Peter Benenson RIP

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StreetSeen
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Feb 27 2005 22:09
Peter Benenson RIP

Peter Benenson, 1921-2005

The man who lit the fuse of the human rights revolution died this week, having refused all honours and leaving behind him a world changed by the countless protests and petitions he championed.

Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, was 83. He was born into a world without the United Nations. Not a single international human rights treaty was in existence. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights had yet to be written. There wasn’t a single one of today’s major human rights organizations on the political landscape. Civil society was yet to be born.

Further Details@ www.streetseennews.blogspot.com

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
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Feb 28 2005 11:00

well thats one less liberal asshole in the world

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pingtiao
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Feb 28 2005 11:07

Tell that to the people whose lives have been saved through liberal Amnesty letter-writing campaigns.

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Jacques Roux
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Feb 28 2005 11:09

Amnesty's new anti-domestic violence posters are fucking cool...

And there subverted makeup style ad's...

http://www.problemwhatproblem.com

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Feb 28 2005 11:11

Fuck off Cantdo.

He may not have changed society but he helped improve the lives of countless people. The fact it was only ever going to be a dead-end doesn't diminish the overall accomplishment.

I'm getting increasinly irritable about this, failing to laud good people because they're not politically spot on makes us look like a complete fucking joke.

phoebe
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Feb 28 2005 13:28

People who are all "anyone focusing on fixing the here and now rather than making for the revolution is a counterrevolutionary dick" are doomed to lose any political sympathy they might be able to garner from people suffering here and now.

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the button
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Feb 28 2005 13:35

I know who I'd want on my side if I was locked up (sadly). Hmmm.... now let me see..... liberal do-gooder who might actually do something, or someone who's politically so sussed that s/he knows that doing stuff is substitutionist/activist wank/not as good as playing on his/her computer.

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Feb 28 2005 13:37

As I've said before, it's a shame when people get slagged off for doing something, just because they aren't doing everything. Yes Amnesty are "liberal", but they are also very good at what they do.

And I've yet to see a British anarchist-led campaign about domestic violence (other than the one going on at my college atm of course wink )

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Feb 28 2005 14:54

Personally my complaint was because cantdo was saying a guy who had spent his entire life trying to help people without ever selling out wasn't worth shit, rather than arse licking amnesty per se. I'm aware they have enormous shortcomings. I'm all for constructive criticism of institutions, I just get this slight feeling of distaste when a genuinely decent human being is character assasinated by someone who could be proud of himself if he achieved half as much.

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Feb 28 2005 15:12

I see what you're saying revol, and as I said before there's a lot of problems with amnesty (as you outlined in your post), but they still do some good things. Like, for instance, their domestic violence campaign.

As far as I'm aware, all domestic violence campaigns (and I'm talking practicle stuff like shelters as well as awareness raising stuff too) in this country are run by NGOs and "liberal" feminist organisations. I have never, ever seen the anarchist movement run any kind of concerted campaign about domestic violence, other than some foot note about how women are oppressed by patriarchy so it's be nice for them if we overthrow capitalism at some point in the distant future.

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Feb 28 2005 15:38

Yeah obviously it's limited, but I think there are things to be said about a poster campaign tbh. Domestic violence is not talked about publiclly. It's all too often swept under the carpet, kept behind closed doors, people don't like to think about it and certainly don't want to talk about it. All this adds up to a culture of secrecy, and the fact that many people see it as a "private" matter makes things a hell of a lot worse. Women are scared to speak out, and frankly aren't encouraged to talk about it. It's not really been that long since people did start to see it as wrong, in the scheme of things. It used to be pretty much commonplace that a man would beat his wife. It took people getting the issue out in public, getting people talking about ti and collectively saying "no" to get the rescources we now have, and there's a long way to go yet.

Just talking about it and getting it out into the public eye is a hell of a lot more useful than saying nothing at all.

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Feb 28 2005 15:40

Yup definetly...

Its not something people talk and the world likes to keep hidden away...

Cant see the point in complaining about something which isnt doing any harm.. Amnesty arent gunna do anything else... might as well do what they are good at!

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Feb 28 2005 15:52

Not useful is too strong. Limited in its application yes, but let's be honest here, it is able to get tight-fisted westerners to part with their money to help get a bunch of agitators out of jail, it does amazing research work we often rely on to make our own points, and it even has a limited influence societally, although I agree it's very much diluted by the sheer overabundance of charity appeals and campaigns that are out there. It is useful to the government as well, but if it weren't there, I'm unconvinced that would lead to the middle classes rising up in guilt and shame to join the burgeoning revolution.

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Feb 28 2005 15:53

Ok. So what should we do instead? Seriously. What would an anarchist campaign about domestic violnce look like? How would it be run, what would it aim for?

