– the infamous sentence used by Margret Thatcher, now understanding them analytically and the notion of the human being as social being.
Does it suggest the end of humankind?
At least it is problematique to blame Digitisation and Artificial Intelligence for developments of capitalist societies for which they are welcome tools but not origins. This is an argument I presented in a reflection paper titled
Datafication, Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence, (New) Singularity … – there are different terms used, as much as there are different terms used to to grasp the character of our societies: burocratisation, red tape, administered society, alienated structures. And we find different metaphors and phenomona: the age-old gaming machine
and the android, nearly impossible to make out as different from the human.
But …, well, there may be a but. Recently a small group of members of the European Academy of Science and Arts met with the aim of establishing a working group on Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence and Ethics, bringing colleagues from different disciplins together. I put some initial ideas together which may also be of general interst and can be found here. There is a good reason to think what it means to exist as human being.
It had been a major day in terms of elections in Germany, going far beyond the elections to the German parliament, which marked the stepping down of Angela Merkel after 16 years as Chancellor. In Berlin there had been four votes, three for the different levels of the federate system, and one that is especially outside of Berlin perhaps not even known: the referendum concerning the expropriation of the Deutsche Wohnen& Co, i.e. major real estate groups. Looking at the figures, it had been a referendum about more than 200.000 flats. As the rbb-website knows:
And this is what happened: though the final results are not yet available, there had been a clear majority.The vote had not been about the expropriation as such, but about forcing the senate (the Parliament of Berlin) to elaborate a plan for the expropriation. In legal terms a more or less tricky thing, as the referendum referred to article 15, not 14 of the German Basic law – and the term expropriation is far from being clear (— at the end of this blog-post I paste a passage from a text I wrote in a completely different context, to be published soonish).
Here and now I only want to make the vote, or even the fact of the referendum known, and congratulate the initiators.What is going to happen? It is far from being clear; and that means that major work, including campaigning for accommodation as Human Right — this is standing at the bottom line as affordable housing does not exist, not least due to speculation – will be necessary. Not least, if we look at the results of the election. – Again, the rbb-website
Interesting aspects had been discussed in the early 1950s by German public and constitutional law. Helmut K.J. Ridder, in a prominent presentation during the annual conference of the public policy and international law academics, engaged in the topic expropriation and socialisation, aiming on specifying the terms. Although his contribution had been very much of the employed by discussing specific issues of the German basic law and it it’s articles 14 and 15, it is of general interest. Summarising the highly differentiated analysis, we have to point on two fundamentally different forms: the one aims on specifying the use of property, without actually changing the legal title whereas the other changes the property title. However, this is only part of the difference. Another, and more important, aspect becomes clear when we follow Ridder’s reflection on the motives. The following quote marks the fundamental difference:
In the case of expropriation, the de-privatisation of property is also seen on the part of the expropriating state or the state granting the right of expropriation, as it were, with an expression of regret for the affected party, necessary for the sake of the administrative project, because a free contractual settlement was or would be rejected by the affected party or would be practically impossible to implement for other reasons.
In the case of social devaluation, the de-privatisation of the assets of the person effected is decisive, because the private character of the assets is thought to be currently or potentially harmful to society. Compared to this negative purpose of social devaluation, the positive aspects of a general nature (new impulses for the national economy, raising the standard of living of broad strata, etc.) are at most of secondary importance and those of a special nature (increasing the profitability in a certain branch of the economy, etc.) are almost insignificant … .
In short, we see in the one case a measure, that intervenes in an individual case, thus making a specific ‘project’ possible; in the other case we are witnessing a kind of system change that is independent of an individual case, aiming on a change of a structural issue. It may be in one case, the intervention allowing to build a road, in the other case it would an intervention that allows to structurally influence the availability of accommodation. Another aspect is occasionally added, also in some way proposed by Ridder: the latter case is distinct from nationalisation, transferring ownership – responsibility for care and use – directly to citizens.
