Globalization and Its Impact on Human Rights by George Mathews Chunakara (ed.)
Published by Christian Conference of Asia, Hong Kong. The Indian Edition was published in October, 2000 by Christava Sahitya Samithy, Tiruvalla - 689 101, Kerala, S. India, and is used by permission of the publisher. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Chapter 1: Globalization Threatens Humanism, by V. R. Krishna Iyer
Justice Iyer is a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? This great biblical interrogation of history postulates basic compassion in humanity sans which the world is but an animal farm, our common cultural heritage a misnomer and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nothing but sententious claptrap. Today, more than at any time in the millennia gone by, mankind is in the ghastly grip of soulless forces, moneyocracies incorporated and cannibalistic philosophies which validate satanic values and apotheosize social anathemas like violence, vulgarity and intoxicated hedonism. Fair is foul and foul is fair is the paradox of our decade and the crisis of culture and character, with no happy denouement in sight, may well escalate to end in a collapse and chaos unless we act globally and locally to save homo sapiens from going back to barbarity. Science, not being a spiritually guided missile, may not rescue us; nay, on the gleaming wings of gory science, mankind may indulge in Operation Massacre, dig its own grave and bomb itself out - a quantum jump from Hiroshima to Globoshima. Beware! The finer values are withering away; the vision of a universal human family is vanishing; and Eccelsiastes which tells us: the Lord is full of compassion and mercy... and forgive the sins and saveth in time of affliction is now anathema to those who wield power, accumulate wealth and crave after sensual pleasures. The governing passion is to join the glitterati and live a five-star life. The story of Cain is irrelevant to countries whose great leaders go to Church and kneel before Christ without missing any Sunday. Is there anyone who remembers, among church-going profiteers and racketeers, insatiable sexists, alcoholics, torturers, and myriad murderers of human rights - any of the exploiting respectables who remembers the story of Cain and Abel and the piteous words: The voice of thy brothers blood crieth unto me from the ground. These sophisters and calculators and billionaires ask of the Lord: am I my brothers keeper? They believe, as in Bernard Shaw’s words in Major Barbara: ‘I am a Millionaire. That is my religion’. Indeed the World Wars were fought with such shockingly genocidal, and horrendously homicidal terror that nations, vanquished and victors, resolved to set up by a noble charter for the United Nations, followed by the triple instruments constituting the Magna Carta of Mankind. Human rights, in widest commonalty spread, gained the highest status accorded by U.N. authority. A new World Human Order, after all the blood and tears of war, was dawning, with colonies liberated, technology trained and tamed to make the pursuit of happiness a universally accessible opportunity and tranquil environs, with peace and security, a blessing for development and crimson unfoldment of total personality. These great expectations hardly materialized and the cold war between the Soviet bloc and the Western nations, under American hegemony, made Asia, Cuba, Latin America and Africa tragic theatres of blood, sweat, toil and tears. Expectation darkened into anxiety, anxiety into dread and dread into despair. One shudders at the trauma inflicted on Vietnam, Korea and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The tribal massacres and mass starvation in Africa bring to mind vast scenes of brutality and inhuman privation which, even in the most devastating past, no kindly eye had seen, no compassionate heart conceived, no pathetic tongue could adequately tell. The danse macabre in the Middle East, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the torrent of diabolic weapons showered by the U. S. for the use of Afghan rebels who first hung noble President Najibullah on a street pole and then indulged in mutual massacre flooding with blood the snow-white mountains (the sombre slaughter, even amidst natural calamities, is still unabated) and other holocausts baffle description. And then come the Iraq imbroglio where America assumed the terrible role of waging on millions of Iraqi humans for the sin of President Saddam having occupied tiny Kuwait (whose oil resources and a foothold in that region were reportedly the real motivation behind the malignant invasion of Iraq). President Bush, according to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clarke, was a war criminal. All we know is that the skies over Iraq were rent with the agonizing cries of women and children, denied food and medicine by a U.N. alias U.S. embargo. The travail continues and the threat of a ghastly butchery is looming, with a stunned world helplessly watching the advancing doom. Murders most foul, on a massive scale, in the name of the United Nations makes a mockery of human rights and a trickery of the Universal Declaration. This - under the specious sanction of the Security Council - is ‘the most unkindest cut of all’. Each day’s issue of the media makes us tremble about the right to life, to survive, of our brothers and sisters and children in many countries where mutilation, massacre, torturesome mayhem frustrate fellowship and crucify our faith in the human future. The human race is racing towards the peril of annihilation. ‘The time is out of joint’. ‘To be, or not to be: that is the question’. The poser to every sensitive member of the race is, in Shakespearean diction, “whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?”. Humanity is at the mercy of the imperial majesty of Big Powers and of the only Super Power. No! If all mankind catalyze world opinion in support of human dignity and the worth of personhood, together with all the wealth of rights and values already part of U.N. instruments and international jurisprudence, there is hope. The pity is that Corporate Power and State terror, the world over, buy with base bribes. Quislings and fifth columnists who betray human rights. T.S. Eliot versifies such people: ‘We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men leaning together Headpiece filled with straw’. Alas: In Pakistan, internecine killings have been colossal. Even India, ignoring Gandhian vintage, has scattered blood and fury of violence. Quo Vadis the World Order? And lovely Sri Lanka dies daily in bleeding battalions!
These general observations on the universal dilemma is not a wonder or thunder of a day but a simmering trend slowly hotting up, with lucent forces of life and darker forces of death clashing over the decades. Materialism challenges spiritual values; but who wins? Will Durant sums up this battle of Kurukshetra in a Western perspective. In his book The Pleasures of Philosophy, there is a chapter titled: Is Progress a Delusion? He writes:
“Wealth came to Western Europe with the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution; and as it multiplied, it displaced the hope of heaven with the lure of progress.
“Europe’s, nouveau riche, imported luxuries and exported ascetics and saints. Trade made cities, cities made universities, universities made science, science made industry, and industry made progress.
“Obviously, the conception of progress is for industrial and secular civilization what the hope of heaven was for medieval Christendom. The dearest dogmas of the modern mind, the crura cerebri of all our social philosophy, are the beliefs in progress and democracy. If both of these ideas must be abandoned we shall be left intellectually naked and ridiculous beyond any generation in history”.
