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The Ambiguity of Human Rights … … in the Face of Escalating Violence.

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Presentation on theme: "The Ambiguity of Human Rights … … in the Face of Escalating Violence."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Ambiguity of Human Rights … … in the Face of Escalating Violence

2 … … or the dangerous mess we are in “ “Although there is general awareness of the mess we are in both at personal and governmental level, practice demonstrates an unwillingness to pursue necessary changes in structures and policies.” John Burton, ISAA

3 Road Map Context & Contours Girard’s Mimetic Theory 1. UDHR Text or Pretext ? 2. Relationship between Players 3. Violence & the Rule of Law From Anthropology to Theology

4 200 million died in armed conflicts, half of them civilians … not counting police action. The 20 th Century 1. The crisis is now global 2. The Human Rights System has failed to immunize the world against violence Two Inconvenient Truths: Why is this so?

5 Contours and Context UN founded in 1945 Horrors of WW II The UN Founders – Sought to keep violence in check  UDHR Looked for state security in the traditional military sense.

6 Global Challenges and Threats International Terrorism Nuclear & Chemical Weapons Hunger & Infectious Diseases Micro-nationalism vs the Nation State Overpopulation & Climate Change Sixty Years On

7 Nuremberg Legacy Crimes against humanity were prosecuted for the first time Politics and law began to govern the Human Rights debate Precedent:

8 René Girard ( ) Foremost cultural anthropologist Member of the Académie Française Grand Prix de Philosophie 2005

9 The Theory of Imitative Desire or Mimetic Theory Human desire does not arise spontaneously between an object and a subject Human desire is ‘mediated’ by a model (Don Quixote imitates his knight-model)

10 Theory of Imitative Desire Object of Desire Human Subject Model First, model points out desirability This arouses “imitative” desire in the Subject Mimesis

11 Theory of Imitative Desire Model arouses mediated or imitative desire

12 Theory of Imitative Desire When the imitative urges of individuals or groups converge on the same object, their desires generate conflict. Mutually imitative interactions result in rivalry that easily leads to violence. Anthropologically, this is humanity’s Achilles’ heel.

13 Schema of the Mimetic Crisis Mimetic Desire Reciprocal rivalry leads to mimetic violence Due to mimetic contagion, more and more participants are drawn into the conflict so that group rivalry escalates Crisis Paroxysm Transfer to Scapegoat or

14 The Age of Annihilation 1916 the Battle of Verdun

15 The Conflict-Prone Structure of Human Desire Is so deeply entrenched in the human subconscious that we are unable to extract ourselves from its powers. This collective process also subverts institutions like the human rights system in fulfilling their functions

16 Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 59) “The desire for equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.”

17 Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) Hobbes understood the causal link between competition, envy and war making.

18 Prof. Wolfgang Palaver “We live in a world that promises happiness and recognition to everybody, but the more we try to reach these goals, the more we become obstacles to each other causing frustration and resentment leading easily to violence of all sorts.”

19 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Thirty Articles Right to life, liberty and security Principles of civil, political and cultural rights Universal longing for peace Raises expectations of measurable outcomes

20 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights The UD and the Genocide Convention were powerless in changing international attitudes to violence. The false consensus of the nations was unable to curb the politics of cruelty and violence they practiced at home and abroad.

21 Killing Fields … Victims, not words reveal the human condition.

22 The Angst of the Nations: Loss of Sovereignty Internationally, the Model / Obstacle dynamics over sovereignty unleash the Scapegoat Mechanism characterized by deceit, false accusation, preemptive strikes and killing of the rival.

23 Characterized by fear, deceit, expulsion and the death of disposable victims Fear over sovereignty corrupted relationships, even the UD itself The UD has no answer to the scapegoating mechanism which is driven by fear, envy and rivalry. The Scapegoat Mechanism

24 Human Rights Arena Relationship Between Players Akin to market behavior of corporations Requires business-like management Players compete for market share in an arena that commodifies human suffering This market trades on the symbolic capital of human rights and would cease to exist without their violations.

25 Violence and the Rule of Law Violence is highly contagious Humans, unlike animals, possess no instinctive brake on violence Unless channeled, outbreaks of mimetic violence can lead to community paroxysm Historically, two system for channeling violence have evolved

26 Channeling Mimetic Violence 1 In archaic society sacrifice or sacred violence channeled pent-up internal violence Culture and religion have their origin in the sacrificial order

27 Channeling Mimetic Violence 2 In modern society, this preventive function belongs to the judicial system. Even the judicial system must declare its violence ‘holy’ and conceal the fact that violence is the only legitimating power of the rule of law.

28 The Ambiguity of Human Rights. On the one hand, human rights seek to transcend violence as it violates human rights and dignity. On the other, nationally and internationally human rights depend on violence as the legitimating authority for the enforcement of human rights law.

29 Summary so far … ∑ 1. Anthropologically, the cause of the crisis lies in the conflictual nature of human desire with its victimizing consequences. 2. Our hope for a better world must rest on foundations other than “good intentions” to adopt the values of human rights (as important as they are). 3. Human rights as a system is powerless to breach the cycle of violence because it belongs structurally to the same order it seeks to correct.

30 Moving Beyond Anthropology Two Thesis: Hope for better world will depend not on the proliferation of norms but on a transformation of desire from rivalry to peace. Unless humanity can acquire a pre-conscious disposition of self-giving love, reciprocal violence has the potential of becoming unstoppable.

31 Theology of Non-Violence Christian theology holds that – Humans are created in the image of God God’s self-disclosure is understood as Trinity, or as Love-in-relation. Human beings and communities malfunction when they are not existentially embedded in that relationship Humans are structured for openness and mimetically so in order that they may desire God above all desiring.

32 Theology of Non-Violence Three Urgent Needs: A deeper understanding of who God is, and … How he is involved in the redemption and transformation of the world The realization of our calling to be a society of non-violence and peaceful imitation of God’s image

33 In the Christ-event, we are pointed unambiguously to the revelation of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, and at the same time, to what it means to be fully human. Theology of Non-Violence

34 Two Urgent Questions: “What if we were to come face to face with the Creator and find out that our only experience was one of love and forgiveness? “If this was our universal experience as well as the new model of our desire, what would happen to the mess we are in?”

35 Theology of Non-Violence Would we not do what the Motto of UN says, “… and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”? Isa 2:4

36 Path for Investigative Action Admit our inability to breach the cycle of reciprocal violence without a new model of desire. Investigate with scholarly rigor and without prejudice the evidence for the claims of Jesus Christ.

37 If his claims are true, two things become inescapable for the present world order: The fundamental crisis which his claims pose for all forms bourgeois monotheisms and cultural idolatries. The critical realism of his call to change course in the power of his Spirit of reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Path for Investigative Action

38 Thank You for Your Attention For more on the theology of non-violence, please visit my website

39 Textual Evidence WorkDate Written Earliest Copy Time Span No. of Copies Herodotus BC900 AD1300 yrs8 Thucydides BC900 AD1300 yrs8 Tacitus100 AD1100 AD1000 yrs20 Caesar’s Gallic War BC900 AD950 yrs9-10 Livy’s Roman History 59 BC – 17 AD 900 AD900 yrs20 New Testament 40 – 100 AD 130 AD for parts 350 AD full MS 300 yrs 5,000 Grk 10,000 Latin 9,300 other

40 The Symbolic Use of Violence in Culture Is it innocent or a symptom of the contagious nature of violence?


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