Changing a Thought (2)

FearQuote1_203pxFood for changing a thought (part 2)
Human Rights Reader 389

Read Part 1 here

Our time is marked by the predominance of fear over hope

10. A pact between the different constituencies of claim holders must be the result of a political reading that says that what is at stake is the very survival of democracies (and of human rights) worthy of the name, as well as the survival of the planet. The actions that this calls for are as pressing as to literally salvage that which neoliberalism has not yet been able to destroy.

11. According to the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, people (and I should add, societies as well) are governed by two basic emotions: fear and hope. There is a complex balance between the two, but we need them both if we wish to survive. Fear is the dominant emotion when one’s expectations about the future are negative (“this is bad, but the future could be worse”); in turn, hope has the upper hand when future expectations are positive or, in any event, when refusal of the alleged inevitability of negative expectations is widely shared.

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Defend Civil Society

Stop_AttackCS_203_pxI had an e-mail today from the Lawyers Collective in New Delhi (see attached pdf) that outlined the Indian Government’s campaign to stifle their work defending human rights. The Lawyers Collective are an NGO that for decades has fought for justice for people living with HIV, women’s rights and other issues that affect folks in poor communities across India. Moreover, they have been fighting Big Pharma in court to assure access to affordable generic medicines for people everywhere.

Also today, a dozen activists from an NGO in Bangkok were jailed for handing out leaflets urging people to vote no in a referendum on the draft Thai constitution, a daily scene from the ongoing crack-down on civil society by the ruling military regime.

Every day I hear of another civil society organisation (CSO) in Asia, Africa, Europe or in the Americas that is being threatened and attacked by their governments, in an effort to close down these groups that provide a voice for the marginalised and that try to hold the authorities to account. Governments are erecting legal and administrative barriers, making it more difficult for civil society organisations who receive foreign support and funding to operate. In many countries, human rights NGOs are restricted when they attempt to hold public gatherings, express their views or set up new organisations. Governments have passed new regulations that make it impossible to operate, others arrest and detain activists, while a few have been implicated in torture and murder, as in the case of the NGO COPINH in Honduras recently.

Civil Society is under threat around the world, and this is a serious menace to all people that value democracy, accountability and human rights. Some governments have long hoped that activists would just disappear, but now they are taking action to close down organizations and stop the participation of individuals that are associated. This new repression is working — in face of the all-powerful state apparatus of control, many are forced to stop activities on issues or programs that the government or its allies find troublesome.

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