Archives for posts with tag: Human rights

Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 conviction for sexual assault,

Let’s recap the events, as described in the NY Times article.

2004 – Ms Constand was raped by Mr. Cosby.
According to the 2018 sentence!
Please note that the Pennsylvania High Court didn’t say the 2018 jurors had ‘seen things”. Only that the trial shouldn’t have taken place!

2005 – The district attorney prosecuting the case “announced in a news release at the time that after an investigation he had found “insufficient” evidence. He later testified that he had given Mr. Cosby the assurance to encourage him to testify in a subsequent civil case brought by Ms. Constand. (A civil suit she filed against Mr. Cosby was settled in 2006 for $3.38 million.)”
As he was convinced he didn’t have enough evidence to make a penal case against Mr. Cosby, the prosecutor promised the defendant he will not be further prosecuted if he testified (a.k.a. ‘told the truth’) in the civil suit.
“In that testimony, Mr. Cosby acknowledged giving quaaludes to women he was pursuing for sex.”

2006 – The civil case was settled for $3.38 million. As in Bill Cosby agreed to pay that amount of money for something the prosecution wasn’t sure that it was able to convince a jury that he had actually done it.

2015 – The next district attorney reopened the case. And got a conviction. Despite the fact that the ‘main’ evidence had been provided by the defendant himself. Given after he was promised he wasn’t incriminating himself in a penal way.

2018 – Mr. Cosby is convicted for something he had done 14 years ago.

2021 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides that Mr. Cosby had been practically duped into incriminating himself, found this to be unacceptable and released the former prisoner.

What are we, ordinary citizens, to make out of all these?

Be glad that our individual rights have been upheld?
It makes a lot of sense!
After all, upholding individual rights is what makes the difference between a free society and an authoritarian one.
Between people being free and finding themselves at the whims of the government.

Ask ourselves ‘what about the individual rights of the victim’?
That also makes sense.
But my experience of living under a dictatorship strongly suggests that letting some guilty people walk free is a small price to pay for making resonably sure that a government – any government, doesn’t accrue too much power over the individuals making up the people.

Ask ourselves ‘what happened to us’?
What drives so many of to use constitutional rights as loopholes?
Is this OK?

No legislation will ever be perfect!
That’s why verdicts are given by ‘peers’, judges are given so much ‘leeway’ and why, in general, the law is administered by highly trained responsible people and not by ‘machines’.

After all, how we use whatever we have at our disposal – legislation included, speaks more about ourselves than about the things we use and the circumstances in which we make our choices.

“First day of class.
The law school teacher entered the room and asked a student sitting in the first row:
‘What’s your name?’
‘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?’
‘For us to fulfill?’
‘So that trespassers might be punished?’
‘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?’
‘I want an answer!’
‘You might say and injustice had been committed?’
‘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’.

While everything mentioned above is absolutely true, we must also remember that it was the whites – who had first reached the ‘proper stage of development’, who had given up slavery and invented ‘human rights’.
On the other side, it is also true that the whites did reach the ‘proper stage of development’ by exploiting the rest of the world.
Only ‘this’ wasn’t invented by them! I don’t want to go into the finer details. All of you know, very well, what had really happened ‘on the ground’.

What are we going to do next?

‘Delete’ everything the white people have contributed only because they have been the last to exploit the rest of the mankind?

Or accept the fact that evolution works in an oblique manner?

And why are we still trying to solve this riddle?

‘Cause this is indeed a riddle…

Remember those metaphorical stories whose heroes end up having to find the answer to one in order to save themselves/the day?
Like Sophocles’ “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?”

A riddle, of course, being a question which cannot be answered until the individuals attempting to solve it stick their heads out of the box into which the riddle had been framed.

So. Individualism? Collectivism?

Having grown up under communist rule – supposedly the most collectivist social arrangement to date, I can testify that there is no such thing as collectivism without individualism nor individualism without collectivism.

Libertarians’ mantra is that socialism/communism – and even liberalism, as Americans understand it, is a form of collectivism. And, of course, that collectivism is bad for you.
Socialists, on the other hand, maintain that the current situation – which is seen as being bad, is the consequence of the growingly extreme individualism which plagues modern societies.

Interestingly enough, both sides are simultaneously right.
Communism is indeed bad for you and the bad aspects of today’s society are a consequence of callous selfishness.

On the other hand, all communist societies are composed of a huge mass of obedient subjects AND a small number of individual, and very individualistic, leaders.
Similarly, all developed capitalist societies – including those sporting huge discrepancies between the shrinking number of haves and the growing number of utterly destitutes, have reached the current level of sophistication because most of their members continue to share the belief that ‘all men have been created equal and that all of them have certain, nonnegotiable, rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’.

