RIGHT2WATER AND THE MEANING OF HUMAN RIGHTS: A REFLECTION: ONE YEAR ON

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By Eithne Hogan

“A question. Which would be better: a society that has sufficient sense of community, sufficient sense of indignation about what is being done to others as to mobilise in favour of genuine equality, or a society where rights are secondary to charity and people are not willing to speak out against abuses?

Áras Attracta is a product from the second kind of society, whereas the water charges protests contain the germ of the first. In the first, an injury to one would be an injury to all. In the second, an injury to one is a market opening. That is the kind of society the Market God demands, and it is the kind of society Sheridan, Clifford and Varadkar’s remarks serve to protect.

 

You see, in their eyes, the meaning of human rights belongs to people like Denis O’Brien and the IMF.”

[Richard: Blogger. 11 December 2014]

 

I totally agree. There is a critical need to reflect on the viewpoints discussed and outlined in this article overall and epitomised by this question raised.  Primarily, because one of the most significant questions that remains in uncharted territory is what we (as in the overall movement capital WE) define as an alternative society worth fighting for. The movement currently is made up of partially unified and impartially diverse groupings. The movement is still ‘moving’ but in jagged uncertainties, straight lines and jerky diagonals as I see it. It is moving in starts and bursts with most of us wanting the same result and impact but I would declare that expressed and hungry wanting is not the same thing as hungrily exploring, analysing, assessing and following the processes of the transition to ‘change’ with the critical honesty of a determined advancing troop. Jack the Paycock Boyle, if he were not a fictitious persona, would hit the sharpest nail on the head if he now were to stand on our current world and Irish stage and state shrilly vociferously that the world is in a despicable and reprehensible state of chaos or that “Th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis“. But this image must simultaneously hold and show its counterpart of positivity, strive for an alternative goal, support and solidarity and a unifying agency and drive for meaningful change. The question also remains as to how, with the utmost clarity perceivable; we choose to fight for the kind of society we want to be a part of – both as individuals and collectively.

THE GERM/SEED

To a large degree, the water protests were and are the germ that enabled many people in Ireland begin to articulate and verbalise this want/need/demand/desire for societal change, loud on the streets with their forwarding feet and also loudly with their clambering mouths, pens and varied and diverse strategies and methods of combat, protests and actions – climbing out of the silences and internalised suppression of their individualised and community-based austerity mangled trenches. All methods and strategies were serving to combine in a force and mix that could have been at earlier stages hard if not impossible to reckon with and counteract by the powers that be. But too many complex and simultaneously altogether needless issues too many to enumerate happened in the interim and against this paradoxical mixture; hard-to-argue-against damage was the outcome which in turn inevitably held the movement back.   This of course is an objective commentary but splashed with and experienced from a subjectively coloured perspective. As are all our valid commentaries… But I do know I’m not alone in feeling and living this result. Damage was done.  Some lessons were learnt. Other lesson learning opportunities were and still are being ignored or diffused by egotistical or calculated smoke and hubris. But all is not yet lost.  There is arguably still time to build back up this seedling into a renewed and emphatically engaged strength. Not perhaps fully achievable in pre-election 2016, which is more the pity but still, hope is even in Ireland 2016 a thing with illustrious fighting feathers.

There is some leeway now to answer the questions asked in this article and some. Maybe with the tongue of humility and an acknowledgement of some cockups along the way; or with the reservation of well-placed and appropriate praise, dialogue will occur. Not for the cause or in the name of ego but in the attitude of solidarity and articulation of the desired and demanded hope for a renewed collective community. I would say, and mine is only a tiny voice; that using all the strategies I have mentioned above, under the only umbrella realistically required which is committed and honest communication from all involved is the key to answering the questions this blogger asks.  When adequately addressed by all, the dynamic of the seedling in rapid growth may once again return.