Finally, he suggests that subsequently the social devaluation – unlike expropriation is not a legal institution but a legal form, as such part of a fundamental change:
Cases, regulated by expropriation, can recur randomly. The state uses expropriation ad hoc. That is why its focus is also … on the individual act.
The social devaluation has a unique aim; it fulfils the mission of socialisation. The Basic Law expressly permits, as is appropriate to the matter, only the legislative path for social devaluation according to Article 15. And it is a condition that these laws are not only applied do not only cover a part of the enterprises of a certain branch of industry.
As much as all this is crucially a matter of the economy, it is important to note, that with this the establishment of a mindset is going hand in hand. We can easily see that for instance health related behaviour, health services, and related issues are influenced by this mindset: the question would then be, if health is considered as something that is secured by society or that must be secured by individuals themselves; the question is also, if the individual has in case of transmittable diseases main responsibility towards others.
To conclude, we may say that appropriation should in its definition be linked to an elaborated understanding of appropriateness. Politically this can only be realised by developing a multilateral and global approach towards democracy, on the one hand referring to the fact that we are dealing with the global economy, on the other hand equally accepting the diversity when it comes to the mode of production.
Taking the floor during the BEN MASS Global Conference on Religious Diplomacy, organised by the Academy of Arts and Science on the 17th of July 2021, I raised my old concern again, elaborating on the tension between a purely formal understanding of the rule of law, based in an individualist understanding as it stands in the tradition of the Roman Law doctrine on the one hand and the need to emphasise that humans have to be understood as social animals, shaping there life through production as social process on the other hand. This leads us to an understanding of law that includes what is commonly called an ethical dimension; at the same time it has to be emphasised, however, that such dimension is not based in voluntary perspectives, but in clear guidelines emerging from the social character of production. Even if the importance of individual genius (and individual failure) should not be underestimated, it is at the end of the day the social, the social conditions, the historical context that determine our action – be it success or failure. This provides strong point of reference for the definition of the rule of law, defining responsibility and in particular social responsibility not as matter of distribution of what had been privately appropriated, but of securing societal conditions – material and ideational – that allow people to live comfortably together, meaning leading an appropriate life. And obviously this entails the two spects, one being about approriation, the other being about appropriateness as coherence.
While Sir Richard and JB entered a fierce competition, presumably standing every day in front of a mirror, asking themselves “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the biggest smartass in the world”, I thought it may be worthwhile to publish the abstract of an article to come.
SOCIAL NARCISSISM – HOW SOCIETY PUSHES US TO OVERESTIMATE OUR CAPACITIES, LEAVING MANY BEHIND
Truth is stranger than fiction.
Old Saying (taklen from E.A. Poe: THE THOUSAND-AND-SECOND TALE OF SCHEHERAZADE
The following introduces the concept of overlife, not claiming that it is an entirely new idea, however suggesting that it is a suitable term to bring different problems of contemporary societal development together. Broadly speaking, overload is defined as simultaneously condensing patterns of life and the actual living, i.e. intensifying living by establishing patterns of multitasking; however, doing so occurs for the price of a shallowed concept of life by a differentiated system of standardization. Simplification of cognition and education, not least in the context of digitization, are important factors: The apparently increasing control, everybody experiences, goes hand-in-hand with increasing difficulties of understanding – and enjoying – the complexity with which we are confronted. Still, although this seems to be a secular process concerning humanity and humans in general, control and power remains in the hands of a few who, as individuals and corporations, design life and society. Paradoxically, the theoretically gained possibility to answer complex questions and develop long-term perspectives, turns, at least under capitalist conditions, into narcistic idiosyncrasies, making people fly to outer space for 1.5 hours and wasting huge amounts of monies for the thrill of egos instead of strategically developing socio-economic strategies addressing major challenges as poverty, environmental threats, digitisation and new forms of stupidification.
