Thursday, December 27, 2012

Africa and the Failure of the Human Rights Paradigm

The international liberal human rights paradigm has had limited success. One big problem is that it has never been universal. Almost nobody, certainly not most liberals supported human rights for ethnic Germans in 1945 or Palestinians in 1948. But, even when there is not open support of human rights violations against certain groups on the basis that they are "reactionary" or "Nazis" there is a general neglect of  cases not considered interesting. I have looked in vain for any "liberal" or "progressive" blogs dealing with human rights or the struggle for democracy in Togo where the same family has been in control since 1967 and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters is routine. There is not much there. "Progressive" white bloggers just do not care about Togo or most of Black Africa period. It is not something that they write about very often. It simply does not interest them. So human rights causes only get promoted in those cases where the cause manages to develop a certain "coolness" factor. Something that is hard to do for most "third world people." This almost complete neglect of most of the non-white world co-exists with prolific denunciations of racism against people of color in the US, almost as if it were a totem to show how much they really do care and demonstrate just how "cool" they are. But, surely if they were truly concerned with the plight of Black people in the world then they should focus not on the US, but rather Africa. After all there are over 20 times as many Black people in Africa as in the US and the plight of the down trodden, oppressed, and poor in Africa is considerably worse than that suffered by African-Americans. Of course to do so would mean actually looking at Africans as real human beings and seeking ways of working with them to improve conditions in Africa rather than merely using the charge of racism as a weapon to hammer political opponents in the US. The first of these options requires some real thinking and work. It also takes time. The second one is easy and gets instant results. So I guess I should not be surprised that none of the big "liberal" or "progressive" blogs express much interest in Africa.


Leo Tolstoy said...

There was a great line in "Hotel Rwanda." When General Dallaire was telling the hotel manager that the UN had decided to evacuate the white foreigners and leave the Tutsis to their fate, he said in exasperation:

"We don't care about you."


"The west. We don't care about you. You're not even n*****s. You're Africans."

Studying the Rwandan Genocide has definitely changed my opinion of Clinton, that's for sure. But that paragon of the right-wing, Reagan, actively assisted the genocidaires in Guatemala. Both sides in the US are pretty vile when it comes to defending human rights.

J. Otto Pohl said...

According to Melvern the decision to evacuate white foreigners was made by Mitterand. In one case a Russian woman married to a Tutsi got her kids evacuated, but the husband was left in Rwanda. The French could have stopped the genocide with the military force they used to conduct the evacuation.

But, most right wingers never made a fetish out of universal human rights. It was always out in the open that they supported pro-US regimes regardless of their human rights record. The problem I have with "progressives" is that they make a big production about human rights and anti-racism, but in the end it is all just a pose.

Leo Tolstoy said...

You're right about that. But in the final analysis, neither party gives a damn about human rights. It goes beyond right and left, though. Did you see my post "There are no decent states?"