Internet and human rights. A fairy tale.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the introduction of the internet and the declaration of the human rights are among the best what humans have achieved in the last century. Unfortunately, both share a similar faith: while promising as a concept, they fail in practice.

That “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, that “they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” sounds so wonderful, it could actually be the beginning of a fairy tale. Well, unfortunately, it has probably become the longest fairy tale. Without the need to go too much into details, one will realize the dud at the very beginning of the declaration when Article 3 reads that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Not just that the human rights have never been enforced at a global scale, worse is that they aren’t even binding as an international law. They are a declaration and nothing more than that. From a juridical perspective they aren’t worth more than an empty piece of paper. That is, if and where citizens have the right to a (fair) juridical process at all. Unfortunately, the majority of world citizens have neither rights nor access to courts.

Similar to the human rights, the internet has – in theory – a huge potential. It is what big men dreamt of in earlier centuries, namely that humans among the planet could connect with each other and that citizens at one end would be able to see what was going on at the other. However, if we look at what is really being distributed in the internet, then one might only hope that the Earth was still flat and we couldn’t so easily see at its dark side. Who needs beheadings[1] or superficial nonsense after they successfully got rid of TV decades ago?

Even in terms of positive information the internet is very limited. If one wants information on a certain topic, they first need to click through thousands of websites, skimming through exhaustive long documents, all unstructured, semi-true and very likely biased. Yes, climate change concerns us all, but seriously ‘who on Earth has the time and nerve to read a one thousand seven hundred thirty-four pages long climate report that the IPCC produces on a regular basis?’ Until you are done, the planet will have warmed for another two degrees.

Now, if we’d try to kill two birds with one stone, we might actually unify above problems and use one to solve the other. What if we spent our time in the internet trying to make human rights become a reality? What if we exposed all those who interfered with them, while a citizen court found and formulated a verdict (with “likes” and “don’t likes” if you want) which our governments enforced, using their power and energies in a good way rather than wasting resources banning twitter, facebook and BBC[2], while treating travelers like terrorists? What if we made online contests on ‘how to easiest reduce our ecological footprint’ while scientists planted trees instead of writing reports that nobody reads? The world would be a better place if we used all available tools in the right way and if we voted against terrorists instead of distributing their propaganda.

Let’s hope that the fairy tale will end like this: “after citizens voted against all forms of tyranny, slavery, cruelty, torture, and discrimination and once they exiled all those contributing to it into a virtual world where latter had to suffer under their own horrifying phantasies in eternity, the few hundreds left over on planet Earth lived happily and in harmony ever after.”

[1] I explicitly don’t mention the name of those bastards, nor the link to whatever pictures, because I believe that ignoring them is the only means to stop cruelty.

[2] As is the case in Vietnam


About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics were driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Internet and human rights. A fairy tale.

  1. Patrick S says:

    Interesting article Urs. I was reading something yesterday that included a quote from writer Herman Hesse during world-war 1 about how that war slashed so terribly with developing ideas about human rights and the value of each individual human life.

    Well there are positive developments on the Internet, Wikipedia has its problems but is at least a great experiment in sharing and organising human knowledge – and Appropedia is a Wiki specifically for sustainable living like you suggest – .

    Though in my lifetime of using the internet since probably ~1995 I’ve certainly seen it evolve to become more and more a commercial platform since big business and capitalism got seriously interested. The distinction between the ‘net and TV is breaking down – as much of the ‘net evolves from a primarily written medium, encouraging concentrated engagement, but with a lot of variety in style and views – to one with much visuals, videos, live advertising, and distracting ‘clickbait’. Even the Guardian now includes video ads on their website, makes me go back to reading printed newspapers sometimes! This is partly about funding models, we do need alternatives to advertising-driven funding but this is hard to organise – I heard about a low-friction micro-donation platform called Flattr to support content but haven’t tried it myself.

  2. blaubear says:

    Thanks Patrick. Always nice to hear your comments and insights – they are very informative and also ‘refreshing’. And you are right, internet has many good angles, such as platforms like this here.
    By the way, I also find it relaxing to read a printed newspaper like in the old days. That’s also why I would never start reading books on a tablet, even if carrying them around in printed form can be a hassle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s