Corruption, human rights and social justice



Do you believe in monsters? I do, though not the ones you can find in myths, legends and fairy tales. The real world is where the monsters are… monsters, fighting for power….


Have you seen Andrei Zvyagintsev’s new  film “Leviathan”? The film is set in Russia’s desolate north. The main character, Nikolai, is a soulful car mechanic who lives in a wooden house by the Barents Sea with his frustrated wife and a depressed teenage son from an earlier marriage.

His house and land are being taken from him by the state, represented here by a drunken and corrupt mayor who is closely advised by an Orthodox priest. Nikolai’s friend, a lawyer, travels from Moscow to help him fight the mayor. But that only leads to more disasters.

In the end, Nikolai loses his wife, his freedom and his house, which, in a final twist, is bulldozed to make space for a new church that is inaugurated by the mayor and the priest, who preaches about patriotism and love for the Russian state…

As the Economist points out, “Leviathan” may not break new artistic ground, but it has a lot to say about life in Russia.

Rarely has an art film evoked such fierce debate. It has been denigrated as heresy and slander by supporters of the state and the church, and praised by liberals who recognise its truths.

As noted by the Economist, a few days before the film was released in Russia, Kirill, the patriarch of the Orthodox church, took to the floor of the Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia). He praised the Soviet era for breeding “solidarity” in people and lashed out at the depravity of the West.


Zvyagintsev however clearly intended this film as a parable for modern human-kind, not just Russians. This movie is about the corruption and collusion of elites everywhere to exploit and abuse “the little people”.

As Frank Vogl points out in his book “Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power”, “Corruption is not a single event, but a continuum, perpetrated day in and day out against citizens by crooked politicians and civil servants who enjoy the position of power… Corruption is a political, social, and economic issue of global proportions. Today, as never before, it is a major cause of the global crises of poverty, human rights, justice, and security. It impacts us all….”



While many live in denial, like the proverbial ostrich, or think that corruption is “just a way of life”, every society, sector and individual would benefit from saying “NO” to this crime. We all can:

  • Raise awareness
  • Engage the youth about what ethical behavior is and what corruption is.
  • Report incidents of corruption
  • Refuse to participate in any activities that are not legal and transparent



#SpeakOut for Freedom


Now dreams
Are not available
To the dreamers,
Nor songs
To the singers.
In some lands
ark night
And cold steel
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song
Its jail.

By Langston Hughes

Russia: “Speak out for Freedom” – show of solidarity against repression

Amnesty International has launched a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country.

To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on the following areas of concern:

  • Independent media in Russia – journalists threatened, harassed, physically attacked and even murdered with impunity;
  • Non-governmental organizations smeared, fined and forced to close down for independent and critical work spuriously presented as “political activities” in the interests of foreign sponsors;
  • Protesters denied the right to express their views in public spaces; arrested and tried in unfair proceedings.

The week of action coincides with the 8th anniversary of the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, one of the all-time staunchest critics of the Kremlin and once a prominent free voice of the Russian media.


Related posts:


Hell on Earth

I’m not sure about paradise, but hell exists for sure –
it is here, on Earth. 😦


From Never Give Up Hope

My blog posts have been very positive and sweet lately, but there is a different side to my blog – stories from hell, real hell on Earth. I posted them for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe that it is important to remember such stories and learn from them. Stories from hell bring wisdom. Secondly, I believe that only the spotlight of our attention can counteract the dark forces of hell. Don’t turn away – only our attention can stop that pain, only our attention can overcome that darkness. Thirdly, once we get to know real hell, we learn to appreciate all the blessings in our lives – and we do have plenty of those.

Blogging is an art and as such “should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. If you feel disturbed and need comfort, check out my Thoughts and Poetry & Songs sections. However if you feel strong enough to be disturbed, here is a new page on my blog – Hell on Earth.

Chechnja(  Chechnya.
Photo from the Russian website 
‘No to War’ )


Peace is a Human Right

From Hague Appeal for Peace

The belief that everyone, by virtue of her or his humanity, is entitled to certain human rights is fairly new. Its roots, however, lie in earlier tradition and documents of many cultures; it took the catalyst of World War II to propel human rights onto the global stage and into the global conscience.

Throughout much of history, people acquired rights and responsibilities through their membership in a group – a family, indigenous nation, religion, class, community, or state. Most societies have had traditions similar to the “golden rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The idea of human rights emerged stronger after World War II. The extermination by Nazi Germany of over six million Jews, Sinti and Romani (gypsies), homosexuals, and persons with disabilities horrified the world. Trials were held in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II, and officials from the defeated countries were punished for committing war crimes, “crimes against peace,” and “crimes against humanity.”