UNADDRESSED STRAGGLERS AND THREADS

We know what errors and messes were made along the yearly way and more than likely culpability is shared as it often is in growing fledgling movements with tentative power shifts and more often dominant edging for control. Some issues and instances or fallouts were accidental; others were from hasty or rash miscalculated intervention. Some events and decisions were at the time unclear, indistinct, and confusing, causing outright blurred direction and immediate loss of focus. Most minor flack and serious fallout occurred due to other factors stemming from a blend of external forces of the state, well-meant gestures from independents, political parties and our determined-to-be-involved trade unions; or for the most part, input from other authority figures etc. A cohort of these interventions mixed cleverly and strategically with some of our more amenable and malleable few additionally caused stresses, tensions and in some cases irreversible harm. The origins and growth of Right2Water and its association/transformation into Right2Change didn’t bode well with everyone at the time. Antennae was up and radar heightened by a population almost broken by decades of deceit and betrayal. And the initial stages of change were by many believed to be poorly represented, poorly managed and communicated to the regions outside the big city walls. Remember, cautious is as cautious does. Truth or untruth is inconsequential in these exceptional circumstances. Perception in the mind of a person ultimately creates its unique individual truth.  And perception and truth mingling away unchecked and unanswered tangles itself up into a person’s state-nurtured vigilant neurological hard-wiring.  No blame necessary here. Simple acknowledgement does the trick and we have moved or will move on.

But this is not new news. And people observing and watching as participants can identify the spontaneous, efficient and effective protests that demonstrate the words and actions of voices seeking real and meaningful change and differentiate most glaringly obviously between other words and actions that are in danger of and will be merged into the status quo and blended soup of ‘same old same old’ and in typified potato and carroty mushiness with no real meat required; these voices will gladly assist and serve to prop up the status quo and same old stodgy stew; all the while wondering why the majority of protesters are not enamoured by and adoringly grateful for the paltry serving we should be thankful for via their compassionate hands –  if the outcome and the second option of benevolent neo-liberal soup kitchens become our lot. And shouldn’t we be grateful anyhow for any miniscule scrap of change? Oughtn’t we to be grateful for any teeny weeny hit the dirt hand- me- down sprinklings of fairy dust by the magic wand and hand of  collateral damaging glitter and sparkle spare changers?  Shouldn’t we?

WHERE HAVE ALL THE PROTESTS/ERS GONE? ARE THE NUMBERS DIMINISHING?

Unfortunately I had to work on the 8 December but I watched and followed eagerly the events and emotion and rationalised logic leading up to and on the day of the national march and literally must have read every single post on the national demonstration page. I did this because like so many others, I acknowledge we are among thousands and millions of others in Ireland, EU and the world calling for an end to the impact of neo-liberal imperialist capitalism and its shark teeth and rabid devouring all-consuming murderous breath. Like so many others and no different, I really and genuinely do care. So like so many others who couldn’t go on the day due to work reasons, on this occasion, I was there in solidarity. Nothing to apologise for that…

So on the day last Tuesday, we saw the spontaneous protest combine with the planned in the efforts made in the bank and in Brown Thomas on Grafton Street. It’s up to everyone as individuals.to make up their own minds on the outcome of the day itself or to assess or measure as to which type of protest captures the accurate mood and aspirations of the people best just on the lead up and on that specific day. So again I’m being subjective here. Commentary is after all all-encompassing. But for my part, and that’s all I’m offering at this point, I prefer the transparent inclusiveness and involvement of all affected people and opportunities presented to all necessary and incumbent voices. I don’t especially care to ‘catch out the guarded finesse of operation mizen’ with a capital OMG’ or play the ‘who the best is at hide and seek surveillance or under the radar subterfuge of let’s play soldiers gormless games’.  But I do admit, that’s just me and it’s not to be taken as a judgement call. Whatever you see as achievement in actuality significantly counts… But I’m just being honest and opinions and ideas do combine to effect change – as long as they are spoken to be constructive. We may need a time for real trench warfare and under the radar guerrilla tactics if our barely existing neutrality is anything to go by and I sincerely hope that particular necessity does not travel our way where we essentially will hold no option but to play… And these are games I’d prefer to do without for the minute, thank you kindly Messrs’ Coveney and Cameron.

