Human Rights

“We the people”

What do you know about We the people‘s poster?


Everybody knows Banksy. Some people might never have heard of Banksy’s name, but they probably had already shared or liked one of his arts. I can go even further saying those people might not even know that art was a graffiti. Yes, a lot of people might have liked and shared Banksy’s arts thinking it was only a nice internet political drawing.girl-with-a-balloon-by-banksy

Do you remember seeing a beautiful drawing of a girl with a red heart-shaped balloon? You might have seen it on a tattoo, a lot of people have it. It is Banksy’s and it is a graffiti, not only a beautiful internet drawing.

You may think I’m about to say that Banksy is the artist behind We the People posters. No, he is not, but they might be related, though.

His name is Shepard Fairey, the artist of Barack Obama’s famous Hope poster and also a famous street artist known by his Obey Giant poster.

I didn’t remember who he was until just after the historic Women’s March here in Washington-DC, even though I knew him and his art for a long time. I just haven’t connected the dots.

I knew him from Banksy’s Exit through the gift shop documentary released back in 2010. Banksy’s movie is about himself, street art, activism and several other street artists (It’s a great movie about street art, you should watch it!!).

We the people was a crowdfunding campaign created by the Amplifier Foundation to print and distribute Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena, and Jessica Sabogal’s images on a large scale for Trump’s Inauguration Day to “flood Washington, DC with NEW symbols of hope” against intolerance, fear, and hate. I didn’t go to the Inauguration, I went to Women’s March instead and it was filled with We the People posters everywhere.

I think art can wake people up because when an image resonates emotionally we want to get to the bottom of it. And art really helps people feel things that then they talk about.” (Shepard Fairey).

Something is crystal clear here: graffiti, or street art, is not vandalism. You could say “pichação” (which is not the same as graffiti) is vandalism. However we could debate on it since its in a grey blurred area between a simple act of vandalism and a cry for freedom of speech and manifestation.

So, the bottom line is: graffiti might be the most democratic way of raising awareness about social and political issues through art.

Graffiti might be seen as a defiance and a “rebellion against tyranny and oppression” according to the Preamble of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Art and culture making its way to reach everybody, not only restricted to an elite in Museums or Art Galleries. It’s like Joshua Bell playing violin at L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station everyday, not only in a Concert Hall for U$ 100,00 a ticket.

Graffiti usually doesn’t ask for permission to express its freedom of speech, and, sometimes, it is used by street artists to questioning the oppressive establishment.

This is how deep the graffiti activism is as a Human Rights’ expression fighting for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the recently elected São Paulo City mayor, João Dória, declared war on graffiti and painted grey, among other street arts, the largest graffiti wall in Latin America – like the world’s 3rd largest city doesn’t have more urgent issues to be addressed.

He’s done the same as Kassab did (São Paulo City mayor before Fernando Haddad’s mayorship). The Grey City, another great documentary, shows Kassab’s lost war on graffiti. You should watch it also!

Thus, in less than a week Dória already lost this war and was forced to change his mind. São Paulo City Hall will pay street artists to repaint the city. Dória spent tax payers’ money to paint a colorful city grey, and now is going to spend more money to paint a grey city colorful again.

History indeed repeats itself.

It seems there is an in between the lines hidden message here: color means diversity, plurality, tolerance, empathy, more Human Rights.

Think about it!


Moral Compass

Everyone has their own moral standards, which might be compatible and incompatible to several other people. Different moral compass might enter into conflict, and they certainly will. What should we do about it?

If everyone has its own personal moral standards, which one is the right among over 7 billion? And why some people do want to impose their moral standards on others? 

Shocking events like shootings, bombings, terrorism, massacres are so common and widespread they don’t stun us anymore. They became only numbers, not terrifying facts that shouldn’t even exist.

Brazil had a shooting incident in Campinas-SP, where a man killed his ex-wife, child and other 10 people, 9 of them women, before killing himself in a New Year’s Party on January 1st, 2017.

The shooter said terrible nonsenses in his suicidal note. Things like: “inmates have 3 meals a day, sunbath, income, don’t wake up early for work, Human Rights representatives kissing their asses, while I spend 5 months of my income in taxes to fund it”, said that feminists are sluts and he hates them, that Brazilian Law “Maria da Penha” against Domestic Violence is the Law Slut of Penha and kept repeating things filled with hate and anger towards: criminals (he most likely agree with the phrase “good criminal is a dead criminal” like other 40% of Brazilians declared in a poll), politicians, and mostly against women (he said he would kill as much women as possible at the party shooting, a crystal clear feminicide).