“Share the belief…”
But wasn’t this the very definition of collectivism?
A social arrangement where the most important possession belongs to THE public?
Was there anything more consequential for what is currently known as the ‘Euro-Atlantic’ civilization than this shared belief? Other peoples have been in possession of way more abundant natural resources. Had reached ‘astronomical’ levels of civilization way before we were even able to wipe our noses… And yet…

Haven’t we, individual thinkers, figured out yet that unless we agree on ‘the basics’, we’ll be easy prey for the callous ‘snake oil merchantmen’ who have no qualms to use collectivist slogans to pitch some of us against the others?

Haven’t we figured out, yet, that there is no ‘political collectivism’ without fear? All collectivist social arrangements, both socialist and fascist/nazist, have been built using fear/contempt (of the other) to cement ‘the people’ into believing the lies proffered by false prophets. Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Mao… Lies proffered by callously individualistic political agents… bent on satisfying their own domineering instincts and making ‘good use’ of pre-existing conditions.

Haven’t we figured out yet that individualism, the tame version developed along with the good aspects of the Western Civilization, is, by nature, the very beneficial consequence of the mutual respect which (still) exists among the members of our societies?

So, to answer the riddle, we need to understand that there is no real conflict between bona fide individualism and bona fide collectivism.
Just as there is no conflict between two perpendicular lines.

Since, by trade, I’m a mechanical engineer, I’ll use a very practical metaphor to illustrate this idea.
Consider a pressurized Oxygen tank. The more pressure inside, the more Oxygen you can store in it. The more useful the tank. Only if you ramp up the pressure too much, you end up with an explosion.
In this situation, you might consider ‘pressure’ to be in conflict with the ‘walls of the tank’, right?
Wrong. The conflict is only in your mind. Pressure is simply perpendicular to those walls. The more pressure those walls can withstand, the more useful that tank is for you.

But it’s your responsibility to determine the thickness and resilience of those walls. It’s your responsibility to choose how much to ramp up the pressure.
For the very simple reason that that tank is yours.
It is you who will suffer the consequences.

Until some two and a half centuries ago, there were two kinds of people.
Those who did, because they could, almost all that crossed their minds.
And those who had to suck it up, because that was all they could do.

OK, there had been, for a few millennia, a Middle Eastern religion whose teachings suggested that all humans had been created equal – because all of them had been made to resemble their creator,… but not very many people used to bother with this interpretation…

Then, all of a sudden, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

From that moment on, all of us have started to ‘have rights’. To express our opinions about things, to carry arms…

And we eventually made full use of those rights… by publishing porn magazines, by buying, for our own protection, AR-15s…

Some American states, Florida among them, have recently stated that people have the right to ‘stand their ground’. Or, more exactly, to defend the ground where they happen to be at any one moment. Using deadly force, if necessary. As if it that ground were their castle.

A few days ago, a guy had parked his car on a spot reserved for people with special needs. Right in front of a convenience store. He went in, accompanied by his five years old boy to buy something, leaving his woman and his other children in the car.
Another guy, apparently having ‘the right’ to park in that spot – the first one didn’t, came up and engaged the woman about the whole situation. The driver came back from the store, exchanged some words with the ‘challenger’ and then shoved him to the ground.
The challenger drew his gun and shot the offending driver, despite the fact that he wasn’t in any immediate danger – after shoving the challenger to the ground, the bully had retreated a few paces.

According to Florida statutes, what had happened was nothing more than ‘self defense’, a.k.a. ‘holding your ground’. Furthermore, the gun involved in the incident was registered and the owner had a permit to carry it around. No charges was pressed.

Which makes me wonder…
We have these “unalienable rights”… including that to ‘pursue our happiness’ … but do we really need to press them on… regardlessly?

The ‘bully’ parked where he was not supposed to because he wanted to buy an ice-cream for his toddler – I’m imagining things here, I confess.
The ‘shooter’ wanted to use his right to park there, so he confronted the woman he found in the wrongfully parked car.
The bully returned to his car and, perceiving a threat to his family, used his right to defend it.
The shooter eventually ‘stood his ground’ and walked scot-free…

You see, I not trying to make any fine point here. To contest the concept of ‘standing your ground’ or the idea of people carrying heat when shopping for groceries…

I’m just wondering… what happened to the concept of ‘rights’? Why some of us have arrived to see them as obligations?

