Of course, talking about Human Rights does not allow making jokes, mocking or any kind of not taking the issue serious. And of course, as with so many things, the first impression is not necessarily the correct one when hearing about a region demanding to be recognised by its central government – and the EU – as the first time- free-zone, overcoming the requirement to apply standard rules of time keeping for instance when it comes to schooling, shop-opening hours and the like. The reason for such a request is simple: a long time during which there is, so to say, only daytime. What had been issued as complex issue, dealing with individual well-being and socio-economic sovereignty apparently had been very much a business-hype, an attempt to attract tourists. Be it as it is, it should not be underestimated that there is a human rights dimension to it, exactly the issue of the right do sovereign decisions concerning the way in which people (in the double sense) are sovereign.Of course, Human Rights are to be understood as universal. Important is also that we are nolens volens talking about international HR – when I had been asked to make this part of my portfolio if accepting the call for a professorship at a law school I had been initially somewhat surprised, perhaps because it seems to be so obvious. However, obvious are in some way the breaches of such international HR-law – although subtle issues arise. A short story may highlight what is at stake – and in which way we are confronted with a contradictory issue, possibly even a minefield.                             

… He told me all about aid negotiations with EU representatives and the conditions that apply to the various schemes, and how the conditions now include human development indicators. If you want to obtain aid you have to improve your indicator. These development indicators – a fine invention – include school attendance rates. So what happens? He told me that children who used to work with their fathers tending livestock, for instance, traditionally – and this is not exploitation, this is traditional work – an activity that was an ideal way to learn about other things as well, the constellations, botany, family history, etc., are told that they have to go to school instead. There is no money, so they build sheds where they put 200 kids with a teacher who can’t cope, and they say they are attending school. The indicator goes up and they get their aid. The children’s level of education collapses because the only thing they learn is that they went to school and are no longer fit to do the work their parents do.

(The Declaration of Philadelphia Today; lecture by Alain Supiot (Institute for The Declaration of Philadelphia Today; lecture by Alain Supiot (Institute for Advanced Studies, Nantes, 24 March 2010; lecture, part of the ILO century project; 

Isn’t the decision on the own way of using time, the right to define time use as matter of appropriateness and im refection of the natural conditions exactly a decision of the same kind: allowing the children to go to school, obtaining advanced education in conflict with decision to obtain the knowledge needed in daily life.

Or using the widely suggested formulation that to

Give a Man a Fish, You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man how TTo Fish, and You Feed Him for a lifetime.

And from here it may be even more important to allow doing it in the way that is appropriate by way of reflecting the given conditions, instead of adapting to the global forces.

It is in some way the right to have rights Arendt puts on the agenda, but now the right of nation states to have rights to remain outside of the global capitalist system – which may still be a better place thanking part of its periphery.


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