Durant proceeds to present the other side of the case:
“Disraeli was one of the first to sense the difference between physical and moral progress, between increase in power and improvement in purposes. “The European talks of progress because by the aid of a few scientific discoveries he has established a society which has mistaken comfort for civilization”. “Enlightened Europe is not happy. Its existence is a fewer which it calls progress. Progress to what?” Ruskin, a rich man, questioned the identity of progress and wealth: were these wealthy shopkeepers and shippers better specimens of humanity than the Englishmen of Johnson’s or Shakespeare’s or Chaucer’s days?
“Even the increase of knowledge may be part cause of the pessimism of our time. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, says Ecclesiastes. And his modern avatar confirms him: “In all the World”, says Anatole France (if we may believe secretaries), the unhappiest creature is man. It is said, “Man is the lord of creation”. Man is the lord of suffering, my friend.
“Then the Great Madness came, and men discovered how precariously thin their coat of civilization was, how insecure their security, and how frail their freedom. War had decreased in frequency, and had increased in extent. Science, which was to be the midwife of progress, became the angel of death, killing with a precision and a rapidity that reduced the battles of the Middle Ages to the level of college athletics. Brave aviators dropped bombs upon women and children, and learned chemists explained the virtues of poison gas. All the international amity built up by a century of translated literatures, cooperating scientists, commercial relationships, and financial interdependence, melted away, and Europe fell apart into a hundred hostile nationalities. When it was all over it appeared that the victors as well as the fallen had lost the things for which they had fought; that a greedy imperialism had merely passed from Potsdam to Paris; that violent dictatorships were replacing orderly and constitutional rule; that democracy was spreading and dead. Hope faded away; the generation that had lived through the war could no longer believe in anything; a wave of apathy and cynicism engulfed all but the least or the most experienced soul. The idea of progress seemed now to be one of the shallowest delusions that had ever mocked man’s misery, or lifted him up to a vain idealism and a colossal futility”.
Durant dolefully philosophizes about the mortality of nations, the obituary of cultures, the fatality of history and the decadence of time, past and present. Industry produced wealth but where wealth accumulates men decay. Durant laments: “The family has been the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history. It was the economic and productive unit of society, tilling the land together; it was the political unit of society, with parental authority as the supporting microcosm of the state; it was the cultural unit, transmitting letters and arts, rearing and teaching the young; and it was the moral unit, inculcating through cooperative work and discipline those social dispositions which are the psychological basis and cement of civilized society”.
“But today the state grows stronger and stronger, while the family undergoes a precarious transformation from homes to houses and from children to dogs. Men and women still mate, and occasionally have offspring; but the mating is not always marriage, the marriage is not always parentage, and the parentage is not often education. Free love and divorce abbreviate marriage”.
“And as wealth increases, luxury threatens the physical less and less in the work of their hands, more and more in the titillation of their flesh; the pleasure of amusement replaces the happiness of creation. Virility decays, sexes multiply, neuroses flourish, psychoanalysts breed. Character sags, and when crisis comes, who knows but the nation may fail?”
The West has been rebarbarized, says Will Durant. How can human rights and the world order be safe with such Powers? Ruefully, the philosopher tells us the truth about his country of Stars and Stripes:
“An ever decreasing proportion of business executives (and among them an ever decreasing number of bankers and directors control the lives and labours of an ever increasing proportion of men. A new aristocracy is forming out of the once rebellious bourgeoisie; equality and liberty and brotherhood are no longer the darlings of the financiers. Economic freedom, even in the middle classes, becomes rarer and narrower every year. In a world from which freedom of competition, equality of opportunity, and social fraternity begin to disappear, political equality is illusory, and democracy becomes a dream.
“All this has come about not (as we thought in hot youth) through the perversity of men, but through the impersonal fatality of economic development.
“Equality is only a transition between two hierarchies, just as liberty is only a passage between two disciplines”. See how the original equality in colonial America has been overgrown and overwhelmed by a thousand forms of economic and political differentiation, so that today the gap between the most fortunate and the least fortunate in America is greater than at any time since the days of plutocratic Rome. Of what use can equality be if political decisions must obey the majority of dollars rather than the majority of men
I have been divagating into Will Durant, not irrelevantly but mainly to go to the roots of our moral bankruptcy in defending human rights and averting the gradual decay of democracy. Now the relevance of Jesus to the issue of human rights, often missed as Christian religion, is touched upon by Durant quite interestingly:
“From before the days of Solomon the position of Jerusalem of the cross-roads of the great trading routes that connected Phoenicia with the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean nations with Assyria, Babylonia and Persia, had led to the development of mercantile establishments and pursuits among the Jews, and had widened the gap between the rich and the poor. The Jews who returned from Babylon were destitute. The conquering Greeks and Romans made barbaric slave-raids upon this helpless population, taking young men by the thousands. In the boyhood of Jesus whole towns near Nazareth were sold into slavery by the Romans. Everywhere in the larger ports of the Mediterranean a propertyless class was growing and a religious outlook was forming among them that was hostile and contrary to that of their maters. The rich, though privately agnostic, supported the old orthodox ritual and faith; the poor developed a moral code that made virtues of their weakness, misfortune and poverty, and a theology that culminated in a heaven for Lazarus the pauper and a hell for Dives, the millionaire. Hence Nietzsche’s denunciation of Christianity as the victory of a poorer over a more masterful type of man. The proletarian world was ready for a religion that would take the side of the underdog, preach the virtues of the meek and humble of heart, and offer the hope of a heaven in which all the slings and arrows of a prejudiced fortune would receive compensation in eternal happiness. The greatest tactical problem of modern Christianity is to reconcile its dependence upon the rich with its natural devotion to the poor”.