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Feb 28 2005 16:17
zobag wrote:
Ok. So what should we do instead? Seriously. What would an anarchist campaign about domestic violnce look like? How would it be run, what would it aim for?

...... fuck me, it's quiet in here. From a post every 5 minutes to 20 minutes of radio silence.

eek (not)

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Rob Ray
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Feb 28 2005 16:30
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I wanted to be the one who offended everyone about this.

What in a cantdo way or a revol way? Cos cantdo was just being a dick, and revol hasn't been offensive, just a bit unpragmatic.

From an anarchist perspective there's bog all we can do at the moment about domestic violence outside our own lives and communities. In order to track down and fight the tendencies which induce this kind of stuff you've got to persuade the beaten to trust you enough to tell you what's going on and guaruntee their continued safety. Hence the use of safehouses by the professional groups who do this and having these safehouses run by women (sadly, because it's not just women who get beaten).

From an information distribution viewpoint, the best thing that could be done is exactly what is being done, which is the destigmatising of violence and a strong attempt to persuade the beaten that it is unacceptable and they shouldn't put up with it even from someone they love.

Anarchists, with their emphasis on community building, do have a solution to hand in that they can encourage locals to sort out abusers they know in their own streets, but as revol says we ain't got the numbers to be truly effective at doing that yet.

Which is both why Amnesty are limited because they don't challenge the framework which makes Anarchists different in demanding this, and why revol shouldn't really complain that something is being done, even if it is liberal hand-wringing.

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Feb 28 2005 16:48

Yeah but this is an obit thread for the guy who founded it, not a thread about the limitations of conventional charity concerns. I'll happily debate the subject, and I think I'm coming at it from a very similar perspective to yours (though less directly condemnatory), but I get uncomfortable when the first response to the demise of an undoubted hero is to slag off their life's work in the thread which carries news of their death.

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Feb 28 2005 17:00

roll eyes

You know I'm not a fan of liberal hand-wringers in general, but this guy refused every honour offered him. I'll be honest, I hadn't even heard his name before today, which is why I'm according the guy some respect because it suggests to me that he wasn't just doing it because he had some time on his hands and wanted to seal his status in society.

edit: Okay hero was too strong a word, I was being a little over emotive. But I ain't gonna slag the guy off without doing some proper research to find out about him first.

Questionauthority
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Feb 28 2005 17:04
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go wank over Bono!

Classic hahaha

I've always found amnesty to be rather useless, was looking a up a few cases on their website and its a bunch of liberal "well we condone the conditions of the trial and want a a re-trial so the guy can at least be put in jail legally"

saw some Amnesty people picketing the other day quite funny to watch as they only ever target middle-class looking types who if pestered long enough will give them some money to ease their own social concious....

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 17:45

i'm no great lover of charities because they are a huge industry themselves with sometimes dodgy practices in the way they work with the people they see as their clients (which is an unequal power relationship open to abuse) and also sometimes as employers. they often also rely on free labour through volunteers and yet pay big salaries to the "important" people at the top. they also act as a kind of sticking plaster for the consensice plus they depoliticise the issue, they don't acknowledge the chain of connections between what is happening and why because to do that, they would have to challenge the underlying economic and political reasons.

having said that, as these last few posts re an anarchist alternative show, it is difficult for people to do anything else other than support charities because there are few effective alternatives. amnesty are not the worst of the bunch. it is true (as someone said) that they produce well researched reports into human rights abuses. they also do offer a route through which people can take positive action which does effect change albeit not change to the extent we might want but its real change for someone who is imprisoned.

i have a feeling though i'm not 100% sure on this that amnesty international uk has taken a deliberate decision not to investigate human rights abuses in their own country although i am not sure of the reason for this. also their apolitical stance is deliberate and has been traditionally both a form of protection for NGO staff and a means by which they feel they can be more effective.

tbh, i'm not prepared to slag off amnesty or to rejoice because some person who worked within the system and created an organisation which does some good shit, has died. i don't really much care either way and i agree with a lot of revols points but i do also have some respect for amnesty and at least until there is some viable alternative, its better than nothing.

But this extract from their website demonstrates clearly what to me is the problem with amnesty

Quote:
Photographs of caged detainees in the United States Naval Base in Cuba, kneeling before soldiers, shackled, handcuffed, masked and blindfolded. Television images of orange-clad shackled detainees shuffling to interrogations, or being wheeled there on mobile stretchers. The United States of America, and the world, has been haunted by these and other images for years, icons of a government’s failure to put human rights at its heart.

which seems to me to be a somewhat wooly fudge to avoid a direct political attack on the USA and worse, an assumption that if governments would put human rights at their hearts (whatever that means in terms of determining government policy) then every thing would be alright, thank you very much. it ain't that simple. it is bleeding heart liberalism but until there is something else, until we do create real alternatives that deal with the crap, then pragmatically its better than nothing. they do get used by governments as good publicity after some dissidents are released but this is the way the political game is played.

