Archives for category: human rights

Regardless of their ‘ignorance’, these dudes had somehow managed to put together a constitution which served well for more than 250 years.
It was under the guidance of this Constitution that the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” have been welcomed.
It was under the guidance of this Constitution that the “homeless, tempest-tost” have found the inspiration to learn about atoms, to heal disease, to unearth – and understand, dinosaurs, to master the light-bulb witchcraft… and to build machine guns!

Darwin was also a ‘rich dude’. He didn’t have to ‘work’ to make ends meet. It would have been enough for him to follow in his father’s footsteps and he would have led a plentiful life.
He had chosen instead to embark in a lifelong quest for knowledge…

OK, his theory was far from perfect!
Yet his breakthrough did put us on the right track!

I could go on for ever.
There are innumerable examples of instances when people have punched above their weight. And came out with wonderful results. Not only for them but mostly for us!

For us, to stand on their shoulders.

Are we up to the task?

Are we able to appreciate the US Constitution for its true value?
Are we able to understand, once and for all, that Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” is about way more than ‘the survival of the fittest’?

According to Ernst Mayr, evolution is about the ‘demise of the unfit‘. Which is a way more ‘inclusive’ reading of Darwin’s theory than that which ‘promotes’ the ‘survival of the fittest’.

Thurgood Marshall’s ancestors had been slaves. That was how the US constitution was read in those times.
And I’m sure that at least some of his fellow Justices’ ancestors had been slave owners.

Yet under the US Constitution the members of the 1973 Scotus had found it in them to sit together and read the principles minted by the Founding Fathers in a manner wide enough to encompass the women’s right to decide about their bodies. And every individual’s right to privacy. To a privacy ‘wider’ than that expressly formulated in the Constitution and in the XIV-th Amendment.

Fast forward to 2022. To when ‘survival of the fittest’ has almost been replaced by ‘the winner takes it all’.
To when a far more inclusive Scotus has determined that abortion is something which should be legislated by each state. That a woman’s right to determine what happens to/with her body can be influenced by somebody else’s opinion.

Are we going backwards?
Darwin gave us Evolution. We use his theory as a theoretical justification for why some people are ‘more equal’ than the others.
The ‘rich dudes’ had given us the Constitution. As a protection against abuse. As a shield for us to use whenever the momentarily powerful attempt to rule our lives. And some of our contemporaries use it as a Trojan horse. To open the door for very oppressive pieces of legislation.

How was this possible?!?

Both sides of the ‘divide’ have lost their ‘perspective’. Their focus.
The Constitution, which used to be the mortar which has given coherence to the entire building, has become a ‘bone of contention’.
Evolution – which made us what we are today, has become a cuss.

How wise is this?

I grew up in a communist country, Romania.

Russian films were ‘readily’ available.
Some of them were good. Really good.

Besides going to the movies, I was an avid reader.
I must confess that the ‘great Russian classics’ didn’t impress me. No special reason.
But I did read a lot of Russian literature. About the partizans fighting the Nazis during WWII, about the communists fighting for freedom – for their version of freedom, in the early ‘920-ies, some Sci-Fi novels about the happy lives the Russians were going to live in the next millennium.

This morning I was listening to the radio.
The news bulletin was, of course, about what’s going on in Ukraine.

A refugee, a woman who had fled accompanied by her young daughter – her husband and her son remained at home to fight, was speaking in her native language.
I know that Ukrainian is different from Russian. But for my ears they sound very much the same.

Imagine what I felt.

I grew up associating the Russian language with the struggle for freedom. With the promise of a better world.

As I learned things… my understanding of history had become more ‘nuanced’.
The Soviet Union had collapsed after Afghanistan. The regime finally got what was coming to it.
As Putin crushed Chechnya, killed Litvinenko, ‘peacefully’ occupied Crimea … things were no longer ‘nuanced’…

But this!

They say that an image is worth a thousand words… I’m no longer sure about that!

There is so much violence paraded in front of our yes that our ‘retina’ has become calloused.

Hearing that brave woman trying to convey her tragedy in a language I associated in my childhood with the promise of liberty really did it for me.

This time the oppressor itself was speaking Russian.
Russian soldiers were doing the very same thing the Russian people had experienced during the WWII. And they were doing it to their ‘brothers’.

Russian soldiers were turning Kyiv into rubble!
Kyiv, the birth place of the Rus-ian people…

All this conveyed in a language which, for me, sounds very much the same as the language I had associated in my childhood with the quest for freedom.

