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? 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

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