The State of Law – The Code of Answers, ignoring what the question is about

Nil sapientiæ odiosius acumine nimio. (Seneca)

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.

Derek Chauvin trial verdict – and a missing word

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:

H. R. 1280 – AN ACT

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.

(private conversation by email; 2021/04/25)

Indeed, at the end there had been some words: guilty on all three accouts

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:

I.

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)

II

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

III

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.

IV

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

Honesty

I have never been friend of addressing people by opening a letter with a lie, e.g.

  • Dear/Esteemed ….
  • I am/we are grateful for …
  • Honourable …

Or ending it by using a statement like

  • With friendly regards
  • Warmest
  • Kindly

Why not state honestkly what one means — also being honest to oneself:

  • Dear colleague, thanks for the mail though I really do not have time to bother

And then, from the customer-side, instead of writing Thanking you for the reply in anticipation

  • Please, do not reply – I know it is not the problem you as actual office clerk are dealing with; but instead of answering, please pass it on to the CEOs etc. who make profit from the sheep-like patience of workers like you and customers like myself …

Part of the move from use to echange value is surely reflected in “using” langauge as means of exchange, but not echanging “meaning” (meaning being the use value of information and any form of serious communication) – instead: exchanging paralysing formulae that allow selling nothing in a beautiful looking gift box.

There is another point, going beyond communication: a perverted consumer protection. Today, especially when it comes to online-business, we reveice the goods we ordered and with it we receive the label for “free return-shipment”, addressed to the dear customer and sent with kind regards., Great, if needed – and “deserved”. But then: how many people order a commodity or several of them, anticipating that they will return some of them. Even worse perhaps: omne orders an item and something seems not to work. So you call for help

The result is too often the”kind offer”

you can return the item

it does not really help if you want to use it … – did I mention use and exchange value? The use value is shifting to a perverse “KEEP THE BALL MOVING ON”, don’t bother what the ball is and where it goes. This kind of thinking and system ? It goes sooner or later onto the dustbin of history.

Human Rights or Rights of Humanity?

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:

The mining companies pump up 63,113,852,000 liters of brine per year. In terms of quantities, this corresponds to the annual water consumption of 1.6 million Danish households – though the brine is too saline for human consumption.

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? 

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 to 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.”

Now also available HERE

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.