I wept.

Hoping the Kremlin will learn to understand tears.
Maybe not the present ruler but at least the stony walls…

Quite a lot of people around the Internet are considering that ‘Ukraine is of little interest for the US’.
Even some of the Europeans are considering that isolating Putin’s Russia from ‘SWIFT’ is a too steep price to be paid, by them, for Ukraine’s independence.

I remind them, all of them, of what Martin Niemoeller had to say on this subject.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

The larger your ‘skull’ is, the more ideas – sometimes conflicting ones, you are able to ‘harbor’.

This guy, a 31 years old father of two, is looking forward for a heart transplant.

Meaning that he, and his family, trust the doctors who are going to perform the surgery.
Who are going to open up his chest, take his failing heart out, sew the ‘re-cycled’ one in and patch him up again.
Doctors who need to hook him up to various machines and to pump him full of chemicals in order to maintain him alive – but unconscious, during the procedure. And who are going to closely monitor him – and, again, administer him a lot of vital drugs, during the rest of his life.

Meanwhile he, and his family, don’t trust the doctors who tell him he needs to get a Covid jab first.

David Ferguson, D.J. father, “said the Covid vaccine goes against his son’s “basic principles, he doesn’t believe in it”.”

“We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time sensitive,” the family said in its fundraising appeal, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars. “This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!”
D.J.’s mother, Tracey Ferguson, insists that her son isn’t against vaccinations, noting he’s had other immunizations in the past. But the trained nurse said Wednesday that he’s been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm — and that he has concerns about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“D.J. is an informed patient,” Tracey Ferguson said in a brief interview at her home in Mendon, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Boston. “He wants to be assured by his doctors that his condition would not be worse or fatal with this COVID vaccine.”

Hospital patient without COVID shot denied heart transplant.

Unvaccinated man denied heart transplant by Boston hospital.

You can’t have religion without faith.
But not all faith is beneficial to the believers…

Religion is when a community comes together/works better because its members share a common set of beliefs. Of explanations about how the world works. Of ‘values’ which guide day to day life.

Faith, on the other hand, is unchallenged belief in a narative. Can be good – as the Christian faith had been so useful for the Northern Atlantic area of the Earth until recently, but it can also be bad.

It’s not as much the content of the belief which is bad but the fact that the content is unchallenged. Sacrosant!
Christian faith had been good because it had taught us that we were both equal and of divine nature – made in the image of God, and had become bad when nobody was allowed to challenge it. When people were literally burned at stake after being perceived as challenging the established order.

As it had happened to William Tyndall.
For translating the Bible into English…

William Tyndall, Biography of the Father of the English Bible.
https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/translator-william-tyndale-strangled-and-burned-11629961.html

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“To boldly go where no man had gone before!”

None of us had been asked for their ‘informed consent’.
Yet all of us are cramped together on Space-ship Earth towards the place where ‘no man had ever gone before’.

Now that this very suggestive image has been published, what is our voyage going to morph into?

Hell on Earth, as so many apocalyptic movies/novels have advertised?

Or are we going to heed to the present ‘wake-up call’? As we already did so many times before?

We have managed to eradicate, through vaccination, the smallpox. Polio, measles, diphtheria, rabies and so many other diseases are no longer a real danger. For those of us who had been vaccinated or have access to the relevant vaccines.

Yet faced with the current challenge, COVID 19, we have ‘doubts’…

Some of us have doubts about getting the vaccine, others about making the vaccine available to the entire ‘crew’.

What’s going on in that collective brain of ours?

What’s the rationale behind making the polio vaccine available for everybody, practically for free, while that for COVID is still out of reach for most of those who need it? Given our current industrial prowess…
Why is it so hard to understand that given enough time SARS Cov 2 will certainly mutate far enough from the original version to evade the current vaccine?

The fact that the authors above are working the equity angle speaks volumes.
Equity is, indeed, very important.
Only it relates more to ‘metaphysics’ than to the immediate reality.

Equity has to do with the perceived reality while people die in the immediate one.
The perceived reality will end up haunting us, indeed, only we have to survive the current situation in order to get to that stage.