It had been a much celebrated judgment on three accounts – the wording as follows
Judge Peter Cahill: (01:01) Verdict Count One. Court file number 27 CR 2012646. We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter as to count one, Unintentional Second Degree Murder While Committing a Felony, find the defendant Guilty. This verdict agreed to this 20th day of April, 2021, at 1:44 PM. Signed Juror Foreperson, Juror Number 19.Judge Peter Cahill: (01:27) Same caption, Verdict Count Two. We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter as to Count Two, Third Degree Murder Perpetrating an Eminently Dangerous Act, find the defendant Guilty. This verdict agreed to this 20th day of April, 2021, at 1:45 PM. Signed by Jury Foreperson, Juror Number 19.Judge Peter Cahill: (01:46) Same caption, Verdict Count Three. We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter as to Count Three, Second Degree Manslaughter, Culpable Negligence Creating an Unreasonable Risk, find the defendant Guilty. This verdict greed to this 20th day of April, 2021, at 1:45 PM. Jury Foreperson, 019.
(The full transcript can be find here) – but the entire text does not use the word racism, it does not say anything about the political motives of the crime, i.e. racism let alone that it gos beyond the individual, highlighting the inbstitutional racism (not only) in the United States of Northern America. The same holds true for the complaint
So we are made to belive that an individual failed, acted in an irresponsible way. Sure, a new Act suggests at first sight that there is a fundamental change:
To hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1.SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) Short Title.—This Act may be cited as the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021”.
But when we look at it, it is somewhat frightening:
This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It increases accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricts the use of certain policing practices, enhances transparency and data collection, and establishes best practices and training requirements.
The bill enhances existing enforcement mechanisms to remedy violations by law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer, and
grants administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations.
It establishes a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. It also limits the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds.
The bill creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It also establishes new reporting requirements, including on the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches).
Finally, it directs DOJ to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies and requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.
– ll this is surely important, but again it is without pointing out the political perspective, this act states something that should be acceptd alredy for a long time, considering that the USA is one of the “civilised” countries – May be that we have to revisit our understanding of civilisation, juxtapose its reality with the self-set claims. Indeed, as Steven Demarest stated:
Supporters of racial justice must not make the mistake of thinking that Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd signals a fundamental change in the criminal legal system. True justice requires the wholesale transformation of the institution of policing and investments in communities to truly advance public safety. That is more than what can be provided by the criminal legal system, let alone a single trial — especially one as atypical as that of Chauvin.
And Augustine Hungwe, contributor to the book Between Ignorance and Murder (see below) rightly highlights:
United States was founded on slavery, dispossession and genocide of the indigenous populations. It is a country founded of institutionalized racism and violence against people of color. It is a country that has normalized white privilege and whiteness as the organizing principle of society. The role of police in this instance is to ‘keep the native in his place’. Policing black and brown bodies becomes a priority of a white-centred and white dominated police force. Elements of this sordid history of America’s toxic history of guns and racism have been laid bear in the Chauvin trial.
and one decisive word had been missing: racism, a criminal offence, commited by a society not being able to live up to the standards of Human Rights.
PS April 27th:
Reading on, looking at other statements etc., of course the statment president Biden made, is worthwhile a comment, especially as he begins with an astonishingly clear statement, saying
It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to. The systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul. The knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans. Profound fear and trauma. The pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.
But then a bit later he continues by saying:
Again, as we saw in this trial from the fellow police officers who testified, most men and women who wear the badge serve their communities honorably. But those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable, and they were today. One was. No one should be above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message.
No doubt that there are hontest and honarable police officers; hower, this formulation is missing the point: it is not about honorable individuals; it is about a dishonest society.