What a start for a new year, right?!

The last couple of years were no different.

There was this white supremacist, Dylann Roof, who killed several black people in a Charleston’s Church. Recently in his court trial hearing, he said that he doesn’t regret what he did, that he’s not mentally ill, and that he feels sorry for “the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower race“.

The Orlando Pulse Nightclub, in June 2016, had almost 50 people killed. All signs points to a massive hate crime and violence against LGBT people, and since the killer died we’ll never know his true motives for sure.

This reactionary and conservative moral compass based on fear, anger and hate fuels an engine that leads to a vicious spiral of violence against an “enemy”, whatever it might be  – communists? muslims? african-descendants? women? LGBTs? terrorists? refugees? …

Once inside this spiral driven by a sick moral compass the individual can barely withstand his own existence in some cases, so he ends up killing himself after his killing spree. I guess this ends on the individual not fitting in his own moral standards.

Here is a wise quote from Master Yoda:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

According to Oxford Dictionary, the 2016’s word of the year was “post-truth“:

relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

A narrative appealing to emotions like resentment, fear, hate and anger can drive some people to all those extreme situations. This same problem can be seen in an even broader spectrum, of groups or large-scale democratic political decisions based on narratives that encourage such emotions.

For example, 2017 did not complete its first week yet and Brazil has already had two major prison rebellions resulting in, at least, 80 inmates dead, 50 in Manaus-AM, and 30 more in Boa Vista-RR. It’s worth saying that over 40% of the Brazilian prison population is made of inmates that are still in pretrial detention, they were not convicted yet – and Alexandre de Moraes, Brazilian Ministry of Justice wants to eradicate marijuana from South America. War on drugs worked like a charm in USA, just ask its more than 2 million inmates!

Beyond all this terrible news, it is astonishing to see some reactions after those sad incidents. Brazilian illegitimate President Michel Temer said Manaus-AM was merely “an accident“, AM Governor said “There were no saints!“, Temer’s Government National Secretary of Youth said “There aren’t enough of them. There should be a massacre a week!“, to the point where a Congressman tweeted something like “Manaus 50 vs 30 Boa Vista! Let’s go, Bangu (Rio de Janeiro Prison)! You can do better!!“;… and a lot of others not worth mentioning. 

The whole point is: the world is walking on a path based on the post-truth era of resentment, intolerance, fear, hate, and anger. The moral compass mostly based on those emotions is what drove us to Brexit, to Colombia voting NO, to Trump election, the recent Brazilian Coup d’Etat, and it is also what drives lone wolves to such mad shootings like Orlando Nightclub; Charleston’s Church; Campinas-SP, Brazil; and so on…

Like actress Maryl Streep said at her 2017 Golden Globe Awards’ speech:

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

All that hate that Campinas’s shooter wrote on his suicidal note is exactly the same thing we see reactionary conservative people writing every day on social media.

So I can say this moral compass’ north points to all kinds of violence, more and more. If we follow this path along with austerity, growing inequality, reducing Welfare State and Labor Rights, fighting the refugees, a system of mass incarceration, repealing Obamacare, ending Social Public Policies and supporting a narrative which appeals to emotion and personal belief (moral compass), we’ll be feeding an exclusivist and extractive society. Certainly a dark future! More inequality = More incarceration!

Are we heading towards a ‘post human rights world‘? I hope not!

The world already has a good north we can use for our individual moral compass, it is one on which all the human kind agreed upon, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or several nation’s fundamental rights and guarantees written down in almost all Western Civilization’s Constitutions.  

Therefore, we must set up a new kind of engine not fuelled by fear and hate of imposing our own individual moral standards over other people or the society, but fuelled by embracing solidarity and genuine empathy. An engine to move the world towards peace, more tolerance, freedom, dignity, inclusion, equality, prosperity and the pursue of happiness.

Maybe we were supposed to be living in the “Common Man” era if Henry A. Wallace had not suffered a coup inside the Democratic Party, like Bernie Sanders, and had become once again Franklyn D. Roosevelt’s running mate instead of Truman. According to Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, the atomic bombs might never have been dropped, and the Civil Rights Movement might never have been needed to exist. 