The real problem with the lopsided access to the Covid vaccines being that while we ‘race to secure doses’ the virus has the opportunity to mutate out of our ‘control’.
Our concern with ‘equity’ somehow blinds us to the fact that ‘cutthroat’ is no longer a metaphor.
The longer it takes for us to understand that the entire crew of the space-ship Earth must be immunized the longer it will take for us to get ‘out of the woods’.

Why had our parents been able to eradicate small pox and almost do the same thing to polio?
While we’re still dragging our asses? And not exclusively about COVID… When we have so much information about everything?

What made the anti-vaxxers of those times less powerful than the current ones?

What makes me so sure the erstwhile anti-vaxxers had been less powerful?
Small pox had been eradicated, right?
I had measles. Before the vaccine had been made available. Never heard about anybody having measles until very recently.

A weakness in herd immunity contributed to the recent measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. The level of vaccination in that community was down to about 70 to 80 percent, well below the critical level of herd immunity, which was due to the spread of misinformation about the safety of the MMR vaccine among other causes. A child who had visited relatives abroad brought measles back into his neighborhood in Brooklyn, causing one of the worst measles outbreaks that New York City has seen in decades. A total of 654 individuals were infected, causing the city to issue a mandatory vaccination in people living in the four Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Let me wrap up with this.

Whoa!
What’s going on here?
Israel, the country, had made a huge effort to save its people from the misery caused by Covid!
Why would the Ultra-Orthodox community need any extra-effort to let itself be immunized?

Why was Israel’s manner of thinking closer to that of our fathers’ than to ours?
What makes us so similar, in this respect, to the Ultra-Orthodox?

Well, our fathers had to fight for their rights. And Israel for its place on the map.
We, and the Ultra-Orthodox, had our rights granted to us.

Our fathers had to cooperate among themselves in order to get through.
Israel had survived, and thrived, as the consequence of a coordinated effort.

We are cocooned in our bubbles.
We have become spoiled brats. One way or another.

We really need to start thinking outside our respective comfort zones.

For no other reason that mutinies tend to make matters worse.
It so happened that during the last 80 years no major conflict had disturbed the peace on our ship.
No thanks to us. We haven’t done anything special. Being aware that a conflict between the major powers would have ended in MAD doesn’t count as ‘doing anything special’.
During the last two generations we sorta lost our bearings.

Hopefully we’ll wake up to the fact that the next disturbance will no longer be a ‘top down’ event.
Think about it. Ever since the French Revolution – the last bottoms up upheaval, all other ‘disturbances’ had been the consequence of somebody planning for them. Initiating them.

30 years ago, the socialist lager had crumbled. Under its own weight.
Nobody had planned that event. Nobody had planned for that event!
The democratic world had been stunned by the speed with which things had unfolded.

The socialist lager had crumbled for the simple reason that the people living there had become pissed of.
Pissed of by the growing distance which separated them from those living in the ‘capitalist’ world.

Some of that distance has survived to this day. But it’s shrinking! Fast!

Unlike the distance between the ‘civilized’ world and the ‘developing nations’.

This ‘cutthroat race (among nations) to secure doses’ while so many ‘civilized’ people share-antivaxxer propaganda only adds insult to the injury felt by those who don’t have access to vaccines.
And demonstrates how far off we have distanced ourselves from the ‘hard core’ reality.

The native speakers among you don’t need to be reminded of what ‘bounty’ means.
How ironic is it?
People manning ‘the Bounty’ had had enough and chosen mutiny in place of a continuation of what they already had.
Captain Bligh, on the other hand, had learned nothing of his first experience… “Bligh, who eventually would fall prey to a total of three mutinies in his career, was an oppressive commander and insulted those under him.”

Are we going to make anything of our present predicament?

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I’ll start by stating that nothing becomes fact before somebody calling it so!

Doesn’t make any sense?
It’s not enough?
OK…

So ‘blue’ had become a fact only after people had invented a word for it…
It had existed before hand but we hadn’t noticed it – hadn’t spoken about it, more exactly, until we had a word for it. Until we had learned how to ‘measure’ it…

But what is a ‘fact’?
Something which is ‘real’?
And how do you determine if something is ‘real’ or not?
It either has ‘measurable consequences’ or your experience about it has been confirmed by somebody else.
A coffee table becomes a fact in the dark after you hit it with your shin and a meteorite ceases being a illusion the moment your hubby confirms he has also seen it.
No so complicated, was it?

‘But what about a propaganda movie? It that real? Can you consider it to be a fact?’

Excellent question, Watson!

