This blog is dedicated to the memory of David Weintraub, who took on insidious astroturfers and won.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Human Rights?

I wonder how many people truly reflect on human rights. My orientation to the concept started at a very young age, from physical and verbal bullying in the school playground right through into adulthood. At that time I did not fully comprehend what human rights are. For many of us who have experienced human rights violations in any manner, it can get very personal and cause unnecessary pain in a variety of ways. 

What are human rights? Britannica.com defines them as "rights that belong to an individual or group of individuals as a consequence of being human." From that we can assume that huma‎n rights are everyone`s rights. They can be deemed as basic standards to guide human behaviour towards one another. We are all born free and equal. One very basic human right is the one to life and physical safety. Is this too much to expect in twenty-first century society?

Sadly as we see daily in newspapers and media, on the streets, and with our own personal experiences with human rights violations, this seems the case. I have always asked myself why do the violations persist. What can we do about it?  Do we sit back and let it keep happening? Can we resist in some way or fight back against injustice? Human rights are an issue that never seems to go away. Throughout history it has always been an issue.

As humans, we have a choice to do good or harm to one another. Most of us are law abiding citizens, helping one another through life experiences. Moral values may differ in societies, but the core principles of fundamental human rights should be recognised as inherent to all human beings. These are our lives, our choices.

What happens when things go so wrong? When the vulnerable have their rights taken away from them, what are our responsibilities? The haunting images below support Nietzsche having said, “Man is the cruelist animal.”

  image courtesy of  Food Theft in Sudan

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle  - Edmund Burke

          The atrocities of World War 2 (genocide)
      image courtesy of  holocaustpictures.org

Who cannot be moved by these images? As a humanist it is difficult to understand. To see another suffering, to know that there is true brutality out there still happening now, leads to questioning what can be done. Do we as individuals do nothing? Or can we stand up in some way and declare this will not take place with our consent?

As Steve Biko once said, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” 

Human rights violations usually occur whenever there is conflict between individuals or between groups and societies as a whole. History shows us that. The devastating impact of war, genocide, hunger, famine, hatred, torture, political imprisonment, repression and discrimination are examples of extreme violations of human rights.

Has anything changed since the barbarism acted against humanity during World War 2? The Declaration of Human Rights was established in 1948 as an outcry and a statement that, "This will never happen again."  It is freely available to view at this link.

Here's a video pertaining to the Declaration of Human Rights:

The declaration was set up in an effort to achieve universal application of human rights.  Since then it has been developed and put into law, binding rights and obligations across the world.

Unfortunately, it appears human rights abuses can and will continue as long as human beings exist. Nonetheless, having this law is certainly better than it not existing. In order to have a greater impact in preventing injustice whether small or on a large scale, we must try to understand the reasons why these things happen and what can be done to put a halt to such violations occurring worldwide in real time.

While it's easy to give in to feelings of cynicism and powerlessness, I believe we must never stop the questioning of anything that appears to go against the inalienable rights of humans. We who have a voice must speak up for those who do not. We cannot do everything as an individual, but we can at least play a small role in some way to help one another, to be truly human.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fascism or Freedom? (conclusion to mailed in series on the roots of fascism with footnotes & a bibliography)

Imho, the best part of this series was when I covered the individual thinkers. I have edited the remainder and am only posting this to give some sense of closure. It wasn't the greatest paper ever written, but I stand by it to this day.

     Work needs to be reconstituted so that it is no longer the result of alienation. As it is, work is a dullifying duty which is at odds with the joy of life. It places greater importance on the state  and its conception of law and order than on gratifying work and self-regulating work-democracy. Under the oppressive reality principle, work has become compulsive labour in which workers have no final interest in the products produced for fat cat owners. In short, work is dehumanising because it has no meaning. What is at stake is our definition of sexuality. Is it to be the outcome of alienated labour or is it to be the consequence of self-realisation? If work is conditional on the suppression of pleasure and Eros, then sadistic and masochistic core-characters will again germinate.

     Herbert Marcuse understood the repressive nature of the reality principle. He also thought there could be a non-repressive reality principle. In Eros and Civilisation in regards to this topic he stated,

          These constaints enforced by the need for sustaining a large quantum
          of energy and time for non-gratifying labour, perpetuate the desexualization
          of the body in order to make the organism into a subject/object of
          socially useful performances. Conversely, if the work day and energy
          are reduced to a minimum without a corresponding manipulation of the
          free time, the ground for these constraints would be undermined. Libido
          would be released and would overflow the institutionalized limits within
          which it is kept by the reality principle. (17)

     We are living in a cultural wasteland, one in which consumption and exploitation have been instutionalised and validated by authoritarians. We consume more than ever before without a concrete relatedness to how history truly unfolds. Since every act of consumption should be a positive humane action, people need to stop in their tracks and question everything, because the act of consumption has become too much an end in itself. The time has come for a decision.

