Making a Difference

Peter Herrmann, currently research fellow at the Human Rights Centre at the Law School, Central South University, Changsha, PRC, has been interviewed by an Irish radio station – the interview will be broadcasted February 14th, 12:00 hrs. Irish time and can be listened thee by following link www.phoenixfm.ie:. The interview is part of a series, titled Making a Difference. It is an interesting format, accommodating reflections on general issues of societal development and political issues and at the same time linking this to questions of personal development and life of the interviewee. Importantly, such format supports or even urges to think about human rights as matter of daily life, in many cases the importance of this dimension not being really perceived. There are, of course, the big questions like racism – a forthcoming book, going back to an event at the human rights centre in 2020 and is looking at different aspects thereof. It is now in print under the title Between Ignorance and Murder – Racism in Times of Pandemics. But equally and mainly we are talking about those issues where rights are embedded in a complex moral and ethical context without which they cannot be understood. In the interview, Herrmann emphasised that for him – working as university teacher and researcher – Making a Difference had been very much a matter of respect, engaging in a communicative act, aiming on understanding the other. Something that requires not least leaving the lecture theatres and seminar rooms. Having been able to live and work in different countries had been a topic frequently coming up in the interview. The answer in a nutshell: “Living as ‘eternal tourist’ is nothing that I would recommend as ultimately “best and only way of life.’ But it surely made a difference, helping me to make hopefully also some difference in the life of people.”

Tanti auguri per il 2021

paura, speranza, luce alla fine del tunnel …. Forse ora si svegliamo, prendendo coscienza del fatto che stavamo guidando ad alta velocità e verso un treno proveniente da altra estremità.

EASILY OVERLOOKED – HUMAN RIGHTS, THE SMALL PRINT AND THE UNIVERSE

The other day, the App Store announced an update. When are going there the window with the latest security announcement (dictating this, I had to correct announcement, exchange it from “and nonsense”) opened, apparently concerned with some gaming. While I’m not into gaming, I thought I’ll still have a look: data protection is it always somewhat interesting, challenging and not least funny issue. And indeed, some interesting issues can be raised.
1) The operating system of my computer runs in Italian language, however the data protection site opened in German language, apparently taking it from my current location. – being able to read and understand German, I didn’t bother.
2) Still later I thought I’d change the language, not least because I want to do look something up for this blog entry. This is easy as I thought it would be, not least I ended up in the store for apps, but not in the section of data protection. I’m sure, if I would have wasted more time …. Somewhere that will be an English, an Italian, a French, a Swedish … version.
3) Reading through all the information and data protection, security and not least my own control options, more or less at the outset there had been the following sentence
Apple ist der Überzeugung, dass Datenschutz ein grundlegendes Menschenrecht ist. Jedes Apple-Produkt ist daher so konzipiert, dass so wenig Daten wie möglich erfasst und verwendet werden, dass, wo möglich Daten direkt auf dem Gerät verarbeitet werden, und dass höchste Transparenz herrscht und du die Kontrolle über deine Daten hast.
(in translation from the German, thanks to deepl.com)Apple believes that privacy is a fundamental human right. That’s why every Apple product is designed to collect and use as little data as possible, process data directly on the device where possible, and provide the highest level of transparency and control over your data.
Alright then – a Human Right, it means there is no difference, we are born equal and avail of such human right independent of ethnicity, sex, gender, age, maturity, religion, faith and belief etc. — some relief it seems.
4) I flipped through all the information, thought it is a lot of reading, and also thought a lot of  knowledge is required to understand all this – knowledge concerned with technology, jurisprudence, administration … and I thought that human rights are “universal” not least in the sense of non-discriminatory. The UN-website

states:
The international human rights legal framework contains international instruments to combat specific forms of discrimination, including discrimination against indigenous peoplesmigrantsminoritiespeople with disabilitiesdiscrimination against women,  racial and religious discrimination, or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Well, education is not amongst it. Although accessibility to education is frequently mentioned is human right, I am not aware of any mention of a human right independent of the educational status. In other words, availing of human rights may well be dependent on a certain level of education, allowing to access ones rights. Sure, there are various mechanisms in place that ensure to some extent that everybody, even without education, can avail of protection – but that is usually another long way.
5) long ways, having much time …. An important issue when it comes to human rights; and as well an issue that is interesting to look at on a macrolevel. The juridification of modern life does not only require knowledge but also time — and it is societal time, time of society. Let’s have a look at the cost of reading privacy statements:

McDonald, Aleecia M./Cranor, Lorrie Faith: 2008: The Cost of Reading Privacy Policies; https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/72839/ISJLP_V4N3_543.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y; 08/01/19; S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, vol. 4, no. 3 (2008), 543-568


Human Rights – there is much more to it than killing people of colour or silencing political opponents; and as long as the small print is ignored, there is the danger that people feel legitimised to storm the white fortress in order to protect the “superior inmate”.

