Fraternity, Human Rights and Poverty and what this implies for today's society was the topic of discussion presented on March 5th 2015 at the Philosophy department of CSULA by Professor Enrique Del Percio one of the founding members of The Philosophy of Liberation Association in Argentina.
The presentation was arranged and organized with the Latin American philosopher Ricardo Gomez's Human Rights and Poverty Fund. For Professor and philosopher Enrique Del Percio any hope for freedom from domination, from the rule of capital over people's lives, control and manipulation by state and corporate powers against the poor, the working class, women and children must depart from fraternity. Del Percio see's fraternity as a transformative cohesive ideal that knits equality, justice and society under the banner of hermandad (sisterhood/brotherhood) across nations, gender, towns and man- made borders.
Del Percio claims that only by eliminating the patriarchy belief system were the father figure is interpreted as he who provides "meaning and definition" or father knows best can (In this case institutions are extension of that patriarchy control) bring about a genuine universal fraternal relationship that does not require approval from higher above institutions or governments.
The patriarchy/father relation who defines itself as the commanding center as to what is real and what constitutes reality are for Del Percio the result of a hegemonic equation: patriarchy, hegemony and power, hence they are governing tools that bring about a culture of no harmony. Instead it brings a state of perpetual fragmentation and conflict. 'Wars and conflicts are not created in a vacuum much less without first establishing a distance between those on this side of the line and those on the other side of the line regardless of their dimension' (excerpt from an essay I wrote on artist Hideo Sakata's painting titled The Rooster).
Human rights and what this mean for the victims of direct and indirect violence (see Eduardo Rabossi) and how core powers have utilized human rights for their own self-serving political and economic advantage are two different worlds. For the core countries human rights has meaning when it can serve only as a tool to sanction and deem non complying states as a national security thread. Nor the violence releases upon third worlds countries by powerful states is rarely to be question.
In a book presentation on January 15 of this year at the Baldwin Hills Center titled, The Death of a King: The real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year author Tavis Smiley cites King in one of his last speeches Beyond Vietnam as saying; "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" was his own government. 48 years later Tavis Smiley reminds us that today the greatest purveyor of violence against women and children continues to be our own government. For the victims of economic, political and social injustice many are forced to resign, migrate, resist and/or unite.
King's call to conscious was his awakening to a universal fraternity that went beyond borders. For M.L king "Peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice."
Fraternity is for Del Percio is a transcending ideal that cuts across cultural constructs that impede us to see each others as siblings (Hermandad) of one origin or Of the Same Fabric as performing artist Beatriz Mejia would say ( hence, the fraternal aspect of art). The binding connotations built in fraternity; a high octane word is no longer part of any political contemporary speech. "The mentioning of such an expression is too much of a risk for the powerful" adds Del Percio.
Power for Del Percio is the opposite of freedom and impotence. In such a confined structure with limited room for dialogue, ideas are commanded from a narrow perspective (Phallic-centric) and rarely constructed from below. When speaking of perspective Del Percio describes it as "seeing only a part of reality that comes in view of the observer and observing requires some domination, while the act of listening requires and attitude of openness." The following note links Del Percio's emphasis on willingness to listen with That of Francisco Toledo.
In the political section of the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada published on March 7th of 2015, the following headline read; Toledo: Por no oir al pueblo occurren tragedias como la de Ayotzinapa (Toledo: Because of not listening to the people's voice, tragedies like the one of Ayotzinapa came about). It is a statement directed by Mexican artist Francisco Toledo towards the corrupt Mexican government that addresses the kidnapping and disappearing of 43 Mexican students on September 26, 2014. It is challenging statement that speaks to human rights violations, the lack of will to listen to its citizens and the top down governing structure as pointed out by Professor Del Percio that prevents a real democratic participatory conversation.
Toledo is one of Mexico's most renowned artist and one of the most visible human rights social activist.
Del Percio's philosophical approach examines "the preeminence of the individual over society" which he describes as, "those who prefer liberty to equality conceive society as a mere juxtaposition of individuals as there is no society, and therefore there is no social justice." Hence everything goes. What this implies is that the individualized "I" sees no need to question existing economic structures that perpetuate poverty and unbalanced socio economic political relations and how individuals engage in and out and around society. In other words it avoids individual accountability.
There is a particular individual gain from such a singular point of view. This line of thought justifies and reinforces probably one of the most embedded colonial physic expressions "In order for there to be well off people there must be a group of people that can be exploited (haci es la vida)." The dichotomy behind such an approach (strong and weak) to life is one of the contributing factors that perpetuate poverty and inequalities.
To approach others in this binary relationship as they vs. us and we vs. them leaves no room for conversation. Del Percio describes this tension in the following manner:
In an "I" and you conversation there is no room for otherness. The you becomes the "I" and the "I" becomes the you, hence the you is turned into the alter ego.
By this Del Percio indicates that the eminence of "I" over and above society is a western philosophical construct that pushes society aside for the benefit of individualism. In terms of politics, thinking political action (praxis) without a third component is for Del Percio is a monologue.
Nor does Del Percio exclude the following concern in where society rules over the individual or were society is seen as the body, a living organism and individuals only matter according to a higher organism. Instead he argues what leads to a more realistic political praxis (action) are the inclusion of a third conversation that allows us to "understand that society and individuals are the central category of inter-relations in which reality is founded on." To further his mutual inclusive argument between society and individuals he gives an example as to how Andean societies view a forest:
For Andean societies a forest is not a group of trees, it is a substance to an ecosystem in relation to society.
The inclusion of a third conversation represented by the excluded and the poor facilitates the space for growth and the development of personal self confidence. For they now partake in the construction of a new historical project in were fraternity parallels a just and equitable emerging alternative mode of development. The coming closer amongst us all can come about when one develops an attitude of openness/receptiveness. For Del Percio Fraternity is the silver thread and kosmic portal that carries with it a harmony with no center of command that parts way for divisive approaches to go about in matters of politics and economics. It is a transcending ideal that cuts across cultural constructs that impede us to see others as siblings of one origin. It is the galvanizing ideal of unity for the 21st Century.
P.S: La Jornada's March 16, 2015 headlines reads: Rousseff promete escuchar con "humildad" las demandas populares (Rousseff, humbly promises to listen to the people's demand ). For those who do not who is Rousseff, she is the current President of Brazil.