A Vision for a Culture of Emancipatory Human Rights – Richard J Tilley: Towards Post-Violence Societies

A Vision for a Culture of Emancipatory Human Rights

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Return to Towards Post-Violence Societies: An Outline of Interdisciplinary Violence Studies and Violence Research 

Ken Booth’s essay, “Three Tyrannies,” from the text, Human Rights in Global Politics (eds. Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler), posits a highly instructive foundation stone, a guide map, for societal change that considers our differences, argumentative positions, and then reifies human worth through a simple matter of direct application, though in reality, confrontation to fascist, capitalist, consumer, and monetary edicts. What I can simply summarize as a platform of emancipatory human rights, Booth (an international relations theorist) reviews other perspectives of global political and cultural insistences that mandate we deter from protecting each other. The reality is that only through protecting each other will we protect ourselves. Towards the beginning of his essay, Booth states, 

“The purpose […] is to discuss the language of human rights, and how in particular three tyrannies in the way we conceive, approach, and talk about human rights. The discourse of human rights is potentially crucial to human history because it is part of the language of human species’ self-creating emancipation from natural to societal threats.” (31, 1999) 

Truly, this dialogue that we hammer between ourselves, among private groups and diplomatic channels is (re)creating the hemisphere of how we conduct our business as human beings. Even that seemingly far distant space where politicians, ambassadors, NPOs, NGOs, or official channels of organized space dictate their presumed enforcement of the rights of others, there is a commonality that is not out of the sphere of common, average bystanders. We, the public at large, (re)create violence-customs as well as doctrines of human rights with or without the input of the high-minded, privileged circles. That is not to say, most importantly, that there is not a middle ground – a crossing point – where the two establishment clauses meet and decipher the future of human society, space, and geographical difference. From dock workers to bankers, we find our commonality like a god finds a blade of grass.  

This all, of course, is counter to casual expectations. As Booth writes, “the way some people talk about human rights: they look around, and observe that humans do this and humans do that – usually focusing on the nastier side of human behaviour – which then quickly leads them to the conclusion that humans have always done this and have always done that – and always will” (33, 1999). However, contrary to our ingrained cartography of emphasis on negating matter in with or without, given a fair chance, under an equal society with parity in race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, communal histories, and expectations to contribute, there is a lodestar that will bring a fruitful lasting place where we can harmonize a dialogue of sober-minded reiteration of our native instincts.  

Consider a world post-capitalism. It is impossible for many to conceive a way society will continue to function. The assumptions are that no one will want to do anything. Futurists write that technology will free humanity from exploitative labors, freeing us to pursue our own interests. However, before the technology is developed, there must first come a collective revolution of hearts and minds. As Commander Kelly Grayson said in The Orville’s season 3 episode, “Future Unknown,” you cannot have the technology for independence for a utopian society without first having the collective heart for a utopian society. Otherwise, the technology will just be bought and sold among the privileged class, and have-nots will be further exploited. We are still a long way from that technology and further still from having the will of heart to care about each other’s well-being. I do not know how or what will inspire such devotion to altruism. I do not know how we will create a society that cares about the needs of all its people. However, it must occur if society is to grow.  

Booth briefly cites Carrithers in that it should be “change, not permanence, at the center of our vision” (34, 1999). History is nothing if not the continuous record keeping of adroit change. Being animals that here and now take up position as the alpha species on this planet, even if temporary within the scale of immense long-shadowed history of this planet, future and past, we should dedicate ourselves to a common human experience with emancipatory human rights at the center. We are, in fact, drawn to do so, which can be seen in the very insistence, though the differences may be, in how independent freedoms should operate. In making the same argument from within different arguments we reveal we are instinctively resolved to find an answer in everyone’s best interest. The Education Model I discuss in my essay, “Violence is Not Inevitable: From Ending Violence to the Education Model and Space and Place,” outlines that a concrete culture of firm, established, rich and cultivated growth of education from grade school up to university must be established as a core element of ridding society of violence-impulses as well as imposing fractions of difference. Booth illustrates our common insistence for a groundwork of human rights, stating,  

The argument is not that a strong universal rights culture will happen, only that there are no grounds – historically or anthropologically – for saying that it will not. Sociality theory demonstrates the human potentiality for complex social relations, and it remains to be seen what this might mean, worldwide, under conditions of globalisation and the radically different material conditions of the decades ahead.” (35, 1999) 

Emancipatory human rights is not merely doctrinal, but innately human, holistic, and a peace-building constructive denomination towards conflict resolution in addition towards the closest grasp towards utopia that we might consider achievable. Booth reiterates,  

in a formal sense, emancipation is concerned with freedom from restraint: in Latin emancipare meant ‘to release from slavery or tutelage’. Expressed more fully, it might be defined as the freeing of people as individuals and groups from those physical and human constraints which stop them carrying out what they would freely choose to do; this means identifying and struggling against oppressive structures or power, and creating new structures and power relationships that promise to enhance human potentialities. (40, 1999)  

As we have already seen, locally and globally, emancipatory human rights are a pivot towards human liberty in its fullest extent. While in “the twentieth century, emancipation became not only a struggle against oppression but also, more coherently, struggle for new visions of society” (Booth 40, 1999), those visions taught new generations not only about the past, but also about the future and what it means to live in a collective, mutually growing societal realm that is bound to bring the changes of history but should not be without a center that is a maxim of promise and equity. Equity today is the promise of the very idea of the future itself. That should not be forgotten in the winds and currents of daily responsibility, which, more often than not, is imposed responsibility that serves little purpose towards our combined freedoms.  