The whole thing might have started as the deceased parked in the wrong place…. but if the shooter had chosen to call the cops instead of confronting the guy… he wouldn’t have had to shoot the ‘bully’ in front of his children….


‘Hungarian self-defense’


… must we sink in our own, self induced, decrepitude before we’ll be able to notice the stink we, ourselves, have draped around us?

Before figuring out that it’s us who are ultimately responsible for our own fate?

Before figuring out that by allowing this kind of crap to be traded above our heads, and sometimes even by helping to its distribution, we soil the most precious of our ‘belongings’ – our souls?

This image has probably been ‘Photoshopped’ by somebody.
I’m not going to discuss that person’s motives here. We live in a free world and everybody should be able to express his/her feelings.

What I find extremely interesting – and dangerous – is the fact that this picture has been so widely circulated over the internet that it ended up in my mail. A short Google search confirmed that it comes from somewhere in Holland only the guy who sent it to me, horripilated, lives in Canada…

So, what’s the use for us to clamor virtuously about human rights and then make fun, shamelessly, of people who find themselves in a horrible situation?

And, please, do not make any mistake!
I’m not speaking exclusively about the refugees here.

Some of the manifestly dissatisfied Europeans who are protesting these days are not as much against the refugees themselves as they are against the hapless manner in which the European bureaucracy has been (mis) managing so many things recently.

Just as some of the political leaders who are lambasting the European Commission on this subject are not interested in improving the European Community but in ‘scoring swag’ with the disillusioned (and somewhat naive) electorate.

We need to break this vicious circle!

“Why did the woman cross the road?
Who cares what women do outside the kitchen?”

I was watching a BBC documentary about sexism and I heard the ‘joke’ I quoted above. (Sorry, I couldn’t find a link to that documentary, probably because they are still airing it, but I linked the quote to Yahoo answers because it seems that this one is quite popular)

The narrator had summed up quite convincingly the phenomenon: ‘every time when people not obviously biased against women laugh at sexist jokes the misogynists feel that their convictions are ‘right’ and this enhances the sexist side of their behavior’.

I understand this line of thinking and it is correct from the a psychological point of view. People seek validation from their peers, so each ‘public approval’ for one of their action enhances that particular streak of behavior. I’m afraid though that the real problem lies some place else.

A joke is supposed to be funny. That’s what makes it a joke and it’s up to us to determine what is funny or not.
I didn’t laugh at that joke not because it’s sexist but because, for me at least, it isn’t funny at all.

Some more jokes from Yahoo answers:

“What is the difference between a battery and a woman?
A battery has a positive side.”

So no ‘generic’ woman has ‘a positive side’!
OK, this leaves open the possibility for exceptions… a mother, a sister, maybe a wife… but still, I cannot wonder what kind of women has this guy met during his life? So hugely unpleasant yet passive enough as to feel no apprehension when stating publicly such a harsh position? I wouldn’t dare tell such a joke knowing that any one of my female friends would find out, including my wife. No, not because any of them would bodily hurt me or anything but because they would pointedly and purposefully react. Adequately. Well, in fact It wouldn’t cross my mind to use this joke otherwise than as an example but I believe you got the point…

“Why is the space between a woman’s breasts and her hips called a waist?
Because you could easily fit another pair of **** in there.”

Now this is a real good one. I don’t know for sure what those **** stand for but I’m afraid that the guy who came up with this joke would rather **** a bitch than a real woman. To each, his own…

If you don’t mind rather gross humor here is one for you:
“How do you make 5 pounds of fat look good?
Put a nipple on it.”

Excuse me if you are not and in both situations please consider the real case here: where is the sense of humor?

Maybe the last one will enlighten us.

” – If your wife keeps coming out of the kitchen to nag at you, what have you done wrong?
– Made her chain too long”.

I’m sure you all have heard about the three Ks – In German it’s Kitchen, Children, Church (Kueche, Kinder, Kirche). This expression was coined over a century ago by either Kaiser Wilhelm II or his wife Augusta while trying to belittle the feminist movement that was making inroads into the classic German Weltanschaung.
More than 100 years ago?!? Shouldn’t we get over it?!?
Meanwhile the situation has changed dramatically enough for me to ask you how come the guy in the last joke has a wife in the first place? Or maybe that couple is happy, she with the length of that chain and he with her nagging?

Now seriously, are we not all born by women? Educated, in the first few years at least, predominantly by women? So how come so many men are still finding jokes like that to be funny while so many women accept this situation?