Reflections for the New Year

Again and again it is said that we are living in unusual times. Of course, in some way it is unquestionably true – taking unusual as exceptional.

Still, I’m wondering if it is not – for some – about returning to usual life, life and what it is really about, including some Jolt of Pure Joy  – taking unusual as ordinary in its most positive understanding of authentic, genuine: wiping away all the stupidities and useless wants that come along with commerce and business and their harsh fairy tale of growth as ultimate goal; perhaps overcoming arrogance, ignorance, dishonest tolerance.

Of course, it is not about all this for all and in every respect: there are still many who barely get the bare necessities; there are people cramped – in a rich city as Berlin – with 14 persons on 100 square meter; there are entire countries living in severe poverty …, obviously I am not speaking about that kind of consumers and consumption but …

Of course, much is replaced by online shopping, still the old ding-dong, veiled in new dresses, the heavy weight now to be carried by … the couriers, badly paid, working under harsh conditions … I am not celebrating these new victims … and yes, a good cuppa or something like that, sitting down in the bar around the corner is something we all miss as we miss the local theatre, the music club and the cinema – many of them possibly not getting back on their legs. Still, perhaps it is a time, an opportunity to pay more respect to the little walk with a friend, an opportunity to talk about the film we saw in our little or large home, perhaps it is the time where we are becoming aware of some essentials …

And perhaps there is something many of us can actually DO. Sure, don’t ask me how many jackets and trousers I have, how old my mobile phone is, how many useless gadgets I own and …. – but I made personally perhaps a small step from words that may be exceptional to what should be ordinary, authentic action. And I offered as well to enter conversations about the books there, socialising the means of production … and perhaps we have to and can think about new ways, collective ways of reflecting and debating ….

Fondazione della biblioteca per l’apprendimento profondo – Foundation of a library for deep learning

When I left Rome a couple of years ago I decided to leave my books there, making a donation so that the books and material can be accessed by the public. EURISPES kindly accepted this and took it as opportunity to establish this small collection (so many books I lost over the time due to moving from one place to another and also due to political attacks from the extreme right; not least, university libraries did not accept earlier offers of material which means many EU-(project-) documents from pre-internet times are lost as I could not store them privately) as a foundation for which I propose the name

Fondazione della biblioteca per l’apprendimento profondo – Foundation of a library for deep learning.

Admittedly there is only a small number of those books, I owned during my lifetime, left. Still, I hope that those books left can serve as a foundation stone for an increasing number of books donated by others, offering what educational institutions unfortunately offer less and less: access to books including such books that are not mainstream and not topical in the sense of offering little space for independent thinking behind catchy titles, in other words books that allow studying beyond the usual textbooks. The small and hopefully growing collection contains study material that allows developing independent and critical thinking. Saving space in my own accommodation, socialising the means of production of knowledge and avoiding further damage while moving on had been  important reasons. Furthermore, it had been the experience I made in Rome: the joy of reading in public libraries, being together or at least feeling together with others, experiencing the production of knowledge as a social, collective process. It may sound pathetic, but indeed it would be a great satisfaction for me if I could contribute a wee bit in the creation of such orientation from young scholars (and old peers too, of course).

The library including reading space is located adjunct to the office of EURISPES

  • Istituto di Studi Politici Economici e Sociali, Via Cagliari, 14 – 00198 Roma
  • +39.06.6821.0205 (ra) +39.06.4411.7029

It can be assessed during office hours and I sincerely hope that many people make use of it and also get support and an open space for debate when visiting the library. I haven’t seen the place and do not know if I will ever see it. In any case the satisfaction of knowing about it is great.

I am grateful for support and also for interest.