The essence of Jesus is the daring moral imperative, the universal goodness of human members, the spiritually catalyzed proletarianism which spread to the West, civilizing humanity and liberating the slave, man and woman. Says Durant: “I never got over my wonder that out of the ape and the jungle should have come at last a man able to conceive all humanity as one, able to love it, and suffer for it, without stint”. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ is the wellspring of human rights. ‘The kingdom of God is within you is a sublime statement of the divinity of every human being and is manifest in material terms as the dignity of every person. I must stress, as I sum up, that your very appellation, Christian Conference of Asia, obligates you to battle for the values of human rights, global and Asian, for which Jesus, the first spiritually non-violent but irrepressibly militant campaigner and founder gave his life. The Cross and the passion of Christ impart inspiration to millennia of generations to hold aloft the banner of human rights, be the enemy insidious, imperialist, intimidatorily armed or asuric avatar talking double-speak and robbing the neighbour subtly or savagely. This Consultation must have no hesitation in taking this fundamental stand that humanity is not mere marketable commodity, that divinity and dignity of every person is non-negotiable, that human rights covered by both the Covenants are indivisibly integral, that vulnerable sections of people deserve more protective concern from States and the international community and a holistic vision and paramount consideration are the locomotive of the collective human rights process.
At this point, we must begin a survey of the ground realities and socio-economic generalities of peoples’ lives worldwide, especially in Asia. Feudal times witnessed sharp cleavages in society, with slaves and serfs and sweating toilers of lands. This system was overthrown by the industrial revolution which, in its ruthless hunt for money and machine, dehumanized people into robots and automations and created filthy slums, destroying the pastoral poetry of the countryside and substituting, in pitiless ubiquity, grimy, heartless stys for sub-human habitation. Karl Marx, and others with a heart, felt the need for a revolutionary humanization of the system as inevitable and morally mandatory for the dignity and decency of the human person. Colonies, competitive capitalist occupations, imperialist wars and chaos in the cosmos were the sequels, leading to military clashes and blood and iron regimes. Two world wars shell-shocked world conscience and the global map was marred, mangled and manipulated into a ‘white’ supremacy. History never stands still; and so, the American, French and Russian revolutions with different tints and types of terrorism overtook mankind. The League of Nations, with President Wilson’s 14 points, failed; and global blood in ceaseless flood and genocidal gore inflicting millions of human casualties awakened the peoples of the earth to the urgency of the United Nations as a global guardian and sentinel on the qui vive of peace and security and respect for human dignity, worth of the human person and inalienable human rights. But we are transient dreamers of dissolving dreams and like billows bursting on sandy beaches getting soon absorbed, these rosy hopes were becoming vanishing cream.
Society, in a new synthesis of humanism, is a long way off. Contradictions, in terrible contrasts, keep the humble masses in inhuman subjection. Do read about the English Industrial Revolution and pseudo-prosperity. Dickens, in The Tale of Two Cities, put it pitilessly:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct to other way”.
That Industrial affluence and indigence inflicted tearful privations and intoxicating prosperity was not an isolated phenomenon but was a universal pathology where masses of humans underwent harrowing excruciations among surfeit of plenty, Steinbeck, in The Grapes of Wrath, is poignant reading:
“The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic, and the pustules of pellagra swelled on their side. The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line”.
The dialectical materialist and sensitive spiritualist will rebel against this bitter scenario so as to midwife, through the pangs of birth, a new, just social order. The insufferable extremes did not end with the inauguration of decolonization and technological abundance. Diversion of wealth for discovery of instruments of mass massacres, rather than for universal happiness, was the distortion caused by the Cold War. And the world of hope rose when bipolar global terror dissolved and science could shower distributive justice and drive out from the earth poverty and deprivation. Many benign U.N. instruments and Summit Meets promised a better deal, for the least developed hopes proved dupes and human rights faced their Waterloo, the greed of the Corporate Gargantuas denying the needs of the hungry, hapless tenants of the earth under an extortionate system. Dr. Rajni Kothari describes the human condition under the triune boons of the Bretton Woods institutions tantalizingly patented and painted as Privatization, Liberalization and Globalization. He begins with the traumatic contradiction of our times.
“We live in an era of curious stupefying paradoxes. Literacy percentages are going up but so are the total number of illiterates. Foodstocks are continuously piling up but so are the number of people without access to adequate food, those suffering from hunger and starvation, while in the meanwhile there has taken place a major decline in the quality of food available to the people, thanks to the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, more so in the poorer countries as the more hazardous pesticides are banned in the rich countries and both exported to and dumped in the poor countries. The number of people below the poverty line, measured in terms of minimum necessary nutritional standards, is said to be going down and yet malnutrition as well as severe physical debilities and destitution are on the increase, especially these affecting women and children, the simple physical capacity of the youngest generation to withstand the strains of living becoming ever more unstable and fragile.”
Speaking of India (this applies to others too), poverty alleviation programmes are abounding in print and are propagandized hypocritically by every Party in State Power, the Left not excepted, and the United Front is truly guilty as it loyally, but ironically, follows as ‘irreversible progress’ the I.M.F. commandments. ‘Reaganomics’, ‘Manmohanomics’ and ‘Chidambaromics’ are contra-constitutional but none calls the New Economic Policy a placebo, not panacea. It is the comatose opium of the huge have-nots and the glow of life of the top glitterati. Privatization, Liberalization and Globalization are but Orwellian newspeak and this pro-MNC world order is forced by the North on the South although, given the will, we have the capacity to build an alternative Human Order where sustainable development and distributive justice will give a new meaning to the right to life in dignity. That is the Resurrection of Jesus? Marketology, the insatiable appetite of gargantuan MNCs, has no soul to be damned but, driven by Mammon, is commoditizing humans, thereby annihilating democratic accountability and social justice and State undertaking to implement basic human rights. ‘And yet’, says Dr. Kothari, “people are on the rise everywhere. There is a great upsurge of political consciousness and with this the strategies and sites of struggle for democracy and human rights are fast shifting from advocacy to real action, from human rights activism to the engagement of people themselves in a wide range of specific struggles against the stranglehold of hegemonies and hierarchies, both traditional and modern.”
