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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly ....
Benjamin Geer on Sat, 17 Nov 2007 14:31:59 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly ....

On 16/11/2007, Jody Berland <jody.berland {AT} sympatico.ca> wrote:

> Rights are inevitably the outcome of power,

That's precisely my point.  Rights are unenforceable without power.
If you have power, you can get the things you need, whether or not
they're considered rights, and if you don't have power, whatever
rights you supposedly have are useless and therefore irrelevant.

> and it is very ahistorical to suggest that rights are granted by the wealthy,

Who wrote the US Bill of Rights?  Who wrote The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights?

> ie. by the people who already have them, as though they don't follow upon
> centuries of collective struggle to obtain them.

As I'm sure you'd agree, the struggle for, say, the 8-hour day,
succeeded (in some places) because workers found a way to wield power:
the power to strike, to disrupt production.  They were their own
enforcement mechanism.

But "rights" can legally exist without an enforcement mechanism, e.g.
the right to health care in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 I see this is as a brilliant deception, one which seems to have
fooled many well-intentioned intellectuals, and I'm saying: don't be
fooled.  The struggle for well-being isn't about winning rights on
paper, it's about winning tangible realities, and you can win them
only if you have real power.

> The prohibition on any reference to nation states also makes me
> nervous. this morning Associated Press conveyed the White House's
> sentiment that China is becoming a dangerous spy of American military
> and commercial technologies because it is so "nationalistic."

Nationalism is a social reality, and has real social effects because
people believe in it, and therefore it's essential to take it
seriously, to study and understand it (which is what I'm trying to
do).  But that doesn't make nations a reality.

In popular parlance, "nationalism" is a pejorative word, hence the
American propaganda you refer to.  But interestingly, it tends to be
easier to notice other people's nationalism than to notice one's own.
So many Americans are unaware of American nationalism: it's such an
integral part of the fabric of their existence that it's invisible to

> Furthermore, who defines what rights the indigenous peoples should
> have, and who owes reparation to indigenous peoples for what was
> stolen from them?

I'm saying, let's reframe the issue: what different sorts of needs do
people have in Canada, and how can the people who are worst off get
more political power, so they can ensure their needs are met?  I think
that question can be most coherently and effectively answered without
thinking in terms of "indigenous" people.


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