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Human rights: Food for a dispassionately critical thought


Human Rights Reader 430


The end justifies the means when something justifies the end (Joseph Stalin)


  1. In case you have not noticed it, consensus positions are pushed by the powerful to benefit the powerful. Since claim holders are kept out of consensus building processes, opposition and grand standing in staged protests has become a banality since to govern has ultimately become a way of cutting business deals at any cost. (Arturo Alejandro Muñoz) Therefore, do note that resistance is something very different from opposition… (William Burroughs) We need more of the former.


Rulers vs intellectuals


  1. Growing numbers of us think that rulers lose their right to govern, indeed even to be in politics, if they breach the fundamental ethics, principles and standards of human rights. Given that this is so prevalent, an intelligent though not-yet-convinced ruler would be one who would be wise enough to surround her/himself with people more versed in human rights (HR) she or he is.* (Albino Gomez)

*: I am reminded here of an old Chinese proverb that says that those who are closely involved can be blind while bystanders can see clearly.


  1. Facts are powerful. This is why autocratic rulers make such an effort to suppress inconvenient truths. (Kenneth Roth) By now we know that, too often, the opposite of a lie is not the truth, but another lie. (A. Gomez) And, yes, never forget: Patriotism is the last refuge grabbed by many of these autocratic rulers.


  1. Populist rulers are a special breed. (Some come to mind to you…?)
  • They claim to know what people want.
  • They are not interested in nuanced debate.
  • They read any criticism of themselves as an attack on ‘the people’.
  • Only they know what the nation wants and, accordingly, only they can govern it properly.
  • Claiming that anyone who opposes them is thwarting their wonderful intentions, they keep hounding opponents; they need scapegoats.
  • They are prone to changing laws, regulations and constitutional clauses to perpetuate their power.
  • They limit media freedom, suppress civil society activism and monopolize their grip on state institutions.
  • They keep casting themselves as representatives of the ‘silent majority’.
  • They promote technocratic ideas according to which there are no alternatives to the market-driven policies.

The big issue here is whether public interest civil society organizations and the media keep a check on them. The way to resist populism is to insist on pluralism, diversity and broad-based controversial debate. (Jan-Werner Mueller).


  1. A true intellectual produces ideas in any field based on her/his knowledge, but she or he also assumes a compromise in the public space. (Antonio Gramsci) But unfortunately, these days, intellectual/political debates have a very limited horizon and scope and transpire an underlying (subconscious?), conformist resignation. (Mario Vargas Llosa)


  1. There is no choice. Intellectuals have to jump into the political arena and produce/contribute ideas, not repeat slogans; they must question the political imposition of a system that is responsible for the wholesale violation of HR in today’s world. (Emir Sader)


Anti-neoliberal (just) rhetoric only serves to distract us from forcefully denouncing policy failure (Henning Melber)


  1. The language used by the left does no longer ‘bite’; it does not move masses –even if, at some time, it had merit. Class struggle exists, neoliberalism exists, domination and exploitation exist, violence against labor exists, excessive wealth accumulation in the hands of a handful of privileged families is not an anecdote. Nevertheless, for reasons worth examining, that phraseology does no longer have any effect, among other, because the left keeps repeating these poorly understood and explained concepts as a parrot; it has literally fallen into the trap of allowing those who dominate –the powerful– to impose this language in a distorted, washed-down version. (Louis Casado) Something to worry here.


  1. Let us not forget that, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, there was an attempt to throw ideologies by the wayside. Politics became mere administrative competition, devoid of vision and values. Corruption increased, citizens stopped participating, political parties became self-referential, politicians turned into a professional caste and elite global finance became isolated in fiscal paradises. (Roberto Savio)


Bottom line


  1. Never mind ‘the left’. Current HR problems are of such magnitude that many think that we are beyond resolving them; they are deepening. But let us be clear: Either we resolve them ourselves or they will not get resolved. The progressive solutions are not going to come from outside not even from our best allies or our best friends, because those solutions we will not own. (Mario Vargas Llosa)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City





-‘Correct thinking’ often is coward thinking, i.e., a way of always being at the extreme center (Alan Berg) and a way to hide what one really thinks or believes-in. (Vladimir Volkoff)

-He who does not want to think is a fanatic; he who cannot think is an idiot; he who does not dare to think is a coward. (Francis Bacon) The problem we have in the world is that the stupid and the fanatics are always sure of themselves, as opposed to the wise who are full of doubts. (Bertrand Russell)

-Pope Leon XIII in his Encyclic Rerum Novarum promoted the creation of labor unions, set the bases for social doctrine of the church and introduced the concept of social justice. [Rerum novarum (from its first two words, Latin for “of revolutionary change”), or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, is the encyclical issued in 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and bishops that addressed the condition of the working classes. It discussed the relationships and mutual duties between labor and capital, as well as government and its citizens. Of primary concern was the need for some amelioration of “The misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.” ]. (Wikipedia)


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