Mr. Justice Ismail Mahomed, in his convocation address at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, said, “The fuel which drove the great Indian struggle for independence, which defines the very special nature of Indian civilization, which gave expression to the peerless magic of Gandhi and which was intended to propel the constitutional chariot, was and must be spiritual. Central to the ethos of this old civilization is the primacy of the spirit within man and his social regeneration and spiritual self-realization through service to and love for his fellowmen. The finest hours in the history of this noble country were experienced when the spiritual fuel generated by that ethos was internalized within the hearts and minds of its people. There is a continuing relationship between any decline in the quality of that fuel and the intermittent periods of decline and degeneration in the history of this country.
“It is precisely the quality of this fuel which has in recent times insidiously been invaded by a virus which has contaminated its quality and effectiveness. The symptoms generated by this contamination are manifold. The culture of consumerism and the chase for material symbols of wealth and security have sometimes come to be dominant; the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment in many has slowly begun to degenerate into empty and sterile ritualism; the legitimate thirst for education has often become perverted into an obsessive drive to acquire with the greatest speed the formal diplomas necessary to gain entry to jobs offering the easiest opportunities to make the quickest rupees; political statesmanship in some areas has begun to depreciate into an opportunities race for power and position; the spirit of SEVA (Service) to the nation has intermittently begun to be suffocated in many, by the abuse of discretions, sometimes mediated by a bloated bureaucracy itself enmeshed in a vast network of multiplying paper and self-proliferating regulations; menacingly many good and decent people even in public life, have come to be corroded by a culture of demanding corruption; and some potentially creative lawyers, have begun to take perverted pride in mere “cleverness”, rendering themselves vulnerable to the prejudice that they are a parasitic obstruction in the pursuit of substantive justice. We have begun to understand what Gandhi really meant when he described modern civilization as a “disease”.
We cannot talk of human rights and globalization as some omnipotence in the sky or golden colours at dawn. Not abstractions but actualizations are our focus. The right to life, the foremost of human rights, is more than mere breath or tactile sense of touch. Field J., in Murm vs. Illinois (94 U.S. 113), observed “... By the term ‘life’ something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or leg, or the cutting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world. The deprivation not only of life, but of whatever God has given to everyone with life, for its growth and enjoyment, is prohibited by the provision in question, if its efficacy be not frittered away by judicial decision”. The Supreme Court of India has adopted this definition.
In Francis Coralic Mullin (1981 S. C. 746), Bhagwati J. observed: “The fundamental right to life ... is the most precious human right and ... forms the arc of all other rights”. The learned Judge added: “... The question which arises is whether the right to life is limited only to protection of limb or faculty, or does it go further and embrace something more. We think that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely, the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and co-mingling with fellow human beings”.
The finer graces of civilization which make life meaningful must be defended by the New World Human Order. A few more judicial dicta are apt to grasp the noble amplitude of the human right to life.
Pathak, C.J., stated as below in this regard in paragraph 5 of Vikram Deo Singh vs. State of Bihar, (AIR 1988 S.C. 1782):
“We live in an age when this Court has demonstrated, while interpreting Article 21 of the Constitution, that every person is entitled to a quality of life consistent with his human personality. The right to live with human dignity is the fundamental right of every Indian citizen, and so ... the State recognizes the need for maintaining establishments for the care of those unfortunates, both women and children, who are the castaways of an imperfect social order for whom, therefore, of necessity, provision must be made for their protection and welfare”.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, J. as he then was, expressed himself thus in Ramsharan vs. Union of India, (AIR 1989 S.C. 549, paragraph 13): “It is true that life in its expanded horizons today includes all that give meaning to a man’s life including his tradition, culture and heritage, and protection of that heritage in its full measure would certainly come within the encompass of an expanded concept of Article 21 of the Constitution”.
The importance of life and liberty was recognized in the following words by Pathak, C.J., in paragraph 7 of Kehar Singh vs. Union of India, (AIR 1989 S.C. 6531):
“To any civilized society, there can be no attributes more important than the life and personal liberty of its members. That is evident from the paramount position given by the courts to Art. 21 of the Constitution. These twin attributes enjoy a fundamental ascendancy over all other attributes of the political and social order, and consequently, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary are more sensitive to them than to the other attributes of daily existence”.
Kuldip Singh J. in Mohini Jain (1992 (3) S.C.C. 666) added a new dimension: “Right to life is the compendious expression for all those rights which the courts must enforce because they are basic to the dignified enjoyment of life. It extends to the full range of conduct which the individual is free to pursue. The right to education flows directly from the right to life. The right to life under Article 21 and the dignity of an individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by the right to education . . .
“Basic needs of man have traditionally been accepted to be three - food, clothing, and shelter. The right to life is guaranteed in any civilized society. That would take within its sweep the right to food, the right to clothing, the right to decent environment and a reasonable accommodation to live in. The difference between the need of an animal and a human being for shelter has to be kept in view. For the animal it is the bare protection of the body; for a human being it has to be a suitable accommodation which would allow him to grow in every aspect - physical, mental and intellectual.
Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, specifically recognizes “housing” as one of the rights relating to living. Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, also recognizes “housing” as a part of the right to adequate standard of living. Reference has been made to these documents because they do provide some guide to understand the width of our fundamental rights.
Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice, says what is sound jurisprudence of human rights. ‘You take my life when you take the means whereby I live’.
“Social and economic rights, in short, are as vital as political and civil rights. Indeed, basic human rights are integral and “we murder to dissect”. The Third World, wallowing in want and victimized by exploitation, may even regard economic survival as too important to be neglected. There is a point of confluence where materialism, as primary human needs and elimination of suffering, meets spirituality as mate”
One of the major thrusts of this Asian Consultation organised by the CCA is the arsenal of measures by which the menace of capitalist appetites of giant corporations and their global operations may be stemmed so as to secure for all persons a fair share of the work, wealth and happiness as a sine qua non of a just world system.
