447. OF YET MORE ON POWER, POLITICS, POLITICIANS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. (Part 2 of 2)

Politics and politicians without ideas stimulate corruption* (Revista Primera Piedra, Chile)

Not being facetious, are the political ideas of certain corrupt politicians soluble in alcohol? (Louis Casado)

11. I tend to agree with Upton Sinclair who was of the opinion that it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary (or kickbacks) depends upon his not understanding it! In this context, John Steinbeck said “If I can keep honesty it is all I can expect of my poor brain”. Yes, honesty is a very costly and dear present, so do not expect it from cheap politicians. (Mafalda by Quino)
*: Corruption is to be understood as individual public officials who abuse public office for private gain, making it at the expense of the public good.

When left parties win in alliance with the right, it is eventually the right that wins (Radomiro Tomic)

Interests have won over values and vision –human rights included. Money speaks; ideas only murmur… (Roberto Savio)

12. Long-reigning political systems and leaders make democracy but an illusion these days since, in last instance, they have become de-facto oligarchies. Oligarchies naturally seek to establish and maintain a favorable fiscal system that benefits their interests; it is a system that maintains and fosters the collective expansion of the patrimony of the dominant families –and those who pay for this, are always the majority salaried and consumer groups whose human rights (HR) are not a part of these fiscal systems. (Jean Favier)

13. At this point of our history as republics, we can thus confirm that who really calls the shots is the system itself, i.e., a system that does not care or need the presence of true statesmen or iluminati in government to steer forward its roadmap. The system steers itself, and this is what it wants to do. It does it through powerful media outlets that it controls, a party machinery and big shot entrepreneurs it ultimately also controls and that influence public opinion to gracefully accept the names of the candidates vetted by the system to compete for the highest office and to become ‘the kings that do not really govern’. The system only accepts and gives refuge to politicians like the ones you, dear reader, know who do not represent a danger of real structural change. The will of the reigning structure essentially is that nothing changes (especially people’s rights) and that everything stays the same. [Lampedusa’s ‘Il Gattopardo’?]. (Arturo A. Munoz)

Every political party always represents and defends some class interest (or fraction of a class)**

The perception of many a politician in the North is that classes do not exist, that racial groups are homogeneous and freedom is individualistic. (Cornel West)

14. Political parties’ internal conflicts and eventual splits are a response to an interior struggle in which each fraction defends its class interests. [On the other hand, internal wars are neither triggered, because a party leader cheated on his wife by having an affair with his secretary, nor because he sexually harasses a journalist]. This helps us understand that it is class interests that are at the base of these internal conflicts. But class struggle is rejected by most politicians as one of the worse blasphemies in the history of humanity. Nevertheless, class struggle helps us to understand such conflicts. Within the capitalist system, social classes do not act by themselves, but do so by being represented by actors that move within the national political scene. In their political praxis, these actors identify with the class or fraction of a class they represent and lobby for. This can and will tell you what their stands on HR will be. Therefore, social classes do not define themselves from a structural perspective, but define themselves in the actual political everyday praxis. Class struggle cuts vertically through the whole of society: Son can rise against father and father against son; your friend can become an enemy and the fiercest enemy turns out to become your ally. Class struggle reveals itself in every social act –because human beings act moved by interests. (Manuel Acunia)
**: It is almost impossible to understand the dynamic of race without understanding its correlation to class.

15. Let us be honest here: additionally, political parties tend to be a bit freakish about control. And real grassroots movements cherish their independence so are pretty much impossible to control. So, it is worth thinking about how to make absolutely sure that, from now on, the whole of our progressive HR movement ‘goes all the way’. (Naomi Klein)

There are active citizens (the haves) and passive citizens (usually the have-nots)