I may take the opportunity to mention four pieces of work:
Published is the book
Between Ignorance and Murder – Racism in Times of Pandemic, edited by Junxiang Mao, Peter Herrmann, Tom Zwart, Qinxuan Peng, and publishewd by Vienna Academiuc Press, Bad Voeslau (ISBN/EAN: 9783990610237)
Just the final strokes on the keyboard are being made on a contribution titled
The Limits of Social Law in the Face of Social Justice, to be published in a Festschrift ffor Otto Kaufmann, edited by Alpay Hekimler
In the final preparatory phase is a book with a critical review of the concept of Human Rights, the working title
Human Rights in a Changing World – Reflections on Fundamental Challenges, edited together with Mehmet Okyayuz.
And not least a key note speech, looking at Solidarity as regime of governing – it is addressing the S.U.P.I- online conferfence “Shifts and Reorientation within the social crisis and catastrophy: Towards the Realisation of pendemic epistemological processes”, scheduled for the 29th and 30th of April 2021
I guess it will be an interesting discussion – April 8th I will address the
International Conference on The Communist Party of China and the Progress on Human Rights in China
It is hosted by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, and organised by Jilin University Human Rights Center, Jilin University School of Law, and Center for Jurisprudence Research. My address is titled
Planes, not Stages: A Reply to Karel Vasak’s Classification as Useful Answer to Critiques of China’s HR-Politics
After working on it, I came across the following chart, published in the update I received from the economist (April 1st, what a day for this …🤔)
Now, this seems to be far fetched, not connected. But let’s think about it a bit further – yes, taking a broad brush, though enough for now.
* The Global North “solving” its problem of environmental stress by externalising pollution from the cities and industrial centres to power stations in less populated areas (yes, the production of energy still is somewhat dirty, even if the pollution in the cities is lower when people use their “clean” e-SUV in the city)
* these e-SUVs or whatever e-engines depend on batteries – and there we arrive at the chart – part of it:
There are more interesting facts to be found here ; see also here.
* As said, we arrive at part of the chart. Another part has to ask why the cost has fallen. Now, I won’t do the maths but I may ask a question: why are the the poor countries becoming poorer and poorer? Because people are lazy, sitting in the sun? Why is the gap between rich and poor people in the Global South getting larger all the time? Because the soil belongs to everybody and everybody super exploits it is proposed under the title “the tragedy of the commons”? (see for a presentation and some of the critique: Banyan, Margaret E.. “Tragedy of the commons”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 May. 2020).
Well, there is good reason for what had been said: the most serious historical criminal act had been the enclosure of land, i.e. the establishment of private property of the initial “means of production”, Fencing off, the establishment of private property and with this the prioritisation of individual rights brings us back to the question of the presentation: are human rights really first and foremost about individual freedom etc.? Or shouldn’t we first look at the right of societies to prosper in their own terms instead of continued enslavement?
South-South Cooperation in Poverty Alleviation and Human Rights Protection
Wednesday, the 17th of March the China Society for Human Rights Studies and Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerlands will host a conference under the title
南南减贫合作与人权保障 – South-South Cooperation in Poverty Alleviation and Human Rights Protection
as China Side Event of the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Further information can be found here.
if you want to participate, please, send an email with name and affiliation at your earliest convenience to email@example.com – it is needed for approval. Thank you.
Under the direction of the Chinese Society for Human Rights Studies, the Centre for Human Rights Studies of Central South University, the Centre for Intercultural Human Rights Studies of the Free University of Amsterdam and the National Human Rights Commission of China. Against Contemporary Forms of Racism: The Challenge of the Epidemic and States’ Responses”, co-hosted by the Institute of International Law, Wuhan University, a high-level think tank “The international video symposium was held on July 3, with participants from China, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and other countries and the United Nations’ Experts and scholars in the field of human rights held in-depth discussions on related topics. Peter Herrmann, Professor of the Human Rights Center of Central South University and member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, made a speech entitled “Racism: everyday life”.
Peter Herrmann argues that we must look for conditions that provide public guarantees to shape our own lives. In society, it is about health and services, it is about education, and it is about providing an environment that makes life easier.