PEOPLE TOO OFTEN LOWER THEIR GAZE AND SUBMIT TO THE OVERWHELMING POWER OF THOSE WHO GOVERN US.

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Human rights: Food for a thought on mediocrity

 

Human Rights Reader 432

 

In reality, if people get closer and look those who govern us in the eye they will often be astonished by their mediocrity. (Voltaire)

 

It is known for economists and politicians to make inaccurate/unrealistic predictions

 

  1. The empirical analyses economists embark-on are inherently backward looking.* I ask: Is it possible that a forward-looking approach could give a more optimistic view of the future? Economic historians do tell us that the enhancement of ‘social capabilities’ is a key determinant of societies’ success or failure. Social capability is thought to be the capacity to reform institutions and policies –and attaining the capacity to reform institutions and policies is a human rights (HR) and a political challenge requiring, among other, tackling discrimination, embarking in large social transfers, in taxation reforms and in market regulation, as well as in employment creation and working towards social protection being considered seriously beyond lip service. Significant structural reforms are thus required. Will they be forthcoming? That is the question.** (Nicholas Crafts) I am afraid no, unless…

*: Unfortunately, economists inability to communicate their analyses and predictions to the general public in ways that are understandable and applicable to people’s lives is a key political problem. (Kristin Forbes)

**: Just keep in mind that public sector transfers for pensions, health care and long-term care will be unsustainable unless a) progressive taxes are raised, b) benefits are reduced, or c) both: This is the via crucis (way of sorrows) of the politicians. (Ronald Lee)

 

Canadian political scientist Harold Lasswell defines politics as Who Gets What, When and How

 

  1. Given that purportedly without political parties there is no democracy (or is this rather what those who deal with ‘the things public’ want us to believe…?), one does not have to be a genius to figure out that political parties are not necessarily part of the solution, but often are part of the problem. The French philosopher Simone Weil tells us that the revolutionary temperament leads revolutionary parties to look at the totality of change. The petti-bourgeois temperament looks at slow, continuous, limitless progress; the fraud in the latter is so evident that some illuminati came up with the concept of a participatory democracy that purportedly leads to ‘empower the people’.

 

  1. Be conscious: The Anglicism ‘empower’ in reality stands for a top-down ‘authorization of representation (as in giving a power of attorney). From this perspective, claiming that the people are empowered, in reality too often means that someone has given the people a very limited authorization to participate –a concept diametrically opposed to the legitimate and sovereign power that resides in the people without anybody granting it to them (…as well as diametrically opposed to the HR-based approach).

 

  1. As regards the above participatory democracy, the same is, again, too often a fraud. Just consider elections –the favorite political method pushed by the oligarchy for centuries… Our ability to withdraw our confidence (and our vote) from professional politicians has always been touted to be the warranty of the democratic character of our public (democratic?) institutions. But sometimes, you have to wait four years or more till the next election –even in the face of patent crises…*** (Louis Casado)

***: Mind you, etymologically speaking, the word crisis does not have a negative connotation. Crisis is the moment when routine-stops-serving-us-as-a-guide so that we need to opt for a new roadmap and discard the old one.

 

Young People: You didn’t vote, and now you protest?

 

  1. Immediately after the vote on Brexit, thousands of young people marched in the streets of England to show their disagreement over the choice to leave Europe. But polls indicated that had they voted en masse (only 37 percent voted), the result of the referendum would have been the opposite. What is a real cause of concern for democracy, as an institution based on the waning concept of popular participation, is that young people are not at all apolitical. In fact, they are very aware of priorities like HR, climate change, gender equality, social justice, common goods, and other concepts, much more than the older generation. They feel much more connected to the causes of humanity, have fewer racial biases, believe more in international institutions, and are more interested in international affairs —but they stay away from the poles. There is a general consensus among analysts that the damages of globalization and the discrediting of political parties are the major causes for the decline in participation. Bottom line here: If young people would vote, they could change the results. (Roberto Savio) Not being facetious, is it that the young tend to know what they do not want earlier than what they want? (Albino Gomez)

 

There is a worrisome (dangerous?) fashion already entrenched among us: centrism (L. Casado, Frederic Lordon)

 

  1. There is no longer a clear political left –and the right is fuzzy or extreme. There is a center-left and a center-right, yes, a clever positioning that allows either to co-govern with the other satisfying the interests of the powerful. Note that the center has sort of an ideology that, at best, generates confusion given the fact that those who call themselves centrists say they reject all ideologies; they prefer to call their ideology pragmatism and use it as a panacea that actually too often leads to inaction buried, as it is, in the paradise of free markets and the negation of conflict.

 

  1. This negation of conflict results from assuming that the interests of the powerful are also those of everybody. The centrist utopia is based on some kind of reconciliation and political peace that makes no sense. The language used is insipid, polished and lubricated by the agencies that handle the political marketing of centrism. Centrists typically only leave open the avenues of accommodation that are bearable to them.

 

Unfortunately, democracy is transformed into an illusion when some interpret ‘peace of mind’ as the possibility to forget confrontation

 

  1. Centrism has made this nonsensical no-conflict assumption the center of its political creed. It imposes laws that ultimately express disdain for HR and domination by the strong without even attempting to understand the structural mechanisms at play. But as you throw them out by the window, problems come back to haunt you. The list of conflicts through which our societies are going through is never ending.

 

  1. A strong dose of cynicism is needed to pretend that a politics of accommodation resolves the hidden mass of contradictions. Under these circumstances, how can minimum consensus be reached? Consensus around what? Around the interests of the powerful? Around the interests of those who expropriate the wealth generated by the efforts of the many? This is all ambiguous, devoid of a vision, of a program or of a clear direction –with a strategy limited to fostering ‘fair market competition’ when the whole institutionality of the system is rigged.

 

The tenets of centrism infiltrate all spaces

 

  1. Centrist elites have the press and other media in their pocket so they can effectively manipulate public opinion so that the public never really understands the true purpose of the system they live under. The sorry thing is that the centrist position can garner the support and help of the otherwise progressive social forces that pursue peace and stability.

 

  1. The practitioners of centrism should be reminded that the moment always comes when one has to come back to the harsh realities of a world in conflict that looks the other way about myriad violations of HR. “We are all brothers, part of humanity, and there is no conflict” is, after all, a mirage. The program of the centrist onslaught is just that: “Do not do anything that can lead to controversy, violence; be reasonable, moderate, only ask that which we can give up without losing our position of power”. A sad situation we are in…

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

www.claudioschuftan.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

The thief violates a law; corruption violates all laws. The murderer takes a life; the corrupt takes-in all of society. (Theodor Roosevelt)

 

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