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Hey Eleanor, You Forgot a Few! From the Upside-Down World of Eduardo Galeano

This article was published in the May 2002 issue of The Progressive.
Happy May Day! Readers are referred to www.mbtranslations.com for articles on our upside-down world like: Manifesto Against Work! and Everybody becomes an Entrepeneur. Beware the new business philosophy that everyone is his/her own profit center and the meaning of life lies in increasing ruthlessness! Beware the corpse of work that still tyrannizes in work fetishism and work fanaticism
May 2002

The Upside-Down World Eduardo Galeano

Hey Eleanor, You Forgot a Few

The military machine starts to rust when it stops killing. And so the president of the planet is running his finger across the globe seeking the next country to bomb. The Afghan war was a success: It punished the punished and killed the killed. Now new enemies are needed.

But there's nothing new about the banners that flap overhead: the will of God, the terrorist threat, human rights. I have doubts that George W. Bush is the type of messenger God would choose if he had something to tell us. And the terrorist threat seems less and less convincing as anything but an alibi for military terrorism.

Human rights? Will they continue to be used as a justification for those who would shred them?

More than fifty years ago the United Nations approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is no more quoted and celebrated international document.

Not to criticize it, but at this point it seems clear that the Declaration lacks far more than it contains.

For example, the most elemental of all rights, the right to breathe, is now impracticable in this world where even birds cough.

Or the right to walk, which has become a superhuman feat, now that there are only two categories of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.

Then there is the right to indignation, which is the very least that human dignity could demand when subjected to serial indignity.

And what of the right to fight for another possible world when this world has become impossible?

In the thirty articles of the Declaration, the word "freedom" is the most frequently repeated. The freedom to work, to make a decent wage, and to form unions, for example, are guaranteed in Article 23.

But these days it is increasingly the workers who lack the freedom even to choose the sauce with which they will be eaten.

Jobs last less than a breath, and fear forces workers to be quiet and obey: lower salaries, longer hours, and forget about paid vacations, retirement, social services, and other rights that we all share, set forth in Articles 22, 24, and 25.

The international financial institutions--the Little Superpowers of the contemporary world--impose "work flexibility," a euphemism for the vaporization of two centuries of labor victories. The giant multinationals demand "union-free" agreements in countries that compete among themselves to offer the cheapest and most pliant work force. "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms," reads Article 4. Not bad.

Not included on the list is the right to enjoy natural resources, land, water, and air--and to defend them. Nor is there a suicidal right to exterminate nature--though it is without a doubt enthusiastically exercised by the countries that have bought and are devouring the planet. The rest of the countries are paying the bill.

In what must be a masterpiece of black humor, the United Nations baptized the '90s "The International Decade for the Reduction of Natural Disasters." Never had the world suffered such a rapid battering of calamities: floods, droughts, hurricanes, and similar climatic madness. "Natural" disaster? In a world accustomed to blaming the victim, it's only natural that nature stands accused of the crimes committed against her.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state," says Article 13. To enter the place you travel to is quite another matter. The doors of the rich countries are slammed in the faces of the millions of fugitives moving from South to North and East to West, fleeing ruined crops, poisoned rivers, razed forests, collapsed prices, shrunken wages. Many die in the attempt, but others manage to slip beneath the door. Once they've entered the protected paradise, they find themselves less free and less equal.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," says Article 1. Born, yes. But a few minutes later, the separation begins. Article 28 establishes that "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized."

But the distribution of the bread and the fish is far more unjust in the United States or Great Britain than in Bangladesh or Rwanda.

In the international order, even U.N. figures show that today ten individuals possess more wealth than is produced by fifty-four countries combined. Two-thirds of humanity live on less than two dollars per day. The gap between the haves and have-nots has tripled since the signing of the Universal Declaration.

Inequality is increasing, and to safeguard it, military costs are rising. Obscene fortunes feed the fever for war and drive the invention of new demons to justify it. Article 11 states, "Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial." The way things are going, it won't be long before anyone who doesn't live on his knees will be guilty of terrorism until proven innocent.

The wartime economy multiplies the prosperity of the wealthy and provides both intimidation and punishment. At the same time, it radiates throughout the world a military culture that sanctifies the violence exercised against those who are "different," reduced by racism to subhuman.

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind," Article 2 reads. The new mega-productions of Hollywood, dictated by the Pentagon to glorify imperial adventures, preach a startling racism inherited from the worst traditions of cinema.

The Declaration proclaims and reality betrays. Article 30 assures that no one can suppress any of these rights. But the universal system of power says, "I can, just watch me."

According to President Bush, the enemies of humanity are Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. They are now the prime candidates for his next round of target practice. I suppose he has reached this conclusion after profound meditation, but his absolute certainty seems deserving at the very least of a little doubt.

After all, the right to doubt is another human right, even if left unmentioned in the Universal Declaration.

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist, is the author of "Memory of Fire" and "The Open Veins of Latin America." This article is published with the permission of IPS Columnist Service.

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