Governments then committed themselves to establishing the United Nations, with the primary goal of bolstering international peace and preventing conflict. People wanted to ensure that never again would anyone be unjustly denied life, freedom, food, shelter, and nationality.

Member states of the United Nations pledged to promote respect for the human rights of all. On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the 56 members of the United Nations.

The notion of Human Rights has changed the way states can be seen. Traditionally states were perceived just like big people: it was believed that what is true for human conduct is roughly true for state conduct, too. The problem with that paradigm is that although we talk about states as unitary actors – Russia decided to do this, America did that – while states are actually made up of individual persons, each of whom have their own rights and identity.

As David Rodin says, “When you start thinking about things in terms of human rights, it’s a completely different way of thinking about values and ethics. In the old tradition of the ethics of war, chivalry was central. The idea was that you would show restrain [towards civilians] in your military action because you were a great and noble warrior… but it was very much about your own virtue. To think about things from the perspective of human rights is to completely invert that relationship, because what you do is place the person affected at the very centre of the view.”

According to the new paradigm, civilians and enemy combatants are recognised as rights-bearers, who can hold soldiers to account if they fail in their duty to respect those rights. As David Rodin says, “Simply being a member of the armed forces does not absolve you of responsibility for the actions you are taking, for killing in war and for ensuring that violence is directed only at those who are morally liable for it.”

According to that paradigm, only people possess a right to self-defence, because only people have a life to lose. War isn’t a battle of leviathans, where each state stakes its rightful claims. Rather, war is a multitude of human rights violations, committed by and against individual people, each violation triggering each victim’s right to self-defence.

In a world organised around the idea of state sovereignty, where states were believed to possess the right to be free from foreign interference, humanitarian intervention was something of a contradiction. Yet if we think first and foremost about the basic rights of humans rather than states, as Rodin suggests, then this conflict dissolves. Instead, we see that states have a responsibility to protect the rights of people, both their own citizens (in the case of self-defence) and the citizens of other states (humanitarian intervention)… And if citizens and officials can’t or won’t protect the rights of people within their own borders, then the responsibility to intervene falls upon the international community: the citizens and officials of other nations.

Is war then a necessary evil in the protection of human rights? How do you fight justly in a war given you have to fight in some kind of way? Should the universal costs of the war be comparable to the universal benefits of the war?

While allowing us to look at a war from a different perspective, Human Rights paradigm still has lots of unanswered questions and it is hard to say at this stage whether this paradigm will turn out to be a mere utopian concept or whether it will help to bring stability and peace to all humankind. I want to believe like David Rodin that it will help to effectively reduce or even eliminate the armed conflict. I wish so much it will…




#Blame Twitter

Blame-TwitterFrom When in Doubt, Blame Twitter

As Conner Livingston points out, “Despite the cute little bird mascots and harmless-sounding name, Twitter can actually be tracked back to be the cause of nearly everything that is going wrong in the world. Everything.”

For ‘proof’ look no further than Twitter infographic from


Political unrest is also routinely blamed on Twitter, with Turkey providing one of the most recent examples with Turkish Prime Minister blaming Twitter for the anti-governmental movement last week.

Here’s the context from #Resistanbul: “Initially sparked by the plans to redevelop Istanbul’s central public park, the protests are a pursuit towards defending civil rights and freedoms, protecting democracy and expressing discontent towards prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been denounced for his repressive rule. The government crackdown on the demonstrations, which includes widespread use of teargas and water cannons, has so far seen at least three people killed and thousands injured.

Female academic Ceydar Sungar  has rapidly come to symbolise the peaceful protestors of the ever-escalating “Occupy Gezi” riots spreading across Turkey. After emerging a few days ago, images showing the unarmed woman being sprayed with tear gas by heavy-handed police forces have rapidly become viral.”

Woman in redFrom #Resistanbul: The Woman in Red

Democracy? Human rights and freedoms? Why bother – just keep blaming Twitter…




Human Rights and Trial by Timeline

All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured . . . We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights . . . for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that.”

The Dalai Lama

* * *

Trial by Timeline

Trial By Timeline – Facebook application provided by Amnesty International, that scans a person’s Facebook page and determines what crimes they might have committed in other countries simply through listing their occupation, gender, relationship status or liking posts that an oppressive regime may deem offensive. The application then lists what the punishment for that ‘crime’ is likely to be in particular countries.

A sample of thoughts from this blog has been posted on Facebook and ‘trialed by timeline’. Trial summary is provided below.