——-
Peter Herrmann. Prof. Dr. habil.; Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center. Law School at the Central South University, Changsha, PRC

Affil.
IASQ (The Netherlands); CU (Hungary); IPE (Germany); LU-MSU (Russia); MPISoc.Law (Germany); NUI-M (Ireland); UEF (Finland)

Lushan South Road, 410083 Changsha, Hunan, PRC/
湖南省长沙市岳麓区麓山南路中南大学南校区文法楼219

Quality … – consistency is everything

Surely unwanted, but done — at the desk, when I paid for the headphones in a market selling multi-media ….The product’s barcode was scanned, and the same moment I have been asked if I wanted to add insurance, the question being accompanied but a brief explanation of what is covered:

if you use the headphones and you are getting dizzy …., well, if the headphones then fall down and are getting damaged, it is covered by the insurance.

Of course, I had been thinking .. not about buying such insurance but about the meaning of quality and what it means in such context of a multi media supermarket (and other outlets, stores, shops and of course also producing entities. A somewhat official definition of quality managements goes like this:

A quality management system (QMS) is defined as a formalized system that documents processes, procedures, and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives. A QMS helps coordinate and direct an organization’s activities to meet customer and regulatory requirements and improve its effectiveness and efficiency on a continuous basis.

I found it on the website of the American Society for Quality – as they have certification courses in place, I suppose it is somewhat authoritative. Back to the shop and the question then, I assume that the main point about quality is that a consistent system its in place – it reminds me of ISO-standards: in principle they work in a very strange way: you say what the standard is and if it is reached you are good. We have had a discussion on this, in connection with shelter for the homelessness. An organisation offering services for homeless people may set s standard for its performance that only 5 % of the people whom they helped finding accommodation return at some stage to the centre, being homeless again. Wow, that would be success, right? Now, looking at the other side it may become tricky. Let us assume they supported 10 people to find accommodation, two people actually stay in the accommodation, five pass away after sleeping rough on the street during frosty nights, two disappeared … unknown destiny and one actually returned to the organisation, looking for help again, What can be said? I feel glad for the two who have proper accommodation now. I am sad, seeing that such a norm-setting process can claim to be successful as the self-set target is reached and I am upset to see that such quality assessment still allows so much misery in there real world.

Sure, back in the shop …. it is in this perspective complaining on a level of high living standards. But still, I felt tempted to ask if the insurance covers as well the cost for medical treatment or if this would still up to health insurance – an institution that is increasingly under pressure due to privatisation of health services, mismanagement and wrong politics. Well, I resisted temptation.

Looking back in order to search for the future

Pausing for a moment is not a bad thing, even if we are forced to. There is a lot of talk about the new normal and indeed, it had been last week that we had been confronted with some news that had been surely worthwhile to think about. It had been world overshoot day, this on a global level. Qatar reached it already on the 11th of February, Indonesia will be the last, reaching it on the 18th of December (https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days/)

Of course, there are massive economic problems as consequence of the pandemic. However, a detailed analysis shows that these are problems of production: the commodity system of capitalism requires to keep costs of production low, thus separating production proper and consumption. This appears a to be a problem of distribution and linked injustice. However distribution is not really the problem. The problem is that commodity production in the understanding of capitalist production depends on separating production of use value and production of exchange value. Only refocusing the entire process on use will allow to produce what is needed by human beings instead of investors.

Artificial Intelligence

It is in the meantime a widely used term, possibly also a widely misunderstood one?

Wikipedia suggests on the disambiguation site the following:

Artificial intelligence is at this stage a widely used term, and of course we even agree by small-signing the dotted line of the big thing:

Occasionally I access websites, using the phone. In a blink of an eye the search history is available on the other machines. Sure, I do not have anything to hide …, and as said: I signed. But what exactly did I sign when? Recently I had been looking for a shop – I needed the address and knew that there are some branches in town, however, I did not know that this is actually a national chain. The web suggested the maps with the branches in Berlin, then the general website, and then … the question if I would allow google to use my position. hum …and at the very bottom

Consoling: the postcode is wrong. Or in more popular terms: Artificial intelligence has something humane: it is at times equally stupid.

The strange encounter

Two bears are meeting after a couple of weeks.

How are you keepin’?

The answer of the grizzly, with an obvious sigh of relief:

Oh gosh I am feeling great! It is like waking from hibernation. And what about yourself?

hum …

A few seconds passed, though it felt like minutes until the icebear replied

hum, I guess I know what you mean. We call it global warming!

,