, moral and political framework. It is therefore boloney, as some say, that political involvement, in the final instance, is always humanizing.** (Also boloney is what Argentinian caudillo Juan Domingo Perón said: “Politics is actually international politics; the rest is only administration…”)

**: Here, I cannot but think about corruption. It is so true: “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys; if you pay truffles you get pigs”.


3. A great majority of people, forced to tolerate the vast gap between a democratic ideal and an unfair undemocratic reality, have long stored-up deep feelings of injury, oppression, inferiority, degradation, inadequacy, and even envy; these stem from defeats or humiliation suffered at the hands of those of higher status than themselves in a class hierarchy rigid for too long. (Pankaj Mishra)

Our current day drama centers around the fact that while domination is exerted in an articulated way, the forces of resistance are fragmented (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)


4. How many anti-capitalist movements and organizations were not, at some point racist and sexist? And how many anti-racist movements and organizations were not, at some point, sexist and pro-capitalist? And how many feminist movements and organizations were not, at some point, racist and pro-capitalist? As long as this asymmetry between domination and fragmented resistance is maintained, it will not be possible to leave the capitalist, colonialist and patriarchal hell in which we find ourselves.


5. In precisely this asymmetry are to be found the bases that explain the malaise that the groups above feel when criticized. The central question will thus be to assess if those critiques have contributed or not to even further deepen the fragmentation*** of all the resistance efforts mounted against capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy. It is not about silencing these well-founded critiques, but rather to find the angle to them that does not give the forces of the Right, at national and at global level, more reasons and weapons to increase their aggressive attack on these groups. (B. de Sousa S.)

***: I recognize that people act as a dismembered body. We are constructed as fragmented subjects. But there is a dialectical relationship between the personal and the political that we have to build on. Perceived anarchy due to fragmentation is not about chaos, but about establishing an order (without) exerting overt power (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1809-1865) [Parenthesis mine].


The problem with political jokes is they get elected


-“I do not know if planet earth is flat, but quite tilted to the right it is; and you speak to me of democracy? Does voting make any sense?”. (Juan Carlos Monedero)


6. While people vote taking into account their wallet, it is time to point out that, today, it is not just the economy that influences them: “It is inequality, stupid”, it is the violation of HR, climate change, the fires in the Amazon and elsewhere, excessive profits, the concentration of wealth in less and less hands, the lack of decent jobs and a long list of demands that keeps us in this growing global disorder and that will be what will hopefully mobilize young people to vote. (Fernando Ayala)


7. I am left with a few questions here


  • Are we witnessing a slow re-politization of the global debate?
  • Are sufficient numbers of claim holders breaking the silence of powerlessness?
  • Does the economic and intellectual liberation of claim holders lead to their political liberation/enlightment/organization/mobilization?
  • Why are politically conscious scholars not taken seriously? (They are polite and respectable; they carry on some debate in the proper journals and still they are brushed aside…).
  • Does anything of substance change because of these scholars? (Development problems are decidedly neither problems for competent yet ‘apolitical’ economist-scholars, nor are they a priority problem for the full array of financial journals we find around that claim to have the answers with a lot of econometrics and bogus models).


8. I confess I do not have straight answers…


The human rights struggle is about turning human suffering into history rather than destiny (Daniel Arap Moi)


-Our approach must be political; we are not to produce encyclopedias, but manifestos; incentives to reflect yes, but also act!

-If governments choose policies that ignore HR, embarrass them!


9. Will it be in Parliament (where one thing and another are said) or will it be in the street (i.e., the real world), where we will find the essential truths? Who defines the stage where the game against neoliberalism with its HR violations will be played?**** It will most probably neither be the TV- or internet-philosophers nor us, the aspiring revolutionaries (constrained to play in only limited spaces) who will define the stage. The stage will be set by a mass movement grown from the popular sectors of society. It is that group that will renege a trumped ‘electoralism’ and will struggle in the squares and the streets, peacefully but with much determination and firmness like the feminist and indigenous movements are progressively doing now. Injustice and violence always comes from above. (Jorge Zalbalza)

****: We need to recognize that there are times when national sovereignty claimed by totalitarian regimes is actually protecting/hiding grave suffering and HR violations. (adapted from John Kenneth Galbraith)


10. We are thus called to fight same-wars-in-different-fronts. Popular (claim holders’) pressure for social transformation is urgent (if not too late). World elites have already joined forces to form a global front. (David Sanders and David Werner) No wonder that only those that have connections and influence get the resources. In the struggle for limited resources, who has more chances? The more organized, more informed, more powerful and the more dedicated…! Remember this.


11. Bottom line: Seasoned HR workers have defined political and economic objectives. …Do you have such? Just asking… You may just be protecting or condoning what is. “Tell me what you presume to be and I will tell you what you are not”. (Spanish saying) Dedicated HR workers envision what can be… How much slow progress can we all tolerate?


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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Marx has died. But Marx resuscitates annually

-Often, Karl Marx is conceived as a strictly economic thinker. But he was a committed democrat. The political and constitutional opus of Marx is a rich source of ideas. It would be a mistake to understand Marx’s ideas as an action plan to be followed rigidly. His writings do not give enough details to be considered ‘a plan’. Actually, no thinker should be treated as a fixed repository of ‘the truth’. Instead, Marx’s writings are an important resource to fall back-on. He gives citizens the instant power to question their civic representatives, without having to wait for the next election. Marx saw the legislative as something central for democratic politics. For him, the excess power of the executive branch was dangerous; he was weary of the personal nature of presidential power. No doubt, existing congressmen and congresswomen (and many bureaucrats) let a lot to be desired in their politics… He variously accused them of being ‘a cast’, ‘an army of parasites’ and ‘a class of boot leakers’. Nevertheless, his writings do not give us any real hint about how a plan would work to ‘democratize the bureaucracy’. “They cannot simply take control of the already oiled machinery of the state and use that control for their own ends”. It is thus imperative to him to replace the machinery of the state controlled by the dominant classes by a new machinery. The radical economic transformation must go hand-in-hand with a radical political transformation. Disregarding the latter debilitates the former… (Bruno Leipold)

-The use of religion by the right wing has been able to rally the poor. Theologian Juan Josè Tamayo has called politicians-with-bible-in-hand the Christo-neo-fascist alliance. He speaks of an ‘Internationale of Hate’: hate against gender equality, against LGTBs, against abortion, against immigrants. Those who propagate hate defend reinforcement of the patriarchal family, the submission of women, they despise what is not traditional, they mistrust science and statistics, they deny climate change, and they hate Muslims, Jews and blacks. (Roberto Savio)

-Contrast the immediately above with the anonymous character we are all familiar with who: “Being neither a neutral nor a sincere practitioner of morality, is compelled to phrase his ethical dilemmas in liberal and individual rather than in HR terms so he remains in his blessed state of unawareness, i.e., his secular and personal religion always stressing the side of the victim but, somehow, this then gets in the way of truth telling”. (Christopher Hitchens) [Reminds me of the ill-humored face of a man who is always in the right… (Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana)] your social media marketing partner
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