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AFRO-NETS> Food to struggle with your thoughts

Food to struggle with your thoughts
Human Rights Reader 51
The check has come back 
from the Bank of Justice 
marked 'insufficient funds'. 
(M. L. King)
1. If the title is right, it behoves us to closely examine the proc-
esses that lead to widespread Human Rights violations. We need to 
identify the myths behind those processes and to show how the contra-
dictions on which they rest are generated by political needs of the 
more powerful at a given moment in history. (Z. Pathak)
2. Myths are seductive, but they crowd out facts; and when the facts 
make a compelling case for action, myths must be buried. Myths make 
us complacent and stifle our imperative for action. (L. Haddad)
3. This examination of the determinants of myths calls for creating a 
ace --strictly based on facts-- from which we can speak out as crit-
ics, to counter the proponents of status-quo who seek to homogenize 
the differences of religion, class, ethnic group and gender, that we 
know lead to widespread violations of the rights of large groups of 
people discriminated on these bases.
4. If we accept the above, we simply cannot allow the Human Rights 
discourse to remain a superficial exercise confined to seminar rooms; 
this defeats the pedagogical objective of connecting our Human Rights 
concerns to the real world. So, the real world is to be our seminar 
room. Our function is to act as listeners, as well as teachers; and 
for that, we need patience and passion to turn the passivity of many 
into committed involvement. The same applies to our youth; our youth 
may be schooled, but it is not educated on many things that matter.
5. Ergo, it is not enough to have all the right ideas and attitudes 
and not to have real passion and a rock-hard moral and political cen-
ter. As activists working in different cultures, we have to press for 
the best practices to have Human Rights prevail universally --in the 
realm of all those cultures.
6. In Human Rights, we cannot look at people as empty buckets --
without an education, without a history, without cultural markers of 
the class they belong to. We cannot pretend all these are not there. 
People's identity is clearly inside a social, cultural, moral and po-
litical formation, e.g., people cannot be de-coupled from the politi-
cal to re-couple them with the economic and the social.
7. Active-intelligence rather than simple-good-intentions is neces-
sary. Too often, we see high emphasis being placed on the development 
of technical skills with low emphasis on the development of 'moral-
intelligence'. (M. Allott)
8. Ultimately, it is all about being committed: the modern world has 
no place for innocence. Innocence can and does cause harm; so, every 
single one of us needs a sense of mission --beyond our seeking free-
dom from guilt. Some call this 'optimistic-humanism', i.e., behaving 
as-if-the-world-were-as-kind-as-we-wish-it-to-be. (J. Cassidy)
9. So, we have to be alert. The 'innocent' and the 'uninvolved' re-
main among us, and they are not always quiet and harmless.
10. Writing (e.g., about urgent Human Rights needs) is certainly a 
kind of action! But not of much help if one remains uninvolved, un-
burdened by emotional ties....tinged with the paternalism-of-empire. 
Paternalism is still very much in our midst and creates havoc through 
misinformation. (G. Greene)
11. Our own societies have lost the sense of what we are fighting 
for. We are not trying to patch up the same kind of world that has 
produced the chaos we are in right now. Many come to this understand-
ing grudgingly. To pity is easy, but it is difficult to really care. 
In the class that most of us come from, overriding emphasis is placed 
on complacency --and that is no good.
12. So, to reiterate, the need to struggle is both a principle of Hu-
man Rights and of development work overall; in this work, to be is to 
do. We-are-what- we-do, but (in this day and age) particularly what-
13. The focus must, therefore, be on results, not on dogma. Bottom 
line: It is not the nice guys who bring about social change; nice 
guys look nice, because they are conforming. (Denial ain't just a 
river in Egypt; it is a powerful animal and some stay there most of 
their lives). Rights cannot be theorized in the sense of claims being 
pursued in a vacuum, but rather as a means of a struggle in a con-
crete social and political reality. Rights are not standards granted 
from above, but a standard-bearer around which people have to rally 
to bring about a struggle from below. (I. Shivji)
14. The underlying problem to all this is that people are not organ-
ized; there is no substantial enough struggle from below (yet). The 
poor and marginalized are neglected by modern, so called, democracies 
--because democracies are held captive not just to the power that 
money buys, but also to the ideas that money buys. (W. Greider) Con-
versely, Human Rights are beyond money-metrics...
15. We, therefore, need to foster indigenous Human Rights movements 
of the people themselves --and movements to win the support of the 
people to change direction towards the Human-Rights-cause need in-
digenous leaders; we need to find them and work with them. After a 
while, it will be up to these leaders to merge into national and 
trans-national networks of poor people's organizations, i.e., a 
"Globalization from Below" (Voices of the Poor, World Bank) See .