Human rights holism must be read in the light of environmental and ecological justice because man can survive only under appropriate environment and ecological milieu whereunder sustainable development and growth with justice may be possible. In this context, apart from the numerous UN instruments, we may have to recall the Summit assemblages where the world’s visionary statesmen, sensitive scientists and committed NGOs have met to advance the cause of social justice in its many dimensions. Among the most important concerns for which considerable effort is necessary bears upon the twin values of environment and development. The Stockholm Conference of 1972 stressed the paramount importance of environmental conservation. Indeed, India has made various enactments like the Water Act, Air Act, Environment Protection Act, Environment Tribunal Act, etc. Mere laws, without being monitored in performance, may prove a flop and so, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development was held, followed by the Rio Declaration which is of paramount importance as it sets out the famous Agenda 21 (3-14 June 1992, UNCED). The Rio Summit sought to build upon the past with the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among states, key sectors of societies and people, working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system, recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home, some excerpts will help.
Pregnant with meaning is Principle 1, which is as follows:
“Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature”.
Principles 3 and 4 run thus:
“The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
“In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it”.
What is often missing with tragic impact is the principle set out as Principle 8: “To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, states should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies
Principle 16, so necessary for immediate application, reads: “National authorities should endeavor to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment”.
What we must bear in mind, (but alas! it is mindlessly violated by Governments and MNCs) is that peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible and that warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development.
The ideological underpinnings of universal human rights jurisprudence can best be gathered by glimpses of International Conferences organized under the auspices of the United Nations. We have already noticed the Rio Declaration which claims environmental paramountcy if the human race is to survive. There is no Noah’s Ark for the nouveau riche if air and water, land and environment are fatally polluted. The World Conference on Human Rights, culminating in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993), expresses deep concern about discrimination and violence to which women are exposed. The Conference invokes: “the spirit of our age and the realities of our time which call upon the peoples of the world and all states Members of the United Nations to rededicate themselves to the global task of promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms so as to secure full and universal enjoyment of these rights”, and adopts a positive Declaration and affirmation of commitment. In particular, there is a mention on terrorism and drug trafficking.
It says: “The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community”.
“The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments, institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to intensify their efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights of women and the girl-child”.
The Declaration emphasizes the unique contribution and inherent dignity of indigenous people and their right to development and plurality of society. The Programme of Action is comprehensive and seeks to build and strengthen “adequate national structures which have a direct impact on the overall observance of human rights and the maintenance of the rule of law. Such a programme, to be coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights, should be able to provide, upon the request of the interested government, technical and financial assistance to national projects in reforming penal and correctional establishments, education and training of lawyers, judges and security forces in human rights, and any other sphere of activity relevant to the good functioning of the rule of law. That programme should make available to States assistance for the implementation of plans of action for human rights promotion and protection”.
The implementation and monitoring of human rights enforcement going beyond mere legislations but insisting on the creation of national structures, institutions and organs of society which play a given role is stressed. Special attention to assist the progress towards the goal of universal ratification of international human rights treaties and protocols is also stressed. But a cynic may wonder whether even the major Covenants and Instruments have been ratified by the Big Powers, including the US.
The Summit for Social Development at Copenhagen (1955) began with the following Declaration:
“1. For the first time in history, at the invitation of the United Nations, we gather as Heads of State and Government to recognize the significance of social development and human well-being for all to give to these goals the highest priority both now and into the twenty-first century.
2. We acknowledge that the people of the world have shown in different ways an urgent need to address profound social problems, especially poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, that affect every country. It is our task to address both their underlying and structural causes and their distressing consequences in order to reduce uncertainty and insecurity in the life of the people.
3. We acknowledge that our societies must respond more effectively to the material and spiritual needs of individuals, their families and the communities in which they live throughout our diverse countries and regions. We must do so as a matter of urgency, but also as a matter of sustained and unshakable commitment through the years ahead.
4. We are convinced that democracy and transparent and accountable governance and administration in all sectors of society are indispensable foundations for the realization of social and people-centered sustainable development”.
There is a commitment to the goal of eradicating poverty in the world through international cooperation “as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind”. Equality and equity between men and women insisting in changes of attitudes, laws and practices are also specificated. Several such commitments have been made and followed by a Programme of Action which insists on an enabling environment for social development. Eradication of poverty is made an important objective:
“18. Over 1 billion people in the world today live under unacceptable conditions of poverty, mostly in developing countries, and particularly in rural areas of low-income Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the least developed countries.
“19. Poverty has various manifestations, including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill-health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterized by a lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets. Women bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, and children growing up in poverty are often permanently disadvantaged. Older people, people with disabilities, indigenous people, refugees and internally displaced persons are also particularly vulnerable to poverty. Furthermore, poverty in its various forms represents a barrier to communication and access to services, as well as a major health risk, and people living in poverty are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of disasters and conflicts. Absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income, but also on access to social services”.
The Beijing Declaration, issued by the largest world gathering of women, made radical recommendations which, if enforced, will transform the status of the neglected gender. Empowerment of women and special attention to the child, abolishing practices like female infanticide and the misuse of technologies to determine fetal sex were advocated. Nevertheless they continue.
There is a flood of global human rights literature which, if enforced even in part, may transform our universe. Even a High Commissioner like an ombudsman of human rights - a new functionary - is overseeing the operational reality of these undertakings. But poverty is aggravating, terrorism by States and rebels who receive weapons from sources and countries where private arms industries flourish is hyper-active, the molested and downgraded gender and bonded labour see no relief in sight and marginalized Third World peoples and the Fourth World of utter destitution are in despair, with a Fifth World of refugees emerging everywhere with nowhere to go, despite Refugee Laws and the Red Cross. Why? A riddle wrapped in a mystery? No. The ‘haves’ of the earth and their limpets grab and the larger, rightless, wretched human sector, the lost and the last, are liquidated. Had the United Nations lost its elan, become the alter ego of the Super Power and wasted its energy spreading illusion and making sound and fury?
John F. Kennedy promised: “We seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system ... capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished ... This will require a new effort to achieve world law”.
The Universal Declaration spreads out into a full spectrum of fundamental freedoms each one of which is indefeasible. Freedoms of conscience, of religion and of institutions to safeguard and advance the right to language, culture, self-determination and equal protection of the laws are non-negotiable. Chauvinist nationalism should not smother individual and group rights, ethnic identities and innocent aspirational autonomy without secessionist syndromes.