But people like Henry A. Wallace, Bernie Sanders, and leaders like them are often pejoratively called naive. Actually, it’s the opposite, they are the ones that have enough courage to stand up for humane causes, for peace, not war, for equality and against the financial power.

A naive person said once:

You may say I am a dreamer
But I am not the only one!” (John Lennon)

I guess I am a naive dreamer too!

Manufacturing Consent

"Manufacturing consent
Is the name of the game,
The bottom line is money,
Nobody gives a fuck." 

(System of a Down - Boom!)

The English Magna Carta of 1215 is one of the first things we learn in Constitutional Law’s discipline at Law School in Brazil when we study the history of constitutionalism. It is a primitive notion of what we have today as our written Constitutions, the first example of a legal document limiting the King’s Power (“State’s Power”) to grant citizen’s individual liberties.

We also learn that the Independence of the United States of America and the French Revolution are the two great historical events that fix individual liberties and limit the Power of the State as genesis or ground zero for our Modern Democratic Society. These historical events are taken as turning points that granted humanity its first dimension (or generation) of Fundamental and Human Rights. To summarize, the first dimension of Fundamental and Human Rights is the notion of formal equality.

Furthermore, we can say that it took more than a hundred years for the complete fulfillment of first dimension’s Human Rights, since universal political rights (right to vote and being voted) were granted only in the twentieth century to women and black people.

Meanwhile, in the end of the nineteenth century, humankind realized that the first dimension of Fundamental and Human Rights were not enough. Emerged the need for the second dimension, a set of rights related to promoting equality. “Socio-economic” guarantees to equal conditions and treatment. 

For this second dimension, the State’s government have a positive duty to fulfill citizenry. Ensure labor rights – being employed with just and favorable conditions -, as well as social security and unemployment benefits, rights to food, housing, public health care and even the right of leisure time.

As said before, they arose late nineteenth century from the need for more protection for  workers due to industrialization’s labor tyranny and were finally enacted between the New Deal and the end of World War II. Summarizing, the second dimension of fundamental and human rights is the notion of material equality. [The World is already at a third, fourth and even fifth dimension of the Human Rights and there’s a lot of people all around the world still struggling for the second first dimension – it’s a shame!]

Historically speaking, liberals were an economic elite supported by the people in a joint venture to limit King’s Power and/or get rid of its Mother Country. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the United States of America’s Constitution were their greatest achievement towards the individual liberties they were fighting for – the first dimension of Fundamental and Human Rights.

For that elite, the Fundamental and Human Rights evolution should have stopped there at the early days of the first dimension (with limited voting rights)!

It is amazing how the right-winged neoliberals are effective to convince people of its neoliberalism ideology. How society under its ideology would be better of: minimal state, deregulation, austerity, privatizations and so on.
[of course I am speaking generally, not every right-winged neoliberal person thinks like this]

I believe it has an explanation and it is very simple: “propaganda“. I already said it here before when I mentioned Joseph Stiglitz’s book “The Price of Inequality“.

It doesn’t matter if their ideology doesn’t have enough empirical data to support their beliefs, they only need to seduce people that they are right to gather more followers. It is much easier to show a slogan, or echo readymade phrases, than present a large text or paper of study to convince someone. 

Even though leftists ideologies are mostly right, they lack the ability to have this kind of easy and seductive speech.

Yesterday I was watching the last episode of the third season of House of Cards. The main focus of Frank Underwood’s campaign was not any political program reasoning, but whether Claire Underwood (his wife) would show up by his side during his campaign or not. It’s all about image, seduce people by whatever means needed – and she is his greatest campaign asset. 

These days I also watched Noam Chomsky’s documentary “Requiem for the American Dream” (you should watch it too, it’s amazing!). It is striking how much evidence is there to show that this neoliberal ideology only serves the 1% rich. This movie could be named “Requiem for the Brazilian Dream” or even “… for the Humankind Dream” and it would fit perfectly.

For example: instead of paying for fair wages, pension benefits, health care and further labor benefits, it is cheaper for a large supermarket network corporation pay for prime time TV commercial at NBC with a catchy Aerosmith’s song during Rio Olympics to convince you how important they are to the country’s economy for creating “More American Jobs” – Dream on!!

Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. 
A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

Propaganda, being seductive, manufacture consent “is the name of the game“, and it is not me saying it, it is people far more relevant like Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian, Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky and even Master Yoda!!!