Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Human Rights and Wrongs

Che Guevara Most people in western, developed countries take their rights for granted. We assume that we will be treated fairly under the law, that we will have reasonable working conditions and rates of pay and that our governments will govern with our best interests at heart. This is of course not the case in many 'third world' counties where no such rights exist. Even the slightest divergence from the official line is treated with brutality and harsh repression. Political and religious tolerance is non existent. People are commonly arrested, tortured or made to just 'disappear'. Many people living under such regimes take great risks to fight for freedom and often pay the ultimate penalty, such as Che Guevara (pictured). Many people in the developed 'free' world are so apathetic they don't even exercise their right to vote, or only vote because they are required to do so. They are completely complacent when it comes to politics because they labour under the assumption that they are 'free' and that their standard of living will continue indefinitely.

rodney king beatingIn actual fact, people living in developed countries have little more real freedom than those under repressive regimes. Perhaps they do not usual suffer the human rights violations common in some parts of the world, provided they are white, anglo saxon and protestant. Those not belonging to the dominant cultural group or those unfortunate enough to end up in prisons or places like Guantanamo Bay have a different experience. Images of police beating up black drivers bear testament to this.

The governments of western 'democracies' are just as repressive as goverments of less developed countries with a reputation for brutality. Their techniques for controlling the population are just much more sophisticated than old fashioned violence. Western 'democracies' allow us to elect a government from only two viable alternatives: Liberal vs Labor, Labor vs Conservative, Democrat vs Republican etc. all amount to approximately the same thing. One party with slightly left leanings, one slightly right; just two shades of barely distinguishable grey. While it is preferrable to a one party state like China, or states which pretend to have elections like Zimbabwe or Burma it basically amounts to the same thing: the interests of the ruling class are in any event preserved.

Western 'democracies' are in reality ruled by an oligarchy made up of those controlling large corporations. Any government which dared to oppose such interests would find itself quickly out of office. Just ask Gough Whitlam or Jack Lang. Large corporations are subsidised to the tune of billions of dollars in the interests of 'boosting the economy' while corporate bosses draw obsence salaries, all the while trying to cut the wages and conditions of those in the 9 to 5 rat race. Consumerism, a corporate controlled media and high levels of debt ensure the complacency and submission of the general population. Dissent is usually tolerated as it is unlikely to do any harm and 'freedom' is of course good for business.

This is a much more efficient system than countries that control their populations with old fashioned repression. The regimes of countries like Burma, Zimbabwe, China etc. are bound to sooner or later fall. When the level of repression rises and the standard of living falls to intolerable levels, heroes like Che are bound to rise and dictatorships are bound to fall.

The bottom line is: GIVE A DAMN!


Jenny said...

Absolutely. Great post, including some Australian figures. So what's the answer? Socialism of course.

Liam said...

Thanks for your comment Jenny. I agree; socialism could be the answer. The problem is that socialist governments often lose sight of their orginal principals. This is true of reformers from Robespierre to Lenin, Mao or even Robert Mugabe. They start out with the best of intentions and end up with something as bad if not worse than that which they replaced.

Unfortunately weaknesses in human nature seem to dictate this trend; I'm not sure if there is 'an answer'. I think it was Errol Flynn who said: "Anyone who is not a communist by the age of 20 is mad, anyone who is still a communist by the age of 30 is also mad."

I'm a bit more than 30 now...

Jenny said...

Well, I don't think any state has ever achieved socialism yet. In the case of Russia, there was a civil war, it was a backward country with a small working class and then Stalin, who did change the aim. He became a nationalist rather than helping other countries achieve socialism too as in Germany and France. This would have had to happen for that revolution to succeed. He also got rid of every political opponent. Stalin was not a socialist, but the West likes us to think so. Cuba, apart from laws we wouldn't like, is the best example. The health and education system there are amazing.

By the way, I found your post on human rights one of the most interesting. Please feel free to comment on my blog.

Liam said...

You're quite right Jenny; states like the USSR and China have never been really communist despite describing themselves by that label. The world might have been a very different place had Trotsky succeeded Lenin. It's no wonder Stalin pursued him to the end of the earth; his mere existence was a huge threat to Stalin's dictatorship.

It's strange (or perhaps no so strange) that we seldom hear anything about Cuba's successes. We are often informed by the media of Cuba's economic difficulties. Considering the U.S. embargo, you'd have to say they've done pretty well even in this area.