Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Preacher And The Slave: 21st Century Edition

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that 'a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people'. It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it 'Western', Robert Mugabe calls it 'colonialist', and Dick Cheney calls it 'outdated'. The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now."

I should hope that these developments are at last getting some attention. Ten months ago, the International Humanist and Ethical Union pointed out: "For the past eleven years the organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) representing the 57 Islamic States, has been tightening its grip on the throat of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yesterday, 28 March 2008, they finally killed it. With the support of their allies including China, Russia and Cuba (none well-known for their defence of human rights) the Islamic States succeeded in forcing through an amendment to a resolution on Freedom of Expression that has turned the entire concept on its head. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression will now be required to report on the 'abuse' of this most cherished freedom by anyone who, for example, dares speak out against Sharia laws that require women to be stoned to death for adultery or young men to be hanged for being gay, or against the marriage of girls as young as nine, as in Iran."

Meanwhile, I see Michail Ryklin's essay "In The Burning House," which appeared last summer in Lettre International (my essay Der Andere Fluss appeared in the same edition) has been translated from the German into English. It's about the tribulations and eventual suicide of his late wife, the artist Anna Alchuck, following her involvement in the 2005 Caution: Religion! exhibition in Moscow. Ryklin takes note of what can happen when a person is "charged as guilty by an authority which speaks in the name of everyone." Here's what can happen: "The chosen scapegoat begins, with time, to inscribe the guilt on to their own body. At some point the desire emerges to peel off this body, to break out into a space beyond this perverted society which condemned them."

All of this has deepened my conviction that the implications of these hullaballoos are far broader, and far more dire, than we generally realize. Not that long ago, our rallying cry was 'What we want for ourselves, we demand for all.' This principle was once central to the historic mission of the left. It's long past time to revive that spirit, and rejoin that epic struggle for the right to free speech, at home, and over the hills and far away:



UPDATE: The linked article that the first paragraph of this post cites, which first appeared in the Independent (UK), is Johann Hari's "Why should I respect these religions?" After Hari's essay was reprinted in India's venerable liberal-left daily, The Statesman, mobs of protesters besieged the newspaper's offices for several days, then took to blocking roads, attacking police, and then forcing the Statesman's staff to barricade the front entrance to the building to protect themselves. Yesterday, Statesman editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha were arrested on charges of malicious intent to upset the religious feelings of Muslims.

9 Comments:

Blogger James O'Hearn said...

Terry,

Careful now. You wouldn't want to be confused with Mark Steyn. Your local HRC is only a phone call away.

Let's instead clap our hands at these regulatory advances, which are indeed double-plus good, and say down with the colonialist hegemony!

11:47 AM  
Blogger Kurt Langmann said...

Aye, the bathos of it all:

"Hedge funds for example, which are "legal persons" in the sense that as incorporated companies they have a legal personality, are apparently amongst the growing number of corporate victims of human rights violations...
But lawyers are predicting that the credit crunch will bring a whole new wave of these unlikely "victims" as companies become increasingly creative – or desperate, depending on which way you look at it – to recoup their losses.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jan/28/hedge-fund-human-rights

1:45 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

"Last week two hedge funds – RAB Special Situations and SRM Global Master Fund – claimed that the nationalisation of Northern Rock amounted to a violation of their right to "peaceful enjoyment of possessions" set out in the first protocol to the European convention on human rights."

Crikey.

2:12 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Careful now. You wouldn't want to be confused with Mark Steyn. Your local HRC is only a phone call away.

Are you confusing what Terry is saying with what Mark Steyn was saying that resulted in the complaint against him ?

How do you feel about that, Terry?

2:57 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

How do I 'feel'?

Em, not bad. You?

5:39 PM  
OpenID xanthippaschamberpot said...

Do not forget that the UN's 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms' has a little clause called 'Article 29'.

'Article 29' clearly and unequivocally negates every single one of the 'human rights and freedoms' listed before it. All a state has to do to is pass a law.

And, it also says that NONE of the human rights and freedoms may be exercised in a way that would interfere with the UN's political agenda!

Applying 'Article 29' exactly as written, everything the Inquisition did would have been perfectly within the guidelines of the UN's human rights declaration.

(I must admit, I rather ranted on this last week - both in a post and a YouTube video... It makes me sick that this caveat is in the declaration!)

11:24 AM  
OpenID xanthippaschamberpot said...

Do not forget that the UN's 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms' has a little clause called 'Article 29'.

'Article 29' clearly and unequivocally negates every single one of the 'human rights and freedoms' listed before it. All a state has to do to is pass a law.

And, it also says that NONE of the human rights and freedoms may be exercised in a way that would interfere with the UN's political agenda!

Applying 'Article 29' exactly as written, everything the Inquisition did would have been perfectly within the guidelines of the UN's human rights declaration.

(I must admit, I rather ranted on this last week - both in a post and a YouTube video... It makes me sick that this caveat is in the declaration!)

11:24 AM  
OpenID xanthippaschamberpot said...

OOPS!

Sorry about the 'double post' - Freedom of Speech is something I get kind of worked up about....must have had a twitchy 'click-finger'....

2:02 PM  
OpenID xanthippaschamberpot said...

OOPS!

Sorry about the 'double post' - Freedom of Speech is something I get kind of worked up about....must have had a twitchy 'click-finger'....

2:02 PM  

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