16. In each election, we witness a dispute between ‘options’ (just to call it something) that somehow coincide in their centrality, i.e., to maintain the have-nots marginalized from the key decision-making processes. It is that just the vast majority of elections coincide in their essentials without touching the essentials, i.e., people’s HR and how wealth is distributed –something that David Ricardo already considered to be the only important thing in any economy. This is why elections revolve around ancillary, secondary, often irrelevant and ‘caricaturesque’ issues. [Again think Trump]. To be convinced of this, it is just sufficient to read what is left of the ‘free’ press, controlled as it is by the power of money and devoid of even a shred of pluralism. Moreover, language used around elections is being denigrated to what is a utilitarian smoke screen about what really needs to be conveyed/propagated –certainly not HR issues. (Be reminded that, etymologically, propagate and propaganda have the same root). We read headlines like “The majority of citizens believes that their wellbeing is their own responsibility and not that of the State”; or “Workers that struggle for higher wages prefer to deal directly with their employers than deal with them through a labor union”. No wonder then that the masses become indifferent and desensitized. Consequently, the centers of power are never put in jeopardy. So what are people left with? Vote for the lesser evil? You see? There is actually no truly democratic and humanistic (not to speak a revolutionary) option. Does it not look more that we are speaking about private clubs owned by the haves running things rather than about nations where the majority are have-nots really at the receiving end of things? (Louis Casado)

And then there is populism

17. Populism is an empty political concept that is in fashion primarily to disqualify political opponents. We do not need a concept that attempts to clarify the identity of a regime, but instead confuses it. Anybody can call him/herself a populist. For instance, there are extreme right populists and populists on the left. (Alain Rouquié)

A pre-final word on politics and intellectuals

Unlike ‘traditional intellectuals’ who held positions in the different layers of the old class structure, new ‘organic intellectuals’ are helped by the high bourgeoisie to establish (impose?) their ideas as an invisible, unquestioned conventional wisdom now commonly seen in social institutions. (Antonio Gramcsi)

18. Traditional intellectuals***, i.e., great minds, no longer captivate the public as they once did, because universities have become too insular and academic thinking too narrow. In these islands, many progressive academics are not bringing their ideas to a wider readership, because of the academic mindset itself. The superrich, as a class, are interested in supporting just certain ideas. They use their own singular lens to explain the world and then proselytize that worldview to all of us around. In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and to a broader public –aiming to become superstars with their own brands. Surprising, then, that the ideas currently thirsted-for are shallow and banal at best and deeply anti-democratic, anti HR and at times outright fraudulent, at worst? Distinguished by their facile thinking and transparent servility to the wealthy, many an intellectual preaches ‘globaloney’ when, in reality, they end up selling fakes, e.g., that technology with a capital T is replacing geopolitics as the engine of global change… The modern marketplace of ideas thus strongly resembles modern financial markets… (Daniel D. Drezner, David Sessions)
***: Not being facetious, for the comedian Diego Capusotto, an intellectual is an individual who is able to think for more than two hours in something that is not sex.

A couple of important misunderstandings

19. As is well known, many a state is not politically committed to HR while others have ideological objections to some categories of HR (e.g., economic, social and cultural rights). Some obstacles that explain this, if not political, are clearly based on misunderstandings. For example, some actors have grasped neither that international economic, social, and cultural rights are subject to progressive realization, nor that progressivity permits prioritization among these HR –subject to various conditions.

20. Some politicians further mistakenly think that mainstreaming HR will turn all United Nations officials into HR enforcers. Human rights mainstreaming within the UN cannot be dissociated from HR mainstreaming within governments. Ministries will continue to hesitate to approve effective HR mainstreaming unless there is at least some familiarity with, and support for, HR among their senior staff. But this is not all. From a HR perspective, political leaders will also have to take steps to dismantle national policy compartmentalization that have traditionally lead to silos that make incorporating HR considerations more difficult. (Paul Hunt)

If those rendered poor can organize themselves, then no political party can ignore them

21. When duty bearers move from charity to letting claim holders having their say –a direction in which we absolutely once and for all have to move towards– HR activists will be liable to step on some toes. (A mouse playing games with an elephant, however friendly, is likely to be stepped on). Therefore, beware: By helping set free oppressed claim holders you will be considered a subversive. Never forget: It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. (Voltaire) Dangerous or not, all of life is a series of last chances… (Voight)

22. Bottom line: Our strategy should not only confront empire, but lay siege to it; deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it –with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness and our ability to tell our own stories; stories that are different from the ones we are being brainwashed to believe. (Arundhaty Roy)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
schuftan@gmail.com
www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-Albert Einstein’s comment about cowardly politicians was right on target when he wrote: “Members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interest of the underprivileged sections of the population”.
-Success (political) is something terrible. Its frequent-false-resemblance-with-merit tricks us all. (Victor Hugo, Les Miserables)
-Marx never said he was a Marxist. Conversely, Trotsky gladly admitted he was a Trotskiist. (Albino Gomez)

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