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MARIA H. LEWYTZKYJ for WNN Features
Editor – Katherine Rea
In part three of a ground breaking interview, Monterey Institute of International Studies MA graduate, U.S. born Ukrainian, Maria Lewytzkyj, continues a fascinating discussion with U.S. foreign policy expert, Jan Knippers Black on how transnational and corporate profits can cause human rights campaigns to falter. Lewytzkyj also talks with Knippers Black about today’s global problem of fear and the “culture of denial.” Cultural denial is part of the foundation in the experience of many human rights and women’s rights defenders as they face rejection and personal threat in exposing atrocity and rights violations.
This is the final part of a three part series highlighted on Women News Network – WNN. To see part one of this series, “The Politics of Protection – Moving Human Rights Protection Upstream,” link HERE. To see part two, “Sifting through Politics in Human Rights – Women’s Rights,” link HERE.
Interview: Jan Knippers Black discusses foreign policy insights with Maria Lewytzkyj
Maria Lewytzkyj (ML): I liked your suggestion that in the long term, peace means many things and should include “re-visioning of what civilization can and must be about.” And that for the time being, most of all, investing in peace must mean investing in the UN, the ICC, and other multilateral organizations and institutions. The way that civilization is defined depends on what book you read, there’s the Eurocentric view of civilization, the Arab-centric view of civilization and those who want to merge those views and not promote a clash of these civilizations. Can you elaborate?…
Jan Knippers Black (JKB): In a way, we have ceased to aspire to the kinds of things that most people agreed upon in the 1960s and 1970s. In terms of the kind of society that we want, we accept much less. We have accepted the idea that profit motives outrank human rights. How can we ever have accepted something like that?
It could be argued that civilization was built on slavery, but I would say that modernization was built on slavery.
It’s not the same thing as civilization. You’re right. It (also) depends on what one means by civilization. I like what is attributed to Gandhi, the idea that he was asked about what he thinks about western civilization and he said, ‘I think it would be a good idea.’
Most of us in the so-called Western civilization assume that we have a corner on civilization, the right to define it for ourselves. I don’t think that you find a lot of clash in values among the non-hegemonic (those who are not influenced by a state, region, or group). I think that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights probably represents the needs and feelings of most people.
But we have to understand that the hegemonic will try to define it in ways that work particularly for them. In some areas, people will claim a right to collective or cultural rights that are not recognized by the universal declaration.
This means that half the population claims the right to abuse the other half of the population. Whether it’s men wanting to abuse women, or the rich wanting to abuse the poor. If you start with the assumption that human rights means all people and all rights and that everybody should have a say about what those rights are, then it’s democracy with a small “d”.
I think there is a global view of what civilization is, but most people don’t have enough to say about the (specific) way they see it.
ML: Speaking of civilization, when Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, took issue with Samuel Huntington’s work, “The Clash of Civilizations,” that has characterized West-Middle East relations over the past 30 years, Ebadi said, “They (some Middle East leaders) use Islam to hide behind and violate human rights. Like Huntington, they claim Islam is not compatible with democracy. But this is their interpretation. They interpret Islam in a way that grants them power and supports their power. Any objection to them is then an objection to Islam.” What are your thoughts on this?…
JBK: Whether Samuel Huntington really thought that something like that was inevitable, or whether he thought it was a timely popular topic, is an open question. I think it played into what was to come and helped a lot of people come to a conclusion that differences inevitably lead to a clash. Huntington basically said that Islam is not compatible with democracy. Are we supposed to take that at face value?
In the first place, whose democracy? Our system (in the west) is not compatible with democracy. Ours is run by money. Is that what democracy is supposed to be about? It is just too helpful to too many people to have the idea that violence is inevitable so preparing for it is the way to go. If you prepare for violence of course you’ll get it. If you prepare for peace, maybe that’s what you’ll get.
I think that she (Shirin Ebadi) is right. A great many leaders in the Middle East use Islam as a shield just in the way that many leaders, including supposedly religious leaders in the U.S., use “family values” as a shield. People who are serious about human rights just have to keep trying to protect our words and our dialogue. The whole discourse gets pulled into another direction if we are not careful.