But where are we at now in our struggle? Outwitting the watchers? To what purpose? I for one couldn’t give a tell-tale toss if they the ministerial and mysterious mizens read everything I write or speak or attend or do. Why? Like so many others, you pass that point of fear or cautiousness, avoidance or prudence because your gut and instinct tells you we are living in a world that’s propelling us down the maniacal path to chaos, extremes of censorship and intellectual imprisonment and overriding potential for the ugliest face of perpetual war. Whatever. The mizens are not offering to pay my bills or mortgage or never reared my children so pardon the watery flying fluich graciously for their concerted and colluding efforts in Irish society’s ultimate demise.  My family’s future is what drives and propels me. And if that makes me/us/we criminals, the mizens will have a lot of people and protesters to arrest… The internet is not shut down yet. And free thinking is hard to control and impossible to imprison.

I watched that National Demonstration page for weeks in the build up and saw the integrity of many posts with people seeking an effective route and opportunity to show serious and heartfelt demands and disagreement to the state. But the designated route remained and some posters were quietened or rebuked and the overall firm and incontestable response was intransigent to those wishes. The 5 minute march was happening as is. Others could do their own thing obviously and freely without prevention but the organised route and unremitting guidance was the strong and continued message. How many saw and read this unfaltering message and were put off or as expressed by many did not attend for a walk down On O’Connell Street yet again? Admittedly, we’ll never know the numbers affected. But the messages were there, loud and clear. I read posts from and spoke directly with people outside Dublin where they expressed their concerns and cited their longer journeys. What occurred then? We all know.  We had the combination of the planned sit in [admirable and courageous as it undeniably is] with others resisting the organisers’ long told message and extending the specified route and their voice and resistance to Grafton Street. The spontaneity of this grouping roared triumphantly through the videos. Both methods hold positives and potential negatives, depending on your perspective you could argue.  But my genuine fear is the numbers on the day suffered in the lead up and especially with the message delivered.  And I can’t help but observe and express this – unwanted as it might be to listen to or read. Because if that is the case and we did lose numbers, we need to find this out for certain and if necessary address it, admit to its truth, and so be it. Perhaps more lessons need learning to avoid the watery broth of the best made plans of mice and men.

I believe we need to communicate and balance our risks too. It is always the bigger numbers that achieve more results. Bigger numbers for the same goal. Yes, give a message to the banks on a full day national blitz or a national strike, coordinated and transparent to include all. And yes, demonstrate in the world of business and officialdom too.  All is necessary. All that becomes effective and meets tangible results is necessary.

I see there is a Right2Water march announced for January or so the message goes. If so, the umbrella of the real seed that germinated in 2014 should arch over us again. Against water charges. The statement of water as a human right. And stirring in the underbelly at this time last year, the suppressed voice and yearning to carve out a better society. One that respects its inhabitants equally and enables them be human again and not robotic followers delivering a stream of metal coins or valueless pieces of paper to its paymasters and oppressors. One that does not exclude individuals or groups or attempt to vilify. One that sees all colours, badges, emblems of colour and creed all combining in the name and the march for real and meaningful change.  We need to see the red white and green, yellow and black, green white and orange, green, blue, psychedelic, metallic and striated blend of banners and voices combine and merge yet again as we did in those initial marches of thousands upon  thousands in the collective diverse.  We’ve had a belly full now of the privileged view of the impossible expectancy of the Right2Yes brigade and have correspondingly met the stifling and stunting overgrowth of the selectively elected keep it to yourselves complacent Right2Knows.  This policy and practice is I’m sure part and parcel of what we struggle against and wish to eradicate? We need to cease pursuing the narrow band of you’re either in full unqualified agreement with me or hit the road jack ultimatum and attitude. Otherwise, we will all be hitting someone else’s imposition and road and the maze and mismatch of routes will be profound but distinctively maze-like cul de sacs.

