Food for a thought today, not tomorrow

Human Rights Reader 255

So, let’s stop talking bout our future generations, please. We                          are talking about our own generation. We also have to stop                            talking and rather start yelling. For now, our leaders have                              not yet heard us/cannot yet hear us. We have to wean                                      ourselves of the ‘Scarlett O’hara Syndrome’, i.e., “Today I                              will not think about this; I’ll think about it                            tomorrow”. (Susan George)

1. A capitalist economy has the market at its center, but the opposite is not the case: all depends of the type of market we are talking about; the neoliberal dream of a self-regulated market has become a nightmare with profound human rights (HR) consequences.

2. In the general outlook of the neoliberal dogma, free trade is probably the most venerated virtue, and protectionism the most odious sin –with HR not even appearing in the radar.

3. We are thus living under a profoundly immoral system in which the guilty are rewarded and the innocent are punished; in which benefits are privatized and losses are socialized. Ultimately, protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty is a question of public morale.

4. Under the current system, privatizations have meant transferring, practically without guarantees, the results of the labor of decades of hundreds of thousands of people to that immoral system. How this has resulted in HR violations should, by now, be clear to our readers. (The word ‘privatization’ itself is actually a lie; the act should be called exaction or simply liquidation, or a-give-away).

5. From the top, some look down to average people who have, for too long, been politically powerless (or politically incompetent, as these some say); this, primarily because potential claim holders have not yet started to actively claim their rights; this, unfortunately, goes hand in hand with the privileges and carte blanche tacitly given by the same politically powerless to the exploitative high finances sector’s interests.

6. Deceivingly, the attitude from the top is to keep real political power invisible so that HR violations, in many ways convenient to the elite, can continue unchallenged.

7. This being the case, in our day and age, the most we can expect from elites is pious declarations of worry about the poor; but, even if pious, the same are never expressed in HR terms! (Making all this even worse, the norms rich people set for poor people are typical cases of ‘do what I tell you to do and not what I myself do’).

8. If this is not bad enough, we keep studying these phenomena deeply affecting poor people; but who is studying the rich?? There simply is a dearth of research on those who hold the reins of power.* It should rightfully make us uneasy not to know the deep mechanisms that tense the springs of power!

*: By the way, I am sure the reader is part of the 10% of those who have at least 1000 times the wealth of those at the lowest quintile of income in Africa… But most of you do not have the power!

9. What the above hides is that we still do not actively seek out those who really take the decisions that affect so many lives and are in a position to manipulate the rules at their leisure, i.e., the duty bearers at multiple levels –thus totally ignoring capacity analysis.

10. We should thus not be asking ourselves: What have we done wrong?  But: Who has done this to us? No surprise: too few seem to be asking such a question.

In case you have not realized it yet, there still is much more to be lost!

11. Our HR movement will either win together or fail acting separately. Failure is unthinkable –too much is at stake. We have to choose victory; we have to chose each other.  The great number of existing, only apparently isolated, initiatives can and must, over time, lead to a critical mass in our movement for HR.

12. Our proposals for finally implementing the HR-based framework will become reality only if popular forces begin forging alliances with clear HR objectives that have the outlook of attaining real political weight.

13. We have the people, we have the ideas; what we lack is the sufficient confidence in ourselves rooted in a widespread collective consciousness still to be attained; hence the importance of massive human rights learning.

14. An array of social movements have begun reaping successes by working democratically and establishing alliances with people from different constituencies. These different groups may have differences, but have very much more in common. We, therefore, have to find out where such coincidence of aims or areas-of-shared-interest are as we progressively introduce to and share the HR principles with them.

15. We will live under capitalism for a while still; we better accept this fact. What this means is that, in HR work, we have to persistently continue confronting governments and the prevailing economic system.

16. Chaos theory tells us that each added bit of injustice, at some critical unforeseen moment, can and will lead to social explosions. So we better, late than never, embark on a proactive, conscious effort to aim at more egalitarian and inclusive societies with more and better public services, more social protection, and more democratic participation of peasants, workers and consumers: No small challenge, but the HR-based framework has the best outlook to progressively get there.

17. Be forewarned that it is difficult to demonstrate that there are advances though; many of our victories are elusive, partial and sometimes short-lived.

18. The bottom line challenge is: Can we confront the many powerful castes that want only one thing: everything!?

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City


Primarily taken from Susan George, Sus Crisis, Nuestras Soluciones, Icaria Editorial, Intermon Oxfam, Barcelona, 2010, 267 pp. (Leur Crisis Nos Solutions, Editions Albin Michel SA, Paris, 2010, 365 pp / Whose Crisis, Whose Future? Towards a Greener, Fairer, Richer World, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2010, 307 pp.). Available from

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  1. 1joachim

    This is the shortest and best analysis of the current political consciousness driving the protest (not only) in Maghreb countries I have read outside “Indignez Vous!” by the French philosopher Hessel.
    Let us also stop talking about concepts like “Left” and “Right” as if they were some kind of football teams debates.
    What is true is, that the world’s people are divided in ‘SUBJECTS’ and ‘OBJECTS’.
    The current epoque is a time of TRAINING or in old Greek “ASKESIS”. It is now necessary to adopt an attitude of constant training to be on top of PASSIONS, HABITS and UNCLEAR IDEAS.
    This will be the process today, how to move from a PASSIVE” individual to an “ACTIVE” one.
    This implies also, that we live in a TWO CLASS system, as Claudio has implied.
    ATHROPOTECHNIK is a key concept to be fully understood as ontologic reality.
    This lies at the center of defining modern revolutionary man and will finally decide, whether there arises a NEW definition of HR ( which, I think, is timely and necessary).

  2. 2Mohammad

    Dear Claudio,

    I love what you believe and write. Tunesia is a good example of getting together with some common aims. I hope that they collectively continue to keep unity with common aims ,and small differences do not divide them and deviate them from the main direction i.e Democracy, full social justice and attaiment of human rigts for every one and not for few. Hug Mohammad.

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