     If people are to start shaping the world in favor of Eros over Thanatos, they must first start right now! ... to make decisions - whether on the environment, alienating education, fascist South Africa, or whatever. We are given two choices when the umbilical cord is snapped. We can either continue down the road to annihilation or we can march with exhilaration towards self-realisation. As we become more cognizant of our own individuality, the burden of reality can be very strong. This is so especially because so much destructiveness is present. However, we must remain positive and keep pushing for an ideal future, of how it ought to be. Most importantly we need to understand the fundamental choice that confronts us all. As Erich Fromm wrote in Escape From Freedom,

          That man, the more he gains freedom of emerging from the original
          oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an `individual',
          has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity
          of love and productive work, or else to seek a kind of security by such
          ties with the world as destroy his freedom and the integrity of his
          individual self. (18)

     Our choice is between having a core-self or becoming a sadist or automaton. Our choice is between Eros and Thanatos, pleasure versus reality, work and love over alienated labour and hatred, and self-regulation as opposed to biological frustration and outright fascism. The choice is ours.


 Fromm, Fear of Freedom, p. 108
 Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 70
 Ibid., p. 15
 Miller, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, p. 18
 Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, p. 108
 Ibid., p. 112
 Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, p. 268
 Ibid., p. 332
 Ibid., p. 325
 Ibid., pp. 398-399
 Ibid., p. 398
 Ibid., p. 397
 Ibid., p. 436
 Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 63
 Ibid., p. 322
 Ibid., benediction
 Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, pp. 162-32
 Op Cit., The Dialectical Imagination, p. 99

Freire, Paulo
* A Pedagogy for Liberation Dialogues on Transforming Education
   Houndmills, 1987
   Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
* Pedagogy of the Oppressed
   Harmondsworth, 1972
* The Politics of Education: Culture Power and Liberation
   London, 1985
   Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Fromm, Erich
* The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
   London, 1973
   Jonathan Cape Ltd.
   pp. 268-332, 369-438
* Fear of Freedom
   London, 1942
   Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
* The Sane Society
   London, 1956
   Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.

Jay, Martin
* The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School
   and the Institute of Social Research (1923-1950)
   London, 1973
   Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.
   pp. 86-172

Marcuse, Herbert
* Eros and Civilization
   U.S.A., 1955
   Beacon Press
* One Dimensional Man: The Ideology of Industrial Society
   London, 1964
   Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.

Miller, Alice
* For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing
   and the Roots of Violence
   London, 1983
   Virago Press
   pp. 142-197
* Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child
   London, 1985
   Pluto Press

Reich, Wilhelm
* Listen, Little Man!
   Harmondsworth, 1948
* The Mass Psychology of Fascism
   Harmondsworth, 1975

Trotsky, Leon
* Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence
   London, 1947
   Willis & Carter Ltd.
   pp. 1-23, 335-434

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fascism or Freedom? (part 4)

     Joseph Stalin was a son of the peasantry. His mother Ekaterina led a religious life full of drudgery as a washerwoman. Vissarion, his father, was a drunkard who worked as a shoecutter. As such, Joseph could not afford what the sons of wealthier parents could. Like Hitler, he was faulted at school by authority figures, in this case at a seminary. Consequently, his hatred grew for the school administration, the affluent middle class, and everything that was feudal.

     After the revolution occurred, a state apparatus formed devoting itself to proletarian liberation. Yet, the high ideals of Marx and Trotsky were quickly subverted. Where Lenin erred was in his faith that after an interim period of a dictatorship of the masses, there would be a peaceful change to self-regulating work-democracy. However, in place of the dictatorship of the proletariat was borne a state-capitalistic machine that Stalin grew out of. Stalin betrayed the original high ideals of the revolution and kept the machine for his own sadistic endeavours. He surely kept some of the old Bolsheviks around as propaganda. Stalin, however, was the classic authoritarian character who gains pleasure from hurting others. This was evident in how he would sadistically tell victims they were safe, only to then have them killed. Joseph Stalin was also known to have had the family members of foes jailed and tortured.

     Much attention has been given to the authoritarian character. Now we shall shift to introspection of mass culture and the automation of alienated labour. It is important to understand how masses end up clinging to authority figures such as dictators. By not seeing weakness as virtue, massive numbers of individuals can easily become circumscribed into the infernal aura of fascistic nationalism. From The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich made many observations on the relationship of the automaton to the fuhrer.

          The reactionary lower middle-class man perceives himself in the
          fuhrer, in the authoritarian state. On the basis of this identification
          he feels himself to be a defender of the `national heritage', of the
          `nation', which does not prevent him, likewise on the basis of this
          identification, from simultaneously despising `the masses' and con-
          fronting them as an individual. The wretchedness of his material
          and sexual situation is so overshadowed by the exalting idea of
          belonging to a master race and having a brilliant fuhrer that, as time
          goes on, he ceases to realize how completely he has sunk to a
          position of insignificant blind allegiance. (14)

     In fascistic societies there is a cleavage between the actual economic situation and ideology. The economic crisis in Germany, for example, should have led to a revival in revolutionary thinking among the masses. However, as the economy had pushed intellectual thinking to the left, fascist exploitation manipulated large masses of the population toward reactionary vigour. Reich acknowledges this form of mass deception has some of its roots in the mysticism of family, church, and nation. Reich's mission was to uncover the irrational, social psychological structure of the masses which allows for tyrants to take such absolute power.