One possible explanation may be that we are experiencing a reaction to ‘feminism’.
I’ve heard, and read, a considerable number of explanations about what it is and why it is named like that.
I must confess that while I agree with many of its goals I’m extremely unhappy about its name.

I think ‘suffragettes’ was, in those times, a far better denomination. It stated clearly what goal they had in mind – voting rights for women – and ‘disbanded’ as soon as they got what they had in mind.
But ‘feminism’?
What is their goal?
To establish that women are different from men?
OK, we already know that, don’t we?

Oh, equal rights? With whom? With men?!?

With which ones of the wide range of men? Men don’t have equal rights either… only in theory maybe, but in theory women have already been recognized (by men, OK?!?) as full fledged citizens. Well, there still is that small but nagging problem of being the masters of their own body (Roe vs Wade) but other than that there is no legal difference between being a man and a women. Not in the civilized world anyway.
So why are we still enjoying the presence of so many, and vocal, feminist activists of both genders instead of them joining ranks with the rest of the human rights activists?

Maybe because the entire human rights movement has reached a dead end?

Women want to be equal with men while men want to be equal among themselves and all pretend it’s their (constitutional) right.

In what sense can a woman be equal with a man? Or a man with another? Have you ever seen two absolutely equal eggs? Or, funnier even, can somebody pretend that egg yolk is equal to egg white?

Oh, the yolk is useless without the white (except for when you want to make mayonnaise) and the white is useless without the yolk (except for when you want to bake meringues) so no sensible person would ever dream of trying to determine which comes first… as we do with people… women come first when it comes to passing through a door and last when we are talking about promotions…

But who to change all this if not us?
We, men, should acknowledge that women are just as important as us, and just as wise, even if they cannot hunt as well as we do, while women should understand that their quest for ‘equality’ doesn’t make much sense.

What we really need is equal opportunity to develop our potential, regardless of gender. If a woman is denied promotion based on her gender and a less capable man is promoted in her place the real looser is the entire organization and its stakeholders. Shortly that woman would move over to another company if she is really good.
The same rationale is valid for the rest of us.
If a child, no matter how gifted, doesn’t get the right education to fit his potential, he might loose some. But the society at large looses big.
Even if the child is less than average he might become, properly educated, a self sufficient person. If not, chances are he’ll become either a ‘welfare benefits receiver’ or a ‘repeat offender’.
We all agree that an average person has more opportunities to become a respected member of the society if he receives more education, right? I’m going to presume we are talking now about proper education, the kind that benefits the recipient, not the ‘teacher’…
If we are considering really gifted individuals  then the situation is even clearer. What if Edison, or Marie Sklodowska Curie, couldn’t have learned what they did or experiment the way they used to? And now, that we are talking about Edison, do you know where Tesla came from? Croatia? Have you ever heard of that place before? (It’s in Europe, east of Italy).
I’m sure you already know where Poland lies, the place where Marie Curie came from, but I wonder if you know that she was educated in an underground university because higher education for women was forbidden at that time in her country by Czarist Russia, the imperial power who controlled Poland in those times.
Really bright people have a habit of being able to make it more or less on their own but also of looking for greener pastures. Not necessarily because they are greedier than the rest of us but because they need more resources in order to put their ideas into practice.

I’ll leave you to do the final reckoning.

Some additional reading about how men and women complement each-other in most unusual ways and how heavily this depends both on social habits and individual choice:
– Islamic women fighting for what they consider to be freedom (and I fully agree with them):
– Islamic women fighting to preserve ‘traditional values’ (To what end?!?, I constantly ask myself but I cannot find an answer)
– What women have to experience in places where their freedom is less than it should be: and
– Not only women can play the role of men. The opposite is not only possible but also sanctioned by some societies:
– For some historical perspective: and
– Even what we call ‘values’ depend heavily upon the social developments that are taking place:

Here is a “Chronology of the History of the Rights of Man”.

Nothing natural here. Either you are a believer and then the ‘Rights of Man’ derive from “God created man in his own image” (KJV, 1:27, probably the most important contribution Christianity made to the welfare of the humankind) or you don’t and then you are wise enough as to understand that the communities/nations that applied this concept have fared better in times past and have a lot better chance of surviving whatever the future will throw at them than the rest of them.

Rivers of ink may be used to discuss the matter but the facts are simple. The entire history of man is the history of the individual becoming more and more autonomous by building stronger and stronger ties with the rest of the society. This may sound paradoxically but it isn’t as I’ll try to convince you in the coming days.

If you don’t have enough patience you may read ‘Starship Troopers’ by Robert Heinlein for a more convoluted version of the same argument.

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