The right to life has other dimensions - environmental, ecological, informational, anti-discriminatory, and democratically pluralist. Around a hundred UN instruments have expanded on these issues. Basic principles of judicial independence, outrageously violated in some countries, freedom of the legal profession, sometimes precarious and prone to pressure and punitive tactics, deserve emphasis. Where the Bench and the Bar genuflect before authoritarian forces the realization of human rights becomes a soap bubble transcience or promise of unreality. Under the pretext of Emergency or alleged judicial activism or political allergy, the judiciary has been made submissive. Buying the judges by holding out post-retiral carrots or high salaries or gubernatorial offices are strategems for plasticizing ‘robed brethren’. Boneless wonders on the Bench are doubly dangerous vis-à-vis human rights enforcement.
Is World Law dead? Is the vision of humanity vanitas et vanitatem? Who is the villain of the piece? Jesus’ voice and vision was global. So too were those of the Vedas and the Buddha and the Prophet of Islam. What then is the new syndrome of globalization which contradicts and kills the earlier glory? In Wordsworth’s lines: “Whither is fled the visionary gleam?” “Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” Shall we also repeat his other verse?
And much it grieved my heart to think.
What man has made of man.
With all the billions of words m the General Assembly and millions of words in the UN instruments and massive conferences, are we worse off than when the Universal Declaration of 1948 was unanimously acclaimed? India, for instance, wails over pollution in the Preamble to its Environment Protection legislation. I quote from the Introduction itself:
“The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of people and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the people of the whole world and the duty of all Governments.
“The gravity attached to the environmental problem is evident from the fact that in all advanced countries, scientists, economists, policy-makers and administrators have given serious thought to such problems. The Department of Environment is vibrant with activities in many such advanced countries. The developing, and even under-developed nations, urgently need to address themselves to this devastating problem.
“As rightly observed in the article Overlapping International and European Laws: “Environmental protection has become a fertile source of laws, international, European and national, since the U.N. sponsored the Stockholm Conference of 1972 and its Declaration on, and Action Programme for the Human Environment. Numerous conventions between States which turn out to be geographically interdependent have been hammered out, a few before, but most since, that date, covering such matters as the prevention of the pollution of the seas in general, or of particular seas, or common rivers, the reduction of air pollution and latterly the safeguarding of flora and fauna”.
And yet, Delhi, is one of the most polluted cities in the world. So also Bombay. Tens of thousands of industries are recklessly noxious; and yet colossal pollutive enterprises get government clearance. Public interest litigation has led to closure of such factories as well as prevention of coastal waters, injurious aqua-culture and damage to river beds. Deforestation, ‘rape and run’ aqua-culture, robbery of bio-diversity, ecological devastation, and other contaminations make life unlivable and development a huge hoax. Courts are criticized for judicial activism for preventing foul chemical discharges and automobiles, toxic effusions and for enforcing measures to secure clean water, air and soil. It looks almost as if politicians in power and bureaucrats ready to abet are on the side of the corporate polluters. Rarely is the law invoked against big or influential companies which unconscionably make profit ignoring harm to life. Is the Prologue to “America Inc.,” Ralph Nader says: “It is almost axiomatic that irresponsibility toward public interests becomes institutionalized whenever the making of decisions is so estranged from any accountability for their discernible consequences ... Unsafely designed automobiles, pollution, harmful food additives, and other contaminants embody a silent kind of violence with unpredictable incidence per victim”. Corporate predations play havoc in US itself. Modern corporations are juggernauts with mindless, immense power. Calvin Coolidge said long ago what is pathologically and macro-dimensionally true today: “The business of America is business”. Business means corporate Big Business. Woodrow Wilson while campaigning for the Presidency, said: “The masters of the Government of the United States are the combined capitalists and manufacturers of the United States”. (P.29, America Inc.) The situation is far more grave today. Thus we get track of the problem of who controls governments - corrupt corporate power. Capitalist states and private corporates stoop to conquer markets and liberal access and incarnate as global Frankinstein’s monsters. “Food First”, a best-seller by Lape and Collins, exposes the myth of the World Bank, the IMF and the big corporations as saviors. Food self-reliance is overturned and World Hunger as Big Business is promoted by cartels operating like vampires.
The World Bank is not simply a provider of development loans but cutely shapes the economic policies of various countries to suit US interests. The IMF goes a shade better and dictates policies. The Fund-Bank duo, in short, is the real power in many Third World countries, and India is no exception. Our sovereignty is our alloy. Devaluation is only the most dramatic measure in the World Bank’s programme which is accompanied by other physical and financial policy changes. The loans often go increasingly to the world’s repressive regimes or the world’s democratic governments willing to genuflect before the US and the IMF. Indeed, “Food First” argues ably that the World Bank and the United States so strategize their maneuvers as to deny the majority of the assisted countries the Human Right to survive. The US corporations and military interests are the first priority in aid and loan projects. The Bank and the IMF are in no sense a democratic or globally representative institution. It is accountable to no one except, perhaps, to the US and everything around it is virtually secret. The model of development forced upon countries by the Bank-Fund bosses is against the poor and dispossessed.
Wealth begins with land and people and land reforms should be the cynosure of food self-sufficiency but the Bank-Fund duo demand cut in subsidies, liberalization of land ownership and undemocratic measures without any socialist tinge. They promote needless fertilizer and deleterious pesticide imports and, on the whole, human rights are in peril in the economic, social and political spheres when the Bank-Fund dependencies syndrome afflicts the borrowing countries. It is not as if the American people are aware of all these. All this hunger struggle of the poorer of the earth is exploited by the Bretton Woods institutions under the hegemony of the US. The struggle is against a system of Corporate Power profiting from hunger to pharmaceuticals for disease and other forms of human wants. Let us identify the enemy before organizing the battle for rehabilitation of human rights.
The new mantra or cult of privatization, liberalization and globalization is fabricated in the headquarters of Corporate Power so that they may claim to enslave world market. They come, they see, they seize and strangle and their profits soar.
Let me take the instance of India to illustrate Operation Recolonization Limited, not because of idolatory of geography but because, if India, itself a great country in its own right with a socialistic public sector and intellectual culture were to be dominated, other countries, including even the Asian Tigers and China, may face the same doom tomorrow or the day after.