Yes, there is and will be a continued fear of sheep-hood as if universal virtues are a scarecrow warning the birds away from good ideas. “Universalism set standards,” Booth continues, “but that need not be the same as sameness or cultural homogeneity” (55, 1999). At the time of writing this towards the end of 2022 we have seen diversity strive and succeed in some areas while it continues to greatly struggle in others. To make matters worse, segments of the population are essentially anti-diversity. Diversity has become divisive, though for a short time was slowly growing across society with fact-based evidence of the positive reification of all forms of diversity. Booth reminds us that “universal standards may indeed sustain diversity rather than the opposite” (55, 1999). It is absurd to think that those who are struggling to defeat diversity across the many fractions of society do not themselves believe in their own version of universalism, as Booth so adroitly puts, “clearly, there are no non-universalist. Even the total rejection of universal human rights is a universalist position on human rights” (56, 1999). Emancipatory human rights denote the experience of a society that has learned growth comes from combined strength, not of pure will, but of greater calmness and the rejection of paranoia and mistrust. Freedom from fear facilitates freedom from bondage.  

Emancipatory human rights, truly and fully realized, will free us from the burdens of society. Technology will not save us. Technology cannot liberate under the confines of capitalist culture, consumer dominance, and the combined tolerance for everyday oppression and casual acceptance of fascist doctrine. As Booth tells us, “it is only by recognizing our human sameness in an other regarding universal solidarity that we will actually protect human diversity and reduce human wrongs” (56, 1999).  Inequality is learned. We are taught from birth the normalcy of consumer capitalism and fascist acceptance of division and imposing labors. It will not be until we are born into a society that has long embraced the Educational Model, as a start, and weaved collective mutual interests into our own paths of continual human discovery that we will free ourselves from the discourses of discrimination and acceptance of oppression near and far. Through that form of liberty, utopia can be realized. At least, it can be realized through the closest form that human limitations can accelerate and societal customs can be radicalized through a diminishing of indifference.  

The Need to Decolonize, Defragment, and Liberate Human Rights Practices Towards Emancipatory Culture 

In Sofia Monsalve Suárez’s article, “Re-grounding Human Rights as Cornerstone of Emancipatory Democratic Governance,” (Society for International Development 2021) Suárez outlines primary issues with human rights established practices, culture, and loopholes that negate responsibility as well as hinder progress for a culture of emancipatory human rights culture within structural systems designed to implement the very laws and practices that would secure a fairer assessment, evaluation, and implementation of a culture of human liberation. At the center of these setbacks is capitalist endeavors, stating, “human rights should be at the forefront of the struggle to re-shape financial capital and its destructive economic model” (13). What we can assess from the very nature of capitalist retreat from human dignity is an elaborate wasting, seismic indifference, as long as financial motivations are centered towards human rights building and human rights progress,  

New and visionary projects for emancipation of humanity and all living things, for achieving ecological, gender and social justice are urgently needed. This includes envisioning democratic and internationalist ways of exercising peoples’ sovereignty beyond local and national borders. (Suárez 13)

The violence of borders’s principles has been with humanity since the beginning of written history and is entirely economic in its sentiment, to which we can calculate with absolute certainty. To say, like so many others have said, that the violence of economics is inevitable makes one a proponent of violence. Violence is learned, it is not humanity’s natural state just as capitalism is not humanity’s natural state. Emancipatory human rights reaffirm our collective responsibilities as well as our individual rights to security. The responsibility of an un-demarcated justice towards nature, the planet, life on Earth, in addition to ourselves, would habituate capitalist interests towards a more reasonable season of first regret, then action, and finally resolution in which we would see viable action that would temper the elements of failure and backsliding geopolitical insight.  