16. Because all states that ratify Human Rights documents are obliged 
to bring their laws and procedures in line with treaty (covenant) 
obligations, it is important for each of us to know which treaties 
our respective countries have signed and ratified --and use this 
knowledge to put pressure on our respective government to implement 
the rights found in the treaties it has ratified (You can find 
information on this for your country at Thereafter, 
with others, we have to build a response capability to all these 
Human Rights-related documents, global and national. And, if national 
legislation has not followed the ratification of these Covenants, 
pushing such legislation should become a high priority for all of us.
17. Our inability to resolve Human Rights problems at home also 
represents economic costs of great magnitude; ignoring the benefits 
forfeited through our inaction is irresponsible and criminal. (J. von 
Braun) If you think this statement is a bit radical, just ask your-
self: Where are we going to end up if nothing is done?
18. For the needed changes to occur, we have to step out of the bio-
medical and neo-liberal paradigms and become unashamed Human Rights 
activists. This, because the prevailing paradigm allows to manipu-
late, dominate, exploit, expropriate the have-nots whose rights are 
being violated. (I. Illich) Moreover, the prevailing paradigm is pre-
scriptive, targeting-actions-upon- people rather than involving-
19. This is why, as Human Rights activists, we do not condone pro-
crastination. In Human Rights, we need action now; we need reciprocal 
commitments by the local, national and international community. We 
need an international anti-poverty alliance based on Human Rights 
principles, on debt relief, on increases of ODA to 0.7% of GNP, on 
the principles of 20/20, on taxing international financial transac-
tions (Tobin), on fair trade... Given increasing marginalization of 
the now powerless, this might appear to be a quixotic enterprise...
20. We also absolutely need to concentrate on women's rights, because 
men and women experience poverty and violations of Human Rights 
differently. This means we cannot allow gender hierarchies to persist 
in a hollow-commitment-to-Human-Rights.
21. Neither can we be caught off guard in the battle for 'a-market-
share-of-the-public-mind'. We must bypass the biased editorial con-
trol of learned journals, the audiovisual media, the press, the 
internet space; they are as unreliable and biased as a smart adver-
tising. (K. O'Neill) (J. Adamson)
22. In the work we are asking all of you to take-up, we cannot under-
estimate: We are taking on formidable enemies, and we will not have 
succeeded until we ultimately force (and/or replace) policy makers 
and other duty bearers to begin adopting Human Rights-based ap-
proaches to development.
23. In all honesty, we too often are more concerned about being sci-
entifically correct than programmatically effective; even Human 
Rights have been over-studied and under-acted upon. (K. Gautam)
24. I see discussions on Human Rights usually going trough three 
stages: Confusion - Anxiety - Expectations ("what do these Human 
Rights advocates want from me again now?"). Because of this, and to 
relieve these anxieties, our promises will have to live up to the ex-
pectations we create, i.e., our analysis must lead to a praxis.
25. As opposed to the soft and non-binding declarations so many of 
the so-called Global Summits (often also called Summits of the Lowest 
Common Denominator), our Human Rights plans of action must depict 
what is achievable in real political terms and should go for broke to 
implement those actions.
26. When reinforcing the sense of urgency to act, we cannot create a 
dooms scenario, or make people feel guilty. Be optimistic: We shall 
overcome! But warn everybody that things are going to get worse be-
fore they get better...
27. Perhaps with our help, each community could draw up 'entitlement-
cards' that list which entitlements they do have access to and to 
which they do not; that can be a powerful basis to get organized to 
fight for those entitlements they are denied. (M. S. Swaminathan)
28. In the current real world, the rules of free trade override the 
Human Rights discourse: Trade agreements are binding and are en-
forced; Human Rights treaties are often ignored and rely on voluntary 
29. Moreover, as part of the rules permitted by free trade, access to 
the state has become a source and means for the accumulation of pri-
vate wealth --as an end in itself among the ruling class.
30. This --and all other Human Rights Readers-- are not trying to 
load all these new responsibilities on your shoulders and make you 
feel guilty. We are merely trying to get a process going -- with you 
as an active agent. We need an increasing number of people who under-
stand the many worrisome trends depicted in these readers and else-
where and who do-give-a-damn and decide-to-be-counted and do-
something about these trends.
31. You will not -- and are not called to-actually do the needed 
changes. We are asking you to take the responsibility to be a cata-
lyst and a validator of the changes needed to avert further deterio-
ration of the Human Rights situation. Become active in your own envi-
ronment in empowering popular movements and their leaders. That's 
what it is all about.
32. We have been deeply intimidated by the magnitude of the problem 
in front of us. We have imprisoned ourselves within our own skepti-
cism, resignation and cynicism about the inevitability of Human 
Rights violations being a fact of life. (C. Lovelace)
33. There is no reason goodness cannot triumph over evil, so long as 
the angels are as organized as the mafia. (K. Vonnegut)
Claudio Schuftan
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Some of the quotations come from G. Greene, The Quiet American, Text 
and Criticism section, Viking Critical Library, Penguin Books, NY, 
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