Tag: human-rights

Coffee is a human right.

Coffee is a human right, we decided at work today. We have a coffee room so that the ultra-marginalized can have access to that steaming, aromatic, bold flavour to start each morning. As a non-coffee-drinker, coffee is far from something I would ever consider an important provision. Treating people as they ought to be treated, whether or not they can afford to purchase the right to be a customer of a Robin’s Donuts, is an important necessity, however. And if some foreign, non-fair trade caffeinated liquid does that, if coffee does that, then I guess I can support it. Treating people as humans even if they cannot participate in a market economy is a human right, thus, coffee is a human right where I work.

Water, actually, is a human right. At work, we have cancelled our water service from Nimbus, one of those brilliant companies that sells necessities to spoiled morons who don’t know that it is essentially free in half of the rooms of their home. We cancelled the Nimbus because of cost, but in my mind, because of the classism that comes with letting only staff drink filtered moron water. I drank tap. Water is a human right, but it can be classed.

Housing is a human right, though most forms of government act as if it weren’t. They watch, coddling the testicles of ‘the market’ in one hand, creating sub-committees out of thin air with the other hand, and let the erect shaft of the market decide. The market, therefore, decides what is a human right. Water and coffee don’t stand a chance.

The topic of this year’s Blog Action Day is human rights. A few hundred or thousand hack writers delusionally pretend that a cob-webbed corner of the internet constitutes a conversation. The internet is a tool of monitorship and distraction with the veil of community and connectivity. Blogging will not save the world. Forms of virtual kudos and sharing will not save the world. Change.org petitions will not save the world. Blog Action Day will not save the world. You will not save the world.

Nor will negativity. But nor will the market. And if we continue, as a human species, to live on hope and the poor writing of laypersons on the internet, if we continue to rely on shit media campaigns to start conversations, then sweet fuck, things are going to take a while.

Blogging for human rights could be equated to smiling to end racism, or clapping to apartheid, or patting yourself on the back to start a revolution.

Coffee is ready. (This coffee was brewed with good intentions and paid for by the market.)

Compliance or Complaints

The CarpetI used to think selfishness was the basic flaw in most of humankind. That all problems in the world could be cured with a cure for selfishness (see How to Cure a Man, in this award-winning piece of horseshit). This hypothesis is perhaps too flattering to the human species. Selfishness takes the presence of mind to know what a person wants, whether it destroys another human being or not in the process is irrelevant. Selfishness is bold. It is daring enough to step over an injured child on the side of the road to catch a fluttering $5 bill in the tempestuous prairie wind.

Obedience, a compliance or submission to some form of authority, real or imagined, takes nothing. It takes cowardice and brainlessness. It takes cowering in a corner and an inability to think for one’s self. It takes the physical ability to nod.

When I consider the ghastly orders obeyed by underlings of Columbus, or of Aztec priests supervising human sacrifices, or of senile Chinese bureaucrats wishing to silence unarmed, peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square only three years ago as I write, I have to wonder if obedience isn’t the basic flaw in most of humankind.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Sucker’s Portfolio, Episode Seven – The Last Tasmanian, p132

As young mushroom-hair-cutted brats of 1998 (photographed above) we were taught to be compliant. Schools are dens of obedience. Being conditioned to work well with others, to finish projects without accessing the portion of your brain that requires questions that make the teacher do more work. Being conditioned to keep quiet and not to ask stupid questions. Conditioned to see the virtues of obedience as opposed to those of knowledge. To avoid sounding too conspiratorial, I will avoid using the term ‘the system’, but the molding of impressionable sock-footed suburban kids is done intentionally to make a smoother transition into the system of obedience. (Dammit, I said ‘system’.) When we come out as full-fledged adults, procreating in healthy uteri or test-tubes, spending money and buying dinnerware, we are well-prepared to nod our heads when told what to do by the prevailing order.

We are taught to obey politicians, those brave and intellectual souls who do what is best for their country without even a thought about themselves or their friends’ corporate interests. We are taught to obey societal and relational norms and end up reclusive, in debt, and lonely. We are taught to obey the market, the ultimate form of democracy, the system that leaves no one behind. We are taught to obey the status quo.

Without rebellion from the opinion of corporate powers (even as minor as voting yes), souls will continue to be crushed by the forces that originally indoctrinate children with obedience. Without disobedience, creative thought would cease to exist. Without disobedience, those in power will continue to rape the land without end. Without disobedience, the population, you, will be complicit in everything you hate.

In works such as On Power and Ideology and Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system. He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to aggrandize ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression.

-Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, Chapter 2, p35

Obedience is death.

Deciding which is a worse human abomination, selfishness or obedience, is maybe an impossible task (like Oprah vs Dr. Phil, or politicians vs lawyers) and wouldn’t accomplish much. We are naturally selfish, and this is something that we will never grow out of. We are taught to be obedient, however. It is easier to unlearn something learned than to override a natural instinct.

Blind obedience is foolish. Selfishness is barbaric.
The fool is cowardly, while the barbarian doesn’t know better.

It doesn’t really matter which is worse, it matters that we can acknowledge both in our own person. Let us unlearn, then let us defy natural instinct. Our children’s haircuts will be all the better for it.

Thou Mayest

I sat at the Housing Strategy Public Forum at noon on Thursday. I listened as four city representatives justified a plan to fix a city, scrambling to answer questions from dozens of disgruntled citizens about housing in various forms. Providing housing for the masses is a priority, they said. Just not as serious of a priority as making a lot of money, they neglected to say. The citizens’ sole chance to have their say in a hotel lobby with free cookies and Fruitopia. Democracy works.

I wondered whether it counts as having a voice if you are speaking to those do not have ears.

So mom said this, “I think sometimes for your own sanity you have to believe that people will eventually do the right thing.” I genuinely do not believe that people will eventually do the right thing. I only have so many years of life to impatiently wait. What I do believe, for my own sanity, is that people can do the right thing. They have the choice and this puts me at greater ease. Because I expect nothing. Because I am not waiting with fried nerves for the sun to explode. I’ve got to believe at least this or I will give up, and giving up is a cardinal sin in anyone that matters. I’ve got to believe this or I might kill myself. I’ve got to believe it whether it is true or not. My cynicisms no longer reach as far as believing in an inherently evil humanity. I have passed that point in my perpetual anger. If that were the case, we would have starved long ago.

“Maybe it’s true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous. If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil.”

-Steinbeck, East of Eden, Chapter 51.2, p568

Though we may not be an evil people, we are still not inherently good. We are inherently selfish, and this to me seems concrete. As animals we instincually make decisions to ensure our personal survival. This is not news. Humans can, however, break this conditioning. There is still a choice.

In East of Eden, Lee studies the story of Cain and Abel.

Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

“Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?”

“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in the sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interefere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph…

“…This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that gilttering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed because ‘Thou mayest.’”

-Steinbeck, East of Eden, Chapter 24.2, p301-302

I still question the effectiveness of a political process that is so inane as a public relations exercise with five different types of cookies. I question the point in trying to penetrate the infinitely-layered inclined mountain of bureaucracy. But possibilities arise. Thou mayest triumph over sin. Thou mayest triumph over ignorance. Thou mayest triumph over selfishness. This, Steinbeck says, is what makes man great. He still has “the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

It doesn’t matter what others do—I must remind myself of this. Letting the poor decisions and monumental mistakes of others disrupt your progress along the line of choice is foolish. Thou mayest. Or thou mayest not, and it doesn’t fucking matter to me what the innumerable morons of the world decide to do. As long as I remember that both they and I had a choice.

Because ‘Thou mayest.’