The movie itself is real alright! A fact, indeed.
The fact that not everything it pretends to be real is true… is also a fact!
Savvy?

In fact, there are more facts waiting to be discovered than actual ‘happenings’.

Take the propaganda movie.
It has consequences.
Some people believe in its message. And act accordingly. Each of those actions becoming facts on their own.
Other people smell the rat hiding behind the screen. And act accordingly. Each of those actions being facts on their own.
The fact that those exposed to the same message more often than not chose to respond differently is a strong suggestion that facts – and reality itself, are not so straightforward as we’d like them to be.
As straightforward as most spin doctors pretend them to be…

‘You’ve been jabbering for sometime now but you haven’t yet come forward. What was the meaning of that ‘elusive’ title of yours?’

Liberty.
What is it?
A fact? A natural fact? Something which was given to us? Our natural status? Something others want to steal from us?
Something we’ve built/discovered together?
Or an ideal we’ll never be able to fulfill?

How about all three at the same time?

‘Are you nuts?’

A ball – a foot-ball, for example, has a certain degree of freedom. Put it on a table and it may roll in any direction it may choose. But will ‘never’ be able to fall through the table nor start to fly. ‘On it’s own’…
A helium balloon has another kind of freedom. If it’s tied down with a string it has the freedom to oscillate. If it’s ‘free’ it has the freedom to go up. For as long as it manages to hold on on enough helium, but that’s another thing. Another fact, if you will…

A society is free only if its members respect and defend, collectively, their freedoms. Their individual freedom and their collective freedom. For instance, Russia is a free country but its citizens are not as free as their neighbors, the Fins.
The moment Hong Kong went back to China, the city was no longer as free as it used to be as a British dominion. Yet its citizens have continued to be far freer than the rest of the Chinese citizens. For a while…..

Somethings – freedom, for instance, cannot be anything more than people think about them.

Others can.
Until people had invented X-rays, nobody could know how big were the roots of any given tooth.
Until Robert K. Merton had put together a more detailed analysis of it, the law of the unintended consequences was something people intuitively knew it was ‘real’ but nobody was fully aware of its real depth. Now, most of us agree that that depth is unfathomable. Yet some people still behave as if things were under control… Under their control…

Freedom, and all other rights we have enjoyed for sometime now, is only as wide – and only as deep, as we make it to be. As we agree among ourselves to make it.
For all of us!

Collective freedom as a fact.
In the sense that the freer communities have had a consistently bigger survivability rate than the more authoritarian regimes.
Ancient Athens had been able to navigate through more ‘dire straights’ than its arch-enemy, Sparta.
The Roman Empire has been established as a democracy, thrived as one for a while then failed abysmally as an autocracy.
Yes, the Egyptian empire did survive for millennia… only it had been ruled, succeedingly, by 33 dynasties. Practically, there had been 33 regimes, not one… And since there had been some 3100 years between its unification and it being incorporated into the Roman Empire… an average of 100 years per political regime cannot be branded as a real success… Specially in the early years, when the competition was…

A quick jump to the XX-th century will suggest the very same thing. All major wars – WWI, WWII and the Cold one, had been won by the freer societies.

So collective freedom, or lack thereof, has consequences. Is a fact.

On the other hand, freedom – the real version, the one that works, cannot be had/enjoyed but in a social context.
Nobody can be free on their own.
The emperors of yore – and the dictators of today, have been under the impression – illusion, more likely, that they could do whatever they pleased. That they were free. So free that they never hesitated to trample the freedom of their subjects. Only that freedom never lasted for long… it was soon replaced by the liberty of somebody else… And all these successive liberties have been exerted at the expense of those of everybody else.

Hence liberty, individual as well as collective, is not only a fact. It’s also a social construct.

What about the ‘elusive ideal’?

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Oops!
The only reasonable way to read this is ‘if you want to be free, you need to think straight’.
To find out what’s keeping you down and how to free yourself in a sustainable way.
How to free yourself in a manner which will add to the freedom of all others!