Decolonization is a poignant marker of what is central towards gaining access to emancipatory human rights education, achievement, and instilled realization with a dimensional grasp for collective societies. As Suárez states,  

International human rights law is rather limited insofar as it has been shaped predominantly by Western powers. Therefore, it should be regarded as work in progress. A simple test should illustrate the long-standing flaws of human rights law: Does the word ‘nature’ appear in human rights treaties? Did they recognize the inextricable connection between human beings, their communities and nature and protect this relationship as a matter of fundamental right? The answer is no (Seufert 2020). (14)

Humanity as nature is what is primary among the disregard of market forces and enterprise solutions and contributions to climate initiatives. Species across the globe, our very civilizations’s means of existing within Earth’s climate is rerouted as a force of potential entropy of stakeholders’s success in a so-called gradual move towards green energy, with no indication of lower consumption. Suárez writes, 

[M]odern (western) thinking and actions, including law and policymaking, treat humans and the rest of nature as two separate, distinct and independent spheres. This separation is central to the deep ecological crises that the world is facing, and which are manifest most strongly in human-made global warming as well as in the dramatic loss of many living species. Both climate change and the current mass extinction will deeply affect human societies because we cannot escape from these massive disturbances. (14)

Dynamic fears of global societal collapse that are so often convoluted with the rhythms of conspiracy are rooted very much like myth was to ancient cultures (though perhaps it still is in many forms). There are elements of truth in every force-fed fear of a reprisal from nature. So common is humanity’s self-harm that most do not see we are the only ones inflicting that damage and, naturally, it should be our aligned revolution to stop it.  

The looming collapse of the earth system as well as the rapid degradation of local ecosystems is closely linked to the sharp increase of inequalities and the concentration of resources in the hands of a few powerful actors, the destruction of the social fabric from the community to the national level and resulting migration, as well as wars and famine. The consequence is increasing violence against communities and people, which is further exacerbated by the rise of authoritarianism in all parts of the world. (Suárez 14)

It should be a given that the innate essence of a declaration for a need for a culture of emancipatory human rights indicates that we do this to ourselves. Such is the “close link between the way societies (mis)treat and exploit humans on the one hand and nature on the other” (Suárez 14). I have stated elsewhere that the absence of capitalism would not bring about the end of social order as we know it, as so many have completely internalized into their higher functions and belief system, despite such ideology working towards their own detriment that all matter under the sun is limited to them through access to currency. 

If food is a human right and food systems are commons or public goods, individual/corporate property rights to land, water, forests, fisheries or seeds cannot be the predominant model which overrides all other forms of social relationship with these natural goods, particularly collective and community-based ones. (Suárez 16)

As Suárez so concisely states, people are simply not given a choice. International practices demand it. Local populations are determined to believe that no one would work in a system that is established without currency. It doesn’t take much imagination – rationality – to see that given a communal system in which all peoples had their needs taken care of, the greatest majority would want to give back and therefore would work towards the good of their localized, or larger, community to ensure safety, stability, and collective preservation.  

The primary difference is under such a liberated state individuals would be free to explore their own talents and give back to their community in ways in which they are well-suited, well-adjusted, and what would make them the most content. Suárez aptly writes,  

Capitalism is the main economic system today, and most people have no alternative but to rely on capitalist markets to access basic resources. At the same time, many deep criticisms have been levelled against capitalism, the concentration of wealth and power that it seems to entail, the exploitation of nature and workers and the subordination of women on which it depends. (15)

One can only imagine the inventiveness that would be born with the liberation from capitalist machinations. No more university copyrights or financial limitations. No more citizen defragmentation that resists pursuing ideas that are in the collection good, the collective conscience that would live with the steady girth of emancipatory human rights. Gender and racial parity, classism vanquished, remote outposts of humanity brought together through technological streams of intelligence. Such would be the approximation of the closest form of utopia that humanity could empower – and only thrive to continue to perfect. However, under current structural implementations we are bound by limitations,  

Since the 1970′s, civil society organizations have been calling for the adoption of binding international regulations for transnational corporations (TNCs). No specific binding international law currently exists to prevent harm by the activities of TNCs and the enterprises connected within their supply or global productive chains. Furthermore, there is an additional gap in international law with regards to the legal accountability of such entities. Existing voluntary regulations are vague and in some cases ambiguous. (Suárez 15)

The extreme nature of self-interested corporate guidance of our communities and our well-being is something that we have historically sacrificed against our best interest again and again. Nationalism, authoritarianism, post-totalitarianism, all strive for a consumer capitalist edict and thrive within our mutual approval to abide by such laws. As Suárez states in her thorough article,  

Nationalist governments conveniently instrumentalize the colonial and imperial history of international law in order to disregard human rights. Indeed, geopolitics rather than legal or ethical considerations, often determine where human rights criticisms and sanctions emerge and against whom they are directed. (Suárez 16)

As Walter Benjamin teaches us in, Toward the Critique of Violence, the law exists to protect those in peremptory power through violent means. What is more evident than the violence of geopolitical oppression, global poverty, the recession of our instinctively born values, and the fear of laws designed to prevent us from a structural change in the very nature of governance? Violence and climate are commingled. As is our distress under those that benefit from capitalism. Emancipatory human rights can only be realized through a discourse that is all encompassing, inclusive, and targeted towards the removal of the barriers of irenic human progress.   

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