AGAINST AUSTERITY AND THE ENCROACHING SPECTRE OF WAR

Our biggest challenges lie ahead. TTIP, the onslaught and merciless drive for perpetual and global war and the threat to our residual neutrality and complicity are but some. Homelessness, evictions, narrowing freedoms and privatisation gone berserk are challenges also. While sitting above all this, we must demand a complete retrieval of our sovereignty and democracy and counter this structural violence meted out on our country and beyond. We need to take this country back. We need to democratise it and introduce unqualified accountability on those in power positions and accomplish this through peaceful and professional means and not through the perversity of bigotry and guttural abuse.

We also need to encourage international solidarity, resist the voice of racist encouragement and become participants in widespread human sharing of realistic and practical alternatives. But look. We continue to slate and reproach the actions of the main stream media who suppress our voice and silence us. But we are equally creating our very own oppressive jails. Social media with the expanse of knowledge and freedom is rampantly and pervasively in our midst and for the time being is solidly at our fingertips. Social media has the double edge sword of mass destruction alongside societal restoration, renewal and recreation. And in many ways, we don’t need the powers that be to silence or censor us. As I see it, we are very adept at silencing each other with or without their help. Facebook especially is a web of intrigue. You could write a book on its power to liberate or control, block or allow. We have the power to be empowered or filter that power recklessly. Sure we have our very own method of mass destruction and prevention from moving forward at our fingertips and dancing on our lips. Cells have formed designed in our own making and cliques that protect or destroy engage in mini but destructive personal warfare. Social media is very much in danger too of the most severe shut down globally and I’m wondering will it be only then when we fully appreciate its true power and potential for bringing about mass change. Do we not learn from other country’s Arab Springs? I subsequently and sincerely hope the ammunition we utilise does not irresponsibly or unconsciously backfire on us.

Although there were not hundreds of people at the anti-war rally at the Dáil on Thursday evening 10 December, the speakers’ knowledgeable and anti-scaremongering articulations agreed on one incontestable thing – Margaretta D’Arcy, Mick Wallace, Richard Boyd Barrett to name but three: Ireland is not immune from her actions or the actions of her neighbours and allies. The danger, while we are not speaking, writing or doing, is sitting daringly on our doorstep, comfortably curled up in the decorated interior of our framed windows and carefully couched in our cushioned chairs and at our tables – If we are lucky enough to be still living in our homes and in that relative comfort. Our homes are threatened and permeated by the spectre’s approaching and encroaching rancid smell. And this imperialist ‘alternative’ is an ugly, unforgiving beast. But if we ignore its reality for Ireland; that is the insidious slithering growing spectre of war; it will be all too late. And the entire struggle is meaningless dirge and lost in the wasteland of our continued silence and culpable inaction.

SPREAD THE FACTS. NOT THE ALLUSION.

That’s why in 2014 and beyond, the seed grew. The people of Ireland and beyond dynamically and organically grassroots style woke up. And then the chemistry came in and we almost GMO’d ourselves in the process. We need to do the weeding now. Move on but don’t ignore the facts. Fact, water is a human right. Fact, freedom of speech is a human right. Fact, the right to protest is to be cherished as in no time before in our lifetimes. The powers that be may continue to call us criminals and may even jail us as they already have done to some who survived with the measure of their own experience but maybe alongside so many other most relevant achievements, we will survive this unwarranted incrimination and tribulation and challenge and proactively carry some significant actual chance to prevent our cherished water that is a human right and eternally outside man made law from becoming a freely flowing red but flesh-filled crimson sea.

“The concept of human rights, unlike water, doesn’t fall from the sky. In what may be news for some, we live in capitalist societies, and so our understanding of where human rights begin and end is shaped by the ideological priorities of ruling strata in these societies, and how these priorities are expressed in legal, political and social institutions.

 

When Michael Clifford says that access to water is not a human rights issue, but Direct Provision is, he is simply articulating the boundaries imposed by the dominant conception of human rights.”

 

So let us respond to this with the simple but potent cry: Whose water? Our water. Whose democracy? Our democracy. Whose rights?  Our rights.

Who defines our human rights?

We do.