Do you realize that India’s cultural heritage, natural wealth, including bio-diversity, and human reservoir and what you make of it, are a golden treasury, intangible may be, but invaluable as legacy? India can advance, not by borrowings from abroad nor through foreign direct investments - an economic boloney spread by the New Economic Policy - and never by worshipping the Fund-Bank or other Bretton Woods deities or MNCs who stride the world like colossi. On the contrary, our spiritual attainments, scientific discoveries, peaks of performance in several spheres alone can make Bharat (India) Mahan (great). In this marvelous odyssey, Youth Power must be the spearhead.
Our vision of hope in a New World Human Order will meet with fulfillment only if we overcome the awesome and ugly prospect of becoming a mere market of the economic North. Today, the economic South, including India, is under threat of recolonization through GATH WTO and what not.
Dr. V. Kurien, in an Address in 1991, had warned about this new imperialism: “It would mean that one-fourth of the world’s population would occupy three-fourths of its area while the remaining three-fourths of the World’s people must make do on but one-fourth of its land. This basic fact, I would argue, is the reason we are poor. And, should we not ask the question: how much of this land was the historical home of its present population, and how much was forcibly occupied?”.
He was critical of the hegemony of the US whose then leader defined the New World Order as “What we say goes”. Dr. Kurien added: “This does not seem a very elegant or inspiring vision of a New World. In fact, it is no vision at all. Not when a significant portion of humanity lives on the brink of famine. Not when hundreds of millions go to sleep hungry every night. Not when they sleep on a cold pavement, or in a crumbling shanty. Not when the clothes they wear are tattered and torn. Not when their children are unable to receive even the simplest forms of medical care and a basic education. We need - all of us - to ask whether our New World Order excludes this part of humanity”.
The diffidence and even disdain that Indians are induced to have about their own socio-economic status is pathetic. American scholar Prof. Noam Chomsky rightly complained in a recent interview about the damage that liberalization does to the poor. In his own words, “India (has always) had very advanced agricultural research projects, programmes and so on. But they are being destroyed, bought up by multinationals. The Indian scientists are very good. They now get five times more salaries working for multinationals. This is an agrarian country. It needs agricultural research. Take pharmaceuticals. India has had quite an effective pharmaceutical industry. Drugs in India were much cheaper than in Pakistan because India used to produce itself. Now it has got to stop. Neo-liberalism means you destroy the pharmaceutical industry”.
The piracy of our rich and rare resources in bio-diversity, manipulation of genome, patent for living organs and selling back at fancy prices should put us all to shame. Patentization of the process, produce, and living organisms, is facilitation of predatory operation by foreign corporate power. Our neem, tulasi and other herbal abundance, even basmati rice, will soon cease to be ours unless the young scientists and mature nationalists arrest this sly strategy. Otherwise, conquest of India by patent is a clear possibility. You may reflect over these traumatic thoughts and if you feel convinced, dedicate yourself to the defence of economic swaraj!
There is enough here for you to find a career provided our pro tern political leaders will transform themselves into statesmen, encourage indigenous research, inhibit consumerist hi-tech, and put your talent to developmental projects based on appropriate technology, not multinational gluttony. Why write off the Mahatma and bury Nehru and fall in lethal love with Manmohanomics which is surrender to Reaganomics!
To sum up, we need today a daring generation of young intellectuals determined to bend their energies to raise Bharat to its high status justified by the human and material resources it possesses.
For nearly half a century the nation has sworn by self-reliance and transfer of technology only where necessary. Emphasis has always been on India’s socio-economic interests, not on surrender to foreign pressure and laying bare our economic space for MNC occupation, subverting our Constitutional values, cultural heritage and march towards a self-confident future. You, as young persons with intellectual integrity, conscientized nationalism and commitment to the thousand million humans making up India’s demography, must interrogate why a “U-turn” in economic policy now - export promotion as against import substitution, reliance on xeno-philic private sector instead of dominance by the public sector, open sesame to the international economy and to foreign capital rather than accent on protected domestic activities and employment.
Even if international links must be forged for the Indian economy to rise, we need transparency in dealings, glasnost in Governmental policies and public debate on what affects the people. Almighty Corruption, often foreign, has invaded Development and mayhemed human rights. Great Prophets of history and pre-history, the sages and saints of Asia and elsewhere have put the human being at the centre-stage of development. Our commitments to human rights, if it is beyond verbomania, must be the semi-centennial celebration of the Universal Declaration as of Indian Independence. Our commitment must be deep and steeped in the Universal soul, not in consumerist gluttony and sexomania.
Youth power has a great task before it and that needs a united movement regardless of parties and regions to drive home the imperative that the first and foremost goal is not to manufacture glittering cars and other glamorous items, but to give drinking water, not Scotch Whisky; to give food, not Kentucky fried chicken; to provide basic needs, not fast food addiction. The desiderated depth of commitment to your brothers and sisters in poverty and hunger is best brought out by a dialogue between Tagore and the Mahatma which I reproduce here for your edification:
“Once Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore asked Gandhi, “Gandhi, are you so unromantic? When in the early dawn, the morning sun rises, does it not fill your heart with joy to see its reddish glow? When the birds sing does not your heart thrill with its divine music? When the rose opens its petals and blooms in the garden does its sights not bring cheer to your heart?”
The Mahatma replied, “Gurudev, I am not so dumb or insensitive as not to be moved by the beauty of the rose or the morning rays of the sun or the divine music of the birds. But what can I do? My one desire, my one anxiety, my one ambition is when shall I see the red tint of the rose on the cheeks of hungry naked millions of my people? When shall I hear the sweet and melodious song of the birds in place of their agonizing sighs? When will such music come out of their soul and when will that day come when the light of the morning sun will illumine the heart of the common man in India? When will I see its lustre and brightness on his face?”
Fifty years after, the Indian human lot is still harrowing. Deep concern for humans everywhere, not golf courses and multi-storeyed posh apartments - that is the sign of the Cross, the Crescent and Dhamma.