Cause if your increased freedom means the debasement of your erstwhile peers… things don’t look right…

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The above phrase makes a lot of sense.
Every beating which had become ‘public knowledge’ does make life ‘easier’ to those men who are known to be ‘peaceful’. In a sense…

On the other hand, every beating which becomes public knowledge but the beater isn’t chastised for his actions makes life harder for everybody.
For women. The beaten ones are discouraged from making their plight public. Those not beaten yet are taught that being beaten isn’t such a big deal.
For men. Those who already do it, feel no compulsion to stop. Those who would do it feel encouraged to ‘experiment’. Those who would like to do it but cannot – for whatever reasons, feel frustrated. Those who abhor it feel ashamed for belonging to the same gender. And discouraged from doing anything about it.
For the entire species. Violence become normalized. Socially accepted. Expected, even… Mothers and fathers don’t teach their sons that this is an unacceptable behavior while teaching their daughters to not be ‘surprised’ if it happens. All the more so when children witness their mother being abused while nobody does anything about it. Not even the abused mother… Not even when the abusive husband abuses the children along with the mother…

So what ‘awards’ are we talking about here? What’s the real meaning of “All men benefit from the actions of violent men”?
Or the real meaning of the phrase is that there is no such thing as a really good man?

Another logical ‘extension’ would be ‘All people benefit from the actions of thieves. This is why locks are being built and the police is being paid’. For humans are, by definition, nothing but sinners… right?

How about doing something about the whole situation instead of peddling in double edged memes?
Because the only explanation for women – along with children and peaceful men, being abused is the lack of social reaction whenever a beating – or any other form of abuse, becomes public knowledge.

According to a certain George Herbert, 1640, “For him who will, ways are not wanting“.
According to those who have spent their lives observing natural phenomena, ‘Where ever there are enough resources present, something will happen’.

Morally speaking, there’s a huge difference between those two.
When we need to apportion merit – or blame, we do need to know whether something was a natural occurrence or the consequence of somebody’s actions.

But following a more practical approach… people would better prepare themselves to deal with the aftermath of that something taking place, regardless of what/who had caused it.

Let me put it in a simpler manner.
An investigator will/should do everything in their power to determine the cause of a fire. But that will be possible only after the blaze has been put down by the fire-fighters.

For some time now, people have been trying to determine whether machines will ever be able to develop consciousness. To ‘feel’ anything.
Some even pour over the moral implications …. will sentient machines have rights? As in ‘the right to not be turned off’?

I expect most of those people have been jolted by some recent developments pertaining to their field of expertise…

In a sense, this is a ‘natural’ development.
We’ve been purposely transforming tools into weapons since … before we parted ways with our closest cousins, the chimpanzees.

But it’s for the first time that we’ve developed weapons powerful enough to kill every human being on Earth. And capable of achieving their given task without human assistance.

What next?
How about a weapon capable of assuming a task?
Capable of consciously determining – through diligent AI/ML computations, that a certain ‘target’ ‘needs’ to be ‘taken care off’.
Which weapon, being a ‘sentient machine’, will come with the built in right to not be turned off.

How did we get here?
Stay tuned.

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“First day of class.
The law school teacher entered the room and asked a student sitting in the first row:
‘What’s your name?’
‘Nelson.’
‘Get out of my class and never come back!’
Everyone was scared and outraged but no one dared to speak up.
‘Very well!’ said the professor after Nelson had left. ‘Let’s start!’
‘What do we have laws for?’
The students were scared but they tentatively answered the questions.
‘So that order may be maintained?’
‘No!’
‘For us to fulfill?’
‘No!’
‘So that trespassers might be punished?’
‘No!’
‘For justice to be made?’
‘Finally! And what is justice?’
The students were already pissed off but they continued.
‘When human rights are upheld?’
‘Not bad. Elaborate!’
‘To differentiate good from bad?’
‘Then was I right to throw Nelson out?’
Silence.
‘I want an answer!’
‘No…’
‘You might say and injustice had been committed?’
‘Yes…’
‘Then why nobody did anything about it?’
‘What do we want laws for if we don’t have the will to uphold them? Each and everyone of you needs to speak up whenever you witness injustice being done! All of you! Always!’
‘Go bring Nelson back! After all, he’s the real teacher. I’m nothing but a student here!’
‘We should all learn that whenever we don’t defend our rights, our dignity vanishes.’
‘That dignity is not negotiable’!”

I’ve just read this on somebody’s FB wall.
And a couple of comments.
‘But why did you have to throw Nelson out?!? Couldn’t you have simply explained your point? Lousy teacher… you just enjoyed playing God!’
‘There is a small difference between explaining ‘something’ to somebody and making the same somebody actually feel that ‘something’. The same difference which exists between a lump of clay and the same lump of clay after God had breathed soul into it’.

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