A Slice of Life

commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology

22 May 08 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!

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21 Apr 08 China steps up to the Olympic plate

Scenes of protesters harrasing the progress of the Olympic torch seem incredibly ironic. They underline the fact that the ‘Olympic Spirit’ has become something other than the IOC would have us believe.

Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) is the organisation’s motto. Mutual understanding, a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play – that’s the definition of the Olympic Spirit from the movement’s charter.

How many of these qualities does China’s society possess? Even before the Tibetan crackdown human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities were common knowledge, but little action seems to have been taken by western countries. Words of concern and inconsistent economic sanctions aren’t enough to make a difference. Granting the Olympics to China is a tacit approval of the heinous abuses and persecution that exists in this, the last great totalitarian dictatorship.

Parallels can be made with the decision to hold the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
“The decision by the IOC goes towards justifying a repressive political system that each day flouts freedom and violates human rights… Following the example of Nazi Germany in 1936 and the Soviet Union in 1980, Communist China will use (the games) as a powerful propaganda instrument destined to consolidate its hold on power. The decision by the IOC goes towards justifying a repressive political system that each day flouts freedom and violates human rights.” said Francois Loncle, a member of French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s Socialist party.

The question must be asked: why choose China? China’s booming economy allows them to throw a huge amount of money at the games, build the best facilities and provide the best junkets for Olympic officials.

The stipulations that athletes do not voice any political opinions could also be seen as an infringement of their human rights. Don’t we have a right to freedom of speech? If the hosting nation’s human rights record was not a great concern would our sporting bodies be stressing these rules?

Perhaps the Olympic movement’s charter should be expanded to include the motto “money, money, money”.

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