(i think their domestic violence campaign is a bit rubbish tbh, it makes it look like getting slapped around by a man is likely to lead to a little light grazing that a bit of makeup will sort). also didn't the idea of womens refuges in this country come originally from battered women themselves?

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 17:58
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I think we should understand anmesty international and groups like them are not just as neutral institutions who are just a tad niave, rather we should try to understand the role they play in legitmising capitalism and the state, whilst at the same time perpeuating themselves.

i thought i sort of said that. i meant to anyway because they do legitimise capitalism and the state whilst perpetuating themselves which is not a neutral position but at the moment they are all some people have got and that can't be dismissed as unimportant.

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they are part of a millieu in which all social problems are presented as fragmented and independent of wider social structures.

i agree with this also.

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Feb 28 2005 18:42

I hope that isn't aimed at me, because I've repeatedly said I have problems with Amnesty and charities in general, mostly the ones you've mentioned, with the system of licensing which makes them so ineffective politically, their general reliance on support from the cause of the problem (e.g US Amnesty forced UK Amnesty to take down their report into the Iraq war, which had already been carefully written so it didn't directly attack either government or corporate factors, because it cast their backers in a poor light), their recent tactics of employing people to guilt trip on the streets, their pouring of good money after bad into half-arsed, ineffectual measures etc etc ad nauseam...

I'm up for exposing them and demanding their replacement, but ragging on people who spent their lives trying to do good things is not the way to do that. It is completely counterproductive to call someone like Peter Benson just another dead liberal (hooray), because everyone outside the anarchist ghetto will simply think 'what a cunt what has he ever done'.

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Feb 28 2005 18:49

NB// I've got to admit to a little bias here in the interests of openness, my great aunt founded a major charity (pm me if you really need to know which one).

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 18:51

i hope it wasn't aimed at me either. bloody hell revol you've always got to try to push the last brick out of the wall....

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If we are to build alternatives we are going to have to confront groups like anmesty.

then you have to build the alternatives at the same time as confronting the groups like amnesty and others.

i agree that the SWP and amnesty are both bureacratic and up the arse of the state but in this context comparing the SWP and amnesty is just a bit silly especially if its just to have a dig at the politics of other anarchists. tell me, how do people live in within capitalism without hypocrisy?

3rdseason
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Feb 28 2005 18:58

Peopel who slag off charities annoy me. Charities save lives. Something which the anarchist movement hardly ever does. Anyway the two aren't mutually exclusive, you can take care of people in the short term AND fight to solve problems in the long term as well.

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 19:06

but surely 3rd, you can't deny that there are real problems with charities. for example a friend of mine went to work somewhere in Africa for one of the major UK childrens charities. He said the top charity brass there lived in a mansion in a gated grassy enclave. He said he went to a banquet there, white folk, black servants. He was sickened and disgusted by the grab what you can attitude that stank of the excesses of colonialism...

i don't doubt that this an extreme example but nevertheless, a lot of the criticisms raised by people on this thread and the political vacuity at the heart of charity as a concept is valid. doing good is not always entirely good. especially not if it is perpetuating the very structures that cause the problem in the first place.

i've not slagged charities off but thinking about the reality of charitiable work, its purpose, action and consequences can't be a bad thing, can it?

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 19:11

yeah thanks revol, i do realise the difference between contradiction and hypocrisy. hypocrisy often arises from contradictory situations for a start.

maybe people who consider themselves to be anarchists denounce the SWP more often because a) the SWP has a more immediate and profoundly irritating effect on their political lives and b) because like 3rd, not everyone has thought through the implications of charity per se...

3rdseason
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Feb 28 2005 19:12

OK so how many lives roughly have UK anarchist groups saved? and how many lives have UK charities saved?

So the next time theres an appeal to feed starving kids I should just say to myself "oh that liberal wank, Im gonna write an article for Freedom instead!" ?? roll eyes

Being heartless doesnt make you more radical revol.

lucy82
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Feb 28 2005 19:18

3rd, its not about being heartless (shit why am i defending revol)

i've never denied some charities save lives but you can't ignore the wider political context. we can't take the structures that surround us as some uncritical 'given' if we want to fight in any effective way for the people who are the reciprients of charity as much as for ourselves. and it should be fighting with, not for. anything else, just doesn't work.

i repeat:

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thinking about the reality of charitiable work, its purpose, action and consequences can't be a bad thing, can it?
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Feb 28 2005 19:21
3rdseason wrote:
OK so how many lives roughly have UK anarchist groups saved? and how many lives have UK charities saved?

militant working class action which has forced through health and safety measures have saved thousands of lives, to give one example

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Feb 28 2005 19:23

all the material benefits we have now (as little as they are) are a product of collective action. or would you prefer we go back to living in shit conditions and asking for liberals to give us some charity?