A vibrant heart culture, a profound feeling for the forsaken and famishing sector of humanity is the first step our educated youth must take.
Corporate Powers the world over are uniting to maximize profits and minimize human rights. If we must win the war against the traumatic corporate tornado, then we as the Asian Community, must unite and wage a resistance movement with conscience and conviction, with the masses of the largest Continent being roused for counter-attack.
The discourse on human rights should not allow itself to be misappropriated by ventriloquists of the Establishment who are opponents of progressive forces branding them as terrorists when they demand statehood and power to the dalits, the women, the indigenous tribals. In the Indian and like contexts (Shia Vs Sunni or Ahamadia or Bahai), caste and communal violence are violative of human rights and cannot be condoned. Any creative theory of people’s rights should develop a conceptualization of multidimensional liberation of human beings from all forms of repression, including excommunication (a la Fr. Balasurya). The struggle against chauvinist Hindutva, against hegemonic attack on minority sects in all religions and a plea for an integrated package of total human personhood, including right to development (not imposed but chosen, not mega-size involving mass eviction, but human mini-model) and acceptance of self-determination sans extreme demand for secession - these and other conceptual cousins must be woven into the larger fabric of progressive human rights.
No to Privatization ‘red in tooth and claw’; yes to Public Sector without political corruption; no to Liberalization, with market exploitation; yes to Liberation from exploitative coercion; no to globalization as domination of world market with deprivation of the developmental directive of ‘Small is Beautiful’; yes to Universalism in sharing and caring for the suffering humanity and Good Samaritan ethic - these should be evolved and situated in Third World conditions and perspectives. The elite boast of stability as perpetuation of status quo and surrender to Big Power pressure must be rejected. No to Mammonomics and yes to Humanomics with growth sans monopoly, even of intellectual rights, but with distributive justice enforceable by easy access and inexpensive facilities. GATT treaties are GAPT astrophic and recolonizing in future, unless we arrest the Evil Corporate Empire by united action. Beware, if you are human rights sensitive:
“After World War II, a sense of global Manifest Destiny came to dominate United States policies. Between 1945 and the late 1980s, the United States militarily intervened more than 200 times into the internal, sovereign affairs of well over 100 “third world” countries, causing directly or indirectly the murders of 20-25 million human beings and the maimings of at least that many”.
If we wait longer, we will behold global economic occupation through one-sided treaties.
“Now as through this world I ramble,
The last lurid paragraph of my address is of Gandhi about India of 1927, but India of 1997, so far as Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh rural areas are concerned, remain the same, and so I quote and conclude:
“Don’t be dazzled by the splendour that comes to you from the West. Do not be thrown off your feet by this passing show”. (M.K. Gandhi, “Socialism of My Conception”).
“I do not believe that multiplication of wants and machinery contrived to supply them is taking the world a single step nearer its goal... I whole-heartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and I have understood it to do so, I call it Satanic”. (Young India, March 17, 1927).
“Come with me to Orissa, to Puri - a holy place and a sanatorium, where you will find soldiers and the Governor’s residence during summer months. Within ten miles’ radius of Puri, you will see skin and bone. With this very hand I have collected soiled pies from them tied tightly in their rags, and their hands were more paralyzed than mine were at Kolhapur. Talk to them of modern progress. Insult them by taking the name of God before them in vain”. (M. K. Gandhi, “Socialism of My Conception”.)
“The poor sisters of Orissa have no saris; they are in rags. Yet they have not lost all sense of decency; but, I assure you, we have. We are naked in spite of our clothing and they are clothed in spite of their nakedness” (Ibid).
Most Third World countries are variants of Orissa in poverty, tribal tribulations and bonded women and children. In human rights terms, we must hang together or will be hanged separately.
The age of humanism is approaching the vanishing point. ‘That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded’. The glory of a New Human Order is gory with the blood of over 20 million casualties after 1946! For human rights future and culture, is there hope or despair?
What once required wars has now been accomplished with words. The nation-state which emerged as the central political and economic construct in the post-World War II and post-colonial era of the mid-twentieth century, has become irrelevant as an integral unit. The locus of economic decision-making has been transferred from national governments to transnational corporations of the rich nations of North America, Europe and Far East Asia, backed by the authority of a new World Trade Organization (WTO).
Mammon, incarnating as MNCs, must be slain if common people are to be safe in their human rights. That is a big task but must be undertaken if the World Order is to become spiritually conscientized and materially equitable.
War must be abolished if life is to be safe. The UN has failed but cannot be written off since that is the only cornucopia of farewell to armies and welcome to peace.
Treaties, with potential for Big Powers and Corporate Might a la GATT and WTO, must be restructured with approval by the United Nations nem con so that world opinion may be mobilized in support of just treaties and against unjust impositions.
MNCs, with the support of military might, should not freely enter other countries and indulge in exploitation of natural resources and national interests to their own benefit. Sovereignty should not be diluted by ‘East India Companies’ multiplied by a million. Green Revolution has a glamour for agriculture but is a treachery because of heavy inputs of fertilizers and pesticides which, after a time, will sap the soil of its nutritive value. Indeed, this is a chemical trap of the MNCs sweetly accepted by Third World countries through propaganda. Moreover, mono-culture will create ‘new slaves’ in agriculture and give price control to giant corporations with monopoly hold. The Banana Republics and many other instances elsewhere prove the economic depletion and human rights subversion operated by advanced countries and their TNCs. Therefore a new debate must begin on human rights-oriented economic policies where every person and his dignity matters.
We may recall what Dr. B. R. Ambedkar told the Constituent Assembly of India in November 1949 as this applies to most decolonized countries:
“The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy.
“We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality which means elevation for some and degradation for others. On the economic plane, we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions.
“In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of ‘one man, one value’. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?
“. . .If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up”.
Let me wind up with the need for NGO Ombudsmen armed with legal powers to take action wherever human rights are vulnerable and violated and also to recommend cancellation of treaties entered into with oblique motives by suspect national leaders. The signatures of Ministers to the GATT Final Act must be reconsidered because it is hostile to human rights.
Alas, we have scientific advances which outdistance our spiritual maturity; we have missiles but misguided commanders.