     According to Wilhelm Reich, a crucial social factor in the formation of fascism is sexual repression and how it suppresses people in such a way as to make them act in ways contrary to their real interests. Here are Reich's summary of the facts:

          * Mankind is biologically sick.

          * Politics is the irrational social expression of this sickness.

          * Whatever takes place in social life is actively or passively,
             voluntarily or involuntary, determined by the structure of
             masses of people.

          * This character structure is formed by socioeconomic processes
             and it anchors and perpetuates these processes. Man's biopathic
             character structure is, as it were, the fossilization of the
             authoritarian process of history. It is the biophysical reproduction
             of mass suppression.

          * The human structure is animated by the contradiction between
             an intense longing for and fear of freedom.

          * The fear of freedom of masses of people is expressed in the
             biophysical rigidity of the organism and the inflexibility of
             the character.

          * Every form of social leadership is merely the social expression
             of the one or the other side of this structure of masses of people.

          * It is not a question of the Versailles Peace Treaty, the oil wells of
             Baku or two to three hundred years of capitalism, but a question
             of four to six thousand years of authoritarian mechanistic civil-
             isation, which has ruined man's biological functioning.

          * Interest in money and power is a substitute for unfulfilled
             happiness in love, supported by the biological rigidity of
             masses of people.

          * The suppression of the natural sexuality of children and
             adolescents serves to mold the human structure in such a
             way that masses of people become willing upholders and
             reproducers of mechanistic authoritarian civilisation.

          * Thousands of years of human suppression are in the
             process of being eliminated. (15)

     I must interject at this point. One of my professors at the time was very impressed with this work. The grading is much different in Europe. This one scored me the grade right below perfection. Anyway, this guy said that Reich was a genius, but that he had this other stuff that was way out there and not considered by academics as fruitful. It's like when donkeytale was referring to Freud and Marx getting too much of a bad rap for things they had nothing to do with nobody. Reich's analysis fits right in with what the other thinkers also observed. The world is not groovy, man, and that sucks. It's not copacetic.

     It doesn't escape my sense of irony that Reich spoke of an orgone power. That is something some crazy "chemtrail people" have pushed. I looked into chemtrails a long time ago. Folks know that, if they are aware of my early, blogging schtick years. It's like with McCain and Stranahan talking a lot of trash about Critical Theory. That's another mind-blowing coincidence. Though those kind of things are ultimately insignificant, I must say in an Ed Grimley sort of way.

     In Reichian terms, to define freedom is to define our sexual health. If people do not partake in healthy, organic ways, freedom will become a hollow myth utilised to perpetuate authoritarian leadership. The fear of natural sexuality found in the irrational character type has led to a general disintegration of positive societal ties. The one-dimensionality of modern times has left people rigid, complacent, and pitifully malleable by outside negative forces. Reich felt that a solution can only be attained once historic biological repression has been reversed. That is, only when the people's orgastic longings are put back on the organic plane will humankind begin to heal.

     (this is probably coming off as intellectual soft-porn by donkeytale. but i digress and have rudely interrupted this instant classic.)

     Reich claimed to have discovered orgone energy. He described it as the primordial cosmic energy which when choked, orgastic impotence is the result. It follows its own natural rhythms, and as such according to Reich, one attuned to its magical and erotic pulsations can be said to be enlightened, at one with the cosmos (or tao), and in a state of perpetual peace. This does not imply that those attuned to it will become unburdened. By allowing self-growth through natural work-democracy, each person begins a natural progression towards knowledge, love, and an increased capacity to help others. In short, a world march toward organic and natural life-styles would instantaneously change the course so far taken. Sexuality would no longer be distorted, but would demolish the repressive socialisation process of delayed gratification and rigidity.

     In the benediction to his book Reich says that,

          Love, work, and knowledge are the well springs
          of our life. They should also govern it. (16)

     Natural work-democracy is the solution. It is not based on any specific politician or fake guru who directs others on how to live. It entails that every single one of us be more critical of society in order to escape its conformist, dogmatic claws and then recreate it anew. It emphasises the development of every person's core-self in contrast to the continuance of relationships based on domination. This does not imply that one retreat and whither away, but that each person has the responsibility to check the flow of their own natural processes. To live, love, and work with a concreteness and meaning derivative from the core-self and core-Eros can only accelerate a world-wide movement toward universal Eros and shield us from divisive human experience once and for all.

next up: the exciting conclusion to this recycled mess of a long ago written seminar paper with some more quotes from Marcuse and Fromm, along with the footnotes and bibliography for those wondering wtf.