450. THE READERS ARE EXPRESSLY WRITTEN TO HIT THE READER BELOW THE BELT. (paraphrasing John Steinbeck).

[Every 50 Readers I write one that pertains to the process and thoughts that lead to each Reader; it also reflects about the process of writing-for-action and for-impact in general]

-Language is also a form of action. (Albino Gomez)

1. The Human Rights Readers are not intended to have success; they intend to lend testimony. (Emanuel Mounier) They are like letters I never sent; they reflect my convictions and principles; they definitely take sides, but also leave open questions. (Alain Badiou) They do not offer foolproof solutions to economic, social, political, human rights (HR) and/or environmental problems. Bit by bit, they attempt to create a growing empathy with HR showing that, eventually, achieving more people’s commitment is possible. They do speak to the experience of human disenfranchisement, but still hold hope for a future of a more dignified human advancement. Readers only try to set up resonances, send echoes back and forth. They do so by making you feel the urgency of the subject matters covered (i.e., “They have to be written”). Readers thus hopefully serve to make you active agents in the construction of meaning, depending on your respective critical preoccupations, –yet always remaining open and flexible.

To be upfront

2. The occupation of writing requires constant learning, repeated searches and only some finds. A very widespread current corrupting attitude is ‘graphomania’, i.e., the bad habit of taking to publication anything that is written without a minimum of self-criticism. (Edmundo Moure) Writing is more difficult than speaking; it requires a greater effort and allows us to go deeper into a thought. On the other hand, writing is easier since when speaking we cannot make corrections. (Javier Cercas) When an author writes, re-writes and edits, s/he is actually turning her/his words into a version of her/himself. (Chad Grills) True, much (or everything) about HR has been said already, but as few really listen (and act), we must always begin again. (André Gide)

3. One does not always write what one wants though; one writes what one can or about what one finds trying to convey the truth or a good part of the truth. I cannot tell what will come out till I have written it. (J. Cercas) As a rebel, one lives a great vital anguish fighting the feared outcome of things in this planet. (Alfredo Bryce Echenique) Only by writing can one know what it is one wants to write about, i.e., where what one writes can get/can reach; whether one wants to be political or not, ultimately one self-censors oneself –…before someone else does. (Leonardo Padura, La Novela de mi Vida) [I am aware that, while quoting, whether this is plagiarism or documentary research, depends on whether one takes the idea(s) of only one person or several. I have never really been the actual author of the Readers, I just have always caught things that were flying-by-and-around and have been sharing them with you].

4. Two caveats here: a) According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, nobody reads anymore; everybody is writing… These days, it is more difficult to find a good reader than a good writer. (Jorge Luis Borges) b) Sometimes it is unbelievably hard not to write garbage. But writing is like traveling. Often, you have to pass through a bunch of places you do not want to visit in order to arrive where you do want to go. (Jefferey Gettleman)

The source of my own biases: Back to the iron laws I stand for

-Dozens of times I have been asked why I write. For me, it has to do with the pleasure of communicating. (Dolores Redondo)
-I am more of a popularizer than I am a scholar. (I do not like being called a doctor; I am rather an angry activist/professor). (Carsten Hoeller)

5. In variable lengths, I use texts of many origins. Not infrequently, I amend them and adjust them in the Readers and, almost always, I omit the quotation marks that so often are used in these cases. So, here below I share with you some of my previously undisclosed iron laws:

• For sure I have my biases, mostly based on my lifetime of reading, working in HR and in global health and nutrition both with a strong engagement and concern for the global future. I am the first to acknowledge that I still have much to learn, and that is precisely why I love bringing you such a wide variety, yet focused topics and information every week or every other week. (David Zakus)
• In the Readers, I am a spy at the service of the claim holders. In doing so, I apply ethics at the service of truth. I do not only show the cockroaches on the floor, but show where they hide thus helping claim holders in their struggle for a life of dignity, greater fairness and justice. (Fernando Savater) I share with you: I have derived my politics from my ethics… it is because I swear by ethics that I find myself in politics.
• With words, I do intend to reach you people, not to add to grandiose theories. If I stopped writing, I would show a lack of valor. (This, my loyal readers would maybe not really like). (Juan Gelman)
• I choose topics that are important to me and that I care about; I always ask myself, why are you adding this topic (…and why am I doing this work)? Perhaps because I am intellectually inquisitive; because I like to explore all angles of the HR problematique to then, when I can, base my recommendations on solid analytics. Why? Because it is important for us all to get off our respective ivory towers (do the Readers help you do this…?), important as well to talk to the wo/men in the street and to try to better understand what they are worried about and what they are thinking about. (Kristin Forbes)
• As the writer of the Readers, I am, in Albert Camus words, a rebel writer since I do not tolerate ‘the absurd fate of mankind’. My fingers on the keyboard of the computer raise in arms against that absurd destiny.
• My whole working drive has been to make people understand each other. Yes, I confess I am filled with certain angers…particularly at people who are inflicting injustices on other people. For me, anger is a symbol of thought and of evaluation; it is a reaction: without it, what have we got…? I think anger is the healthiest thing in the world. (John Steinbeck)
• Everything that I write is part of the lessons I have learned throughout my life and which I try to apply. I am a reader of my own Readers. They show me things that I already knew, even if only unconsciously. Writing about so many things reveals to me many new things (‘reveal’ here meaning both to unveil and to re-veal, i.e., removing the veil from things happening). I learn while I am actually typing the words and sentences; so I learn by doing and not by thinking about doing. (Paulo Coelho, The Zahir)
• I am not trying to be presumptuous, but the Readers do try to speak directly to what I perceive are your concerns. In one way or another, every Reader redefines my perceptions and reorders my awareness; each Reader thus is part of an updated testimony, as partisan as it may be.
• As said, in the Readers’ conception, I am susceptible to what I find in many texts, ideas, currents, impulses. I transform these in my own kind of combinatory textual structure. This always has thoughtful, political implications. I am aware I often push the boundaries of traditional blogging, often being in frontier territory that highlights and dramatizes some HR values dear to me.
• The Readers attempt to give a new twist in the direction of social awareness and political action being responsive to the larger social necessities I perceive, i.e., they are inspired by a concern for HR and for where humanity is going (or not going). They are, therefore, quite predictably, against entrenched powers and against authoritarianism. John Steinbeck called this ‘affective and effective fellow-feeling’.
• Yes, for maximum affective impact, I sometimes use an emotional tone of outright rage and anger when I portray lives under pressure (even if only giving a synoptic view of their condition). I do this by portraying the multiple perspectives of the reality I see affecting both claim holders and the planet we inhabit.
• What I would like to see is the Readers to be seen as a sustained indictment of/about so many flawed values thus bringing an egalitarian, non-sectarian HR view to you, one that leads you deeper into the complexities of those issues. Is this a partisan posture? Maybe, but one I do not repent from.
• I am always persistent when I frame each Reader; ultimately, I have to decide what is important. Framing is about making sure I set the terms of the debate I want to foster by using the right language to convey each idea.* Saying what I say any other way or couching it in semantic jugglery would be dishonest.
*: Let it be said that Conservatives have forever beaten Progressives at this; it is time for a change. (George Lakoff)
• I may sometimes get to your nerves, I am aware (in the sense that I do not want you to feel satisfied after reading each of my food for thought postings. I actually try to make each of you to participate, i.e., not find in the Readers more than what you already have planted as a seed in you).
• There is an eyewitness quality I want the Readers to have so I combine experience and convincing rhetoric –but a rhetoric that leads to direct involvement with the plight of the wretched of the earth of Frantz Fannon. This is why I work with a vocabulary (not always simple, I am aware) that allows a HR-based understanding of past and current events.
• I try to be a fair interpreter of an oppressive reality with each Reader being the-stuff-of-a-reportage. Fortnight after fortnight or week after week, I put my keyboard to the service of the HR cause –always being present in the here and now. If I am wrong, I am alone in my wrongness.
• Finally, sensationalism is only made to last fifteen minutes. My main concern in the Readers is quite different: to make you think long-term so as to, together, embark in reorganizing an unfair world. (Paulo Coelho, The Zahir)

But I know all this does not solve the problems I unapologetically denounce

6. My ultimate desire is to instill a sense of justice in my readership provoking not only individual thought, but ultimately collective action –in other words, increasing the level of engagement rooted in everybody’s own compulsion. My concern is both humanitarian and political: I want to be an effective HR advocate and activist but, as said, I do not wish to appear presumptuous. Nevertheless, I do feel I am promoting the understanding of intelligent solutions to the myriad HR problems.

7. Since I do see an urgency in combatting the prevailing widespread sense of impotence, I do hope I can keep the drive and my sense of indignation. As is true for others, I aim to progressively build a human network that will actually change the prevailing more-than-worrisome prevailing HR conditions. If properly handled, we can get rid of the inhumanity and stupidity that have characterized the past and that characterize the current predatory economic system. My Reader after Reader criticism may seem to be subjective (and often repetitive) when it wants to elicit responses from you the reader. I cannot thus get too self-conscious about my writing because, if I do, that will be the end of my writing.

8. Bottom line here, I try to shape the Readers towards the better perception of the ever-present social injustices so as to make you internalize –perhaps more importantly than ever– the unstable climate we live-in in this troublesome century. As human beings, we can dream of a more dignified and free society in which we can live in harmony with the environment and with other fellow humans. The Readers’ messages, I feel, are still relevant in that they address the betrayed promises about relieving human suffering and in that they point to even the slenderest thread of hope of succeeding in eliciting the creative-anger-and-social-consciousness needed for positive HR changes to occur. (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath)

9. Thoughts, ideas, essays, words, blogs (…Readers): If anything, writing them, makes me more alone, because they destroy whatever previous instinctive loyalties I may once have had. (Amitav Ghosh)

To close

I realize my Readers are bipolar, often overly optimistic or too pessimistic. I guess the latter is appropriate since the forces tearing society apart are powerful, …but the people bringing it together are too! (David Brooks)

10. The HR Readers are kind of special to me. They give the best that I have to offer intellectually as they, over and over, challenge my limits. They have not infrequently left aside friends and family duties in order to conceive their content. Be it as it may, I am aware not even the strongest Readers are going to change the world or topple a shameless HR violating government …or help put a new progressive government in place. I am humbly conscious of this.

11. For years, I have filled my head with things that, I think, can serve a useful purpose for others. Somehow, in the course of my adult life, I have acquired a great trove of information about things that may be useful. For many years now, it is as if the language of the HR Readers has become my-battleground-with-words-serving-as-weapons. Even a few words, I hope, have done and do so.

12. Use the Readers as a source of information to be used in your discussions and debates with others. In the Readers you find heavy weight arguments. This is their contribution; otherwise they would be reaching the already converted.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Your comments are welcome at schuftan@gmail.com
All the Readers up to 400+ can be found at www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-The music is not in the notes, but in the silences in-between. (Mozart)
-Throughout history, those who make others think are usually the first to be scapegoated, ostracized, or demonized. (Chad Grills)
-Novels have to be easy to read and difficult to understand. (Milan Kundera)
…applies to the Readers?
-How difficult is it (for me) to become something different from what people think that we are (I am)? (A. Gomez)

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