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No expectations but what about hope, Mrs. Brax?
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-06-29 09:33:03
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Last Sunday we published an interview here in Ovi magazine with an imprisoned conscientious objector in Finland and to say the truth I was not expecting any reaction from the officials but I was hoping for one. Being a foreigner in Finland you often hear and see the pride of the people who live in the state with the least corruption than any other in the world, you hear them telling you that this is the first European country where women had electoral rights and they keep talking about their record in social security and human rights. This is why you hope.

But then you get a young man who is in prison and goes through hell, often accused for crimes he has no idea and he can actually prove his innocence by just dealing with a psychological torturing, you start having doubts for the rest. This young man is refusing to serve something he doesn’t believe in, but the European Charta of Human Rights is there to protect exactly people who don’t get respect on their beliefs, these small minorities that cannot defend themselves in front of the state, a Charta that Finland has signed and supposedly totally respects. Well, it seems that Finland respect the charts of human rights when it comes to others’ states citizens, her citizens can be doomed! You see Mrs. Tuija Brax, Finnish Minister of Justice, that’s what I can see and that puts me in doubt if the rest of the things Finland is proud of are equally fake. Or the Finnish state doesn’t respect that there are people with different believes?

That now raises a series of other questions, if somebody who difference in beliefs, who rejects the idea of playing soldiers is treated like that what really happens to ones who have different political believes or different religious beliefs? Or do these people get a different treatment? I’m sorry for my doubts but, as I said Mrs. Minister, somehow I was …hoping! Apparently you were responsible for my hopes. If I remember well when you took over the ministry you said that a new air was needed in the justice with respect to human rights. And it took an interview for this new air to smell like chemical waste. And I’m sorry again to say but the smell reaches you Mrs. Minister, Tuija Brax.

Please don’t tell me it is a case of national security to have a young man in prison because he refuses to serve in the army because there are …enemies! First of all the argument is laughable and I just doesn’t make any sense but then if in a case of a war you were expecting to win in due to this young man carrying a gun then you are a deep trouble, really deep trouble! So what’s the reason? Is the menace of the system against a young man that doesn’t want to compromise with the war toys of some generals or envy for a young man who did something none of you was able to do? Did this man say anything different to what all of us say? We don’t want armies and we don’t want a war, that’s what he said. Except if you are thinking there will be a war and please Mrs. Minister if it is going to be a war can you tell me so I can start packing? I don’t want to find myself in the middle of a battlefield. By the way have you talked about it with the Russians and the Swedes because I logically presume you are expecting a war form one of the above. If not then why this young man is in prison but most of all why is he going through all this torture?

Just days after the International Day For Torture Victims when the UN analyzed in details the different torturing examples, including psychological torturing, we watch a young man going through one of the examples and guilty is the state, please don’t tell me that it has to do with overzealous employees because in this case you just worsen your case, and oddly enough the responsible minister, the Minister of Justice Mrs. Tuija Brax, comes from the Green Party, a party that has committed its existence to protecting human rights. Now except Finland I started having doubts for your personal motives. Was a governmental seat enough to forget your own beliefs?

I still don’t except anything, you see my doubts are stronger now, politics and a lot of talking but in the end the same old rotten state that likes to control even the people’s minds. What do you think now Mrs. Tuija Brax should I lose my hope also?

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Emanuel Paparella2008-06-29 13:12:56
I suppose this appeal reintroduces the question of “natural law” vis a vis reason in nature rather than merely in man. Which is to say, the question as to what are inalienable human rights anchored and if there exists a meaningful universe with laws, or is the social structure of any state (not excluding those of a democracy) totally dependent on the power and the will and even the whim of the State? This is an issue whose solution challenges even philosophers and theologians. Here is a pertinent excerpt that may shed some light on the issue from “Power and Law” in: The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion by Joseph Ratzinger (present day Benedict XVI) and Jurgen Habermas; p. 58:

“It is the specific task of politics to apply the criterion of the law to power, thereby structuring the use of power in a meaningful manner. It is not the law of the stronger, but the strength of the law that must hold sway. Power as structured by law, and at the service of the law, is the antithesis of violence, which is a lawless power that opposes the law. This is why it is important for every society to overcome any suspicion that is cast on the law and its refutations, for it is only in this way that arbitrariness can be excluded and
freedom can be experiences as a freedom shared in common with others. Freedom without law is anarchy and, hence, the destruction of freedom. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-29 13:16:32

Suspicion of the law, revolt against the law, will always arise when law itself appears to be, no longer the expression of a justice that is at the service of all, but rather the product of arbitrariness and legislative arrogance on the part of those who have the power for it. This is why the task of applying the criterion of the law to power leads to a further question: How does law come into being, and what must be the characteristics of law if it is to be the vehicle of justice rather than the privilege of those who have the power to make the law? It is, on the one hand, the question of the genesis of the law, but, on the other hand, the question of its own inherent criteria. The problem that law must be, not the instrument of the power of the few, but the expression of the common interest of all, seems—at first sight—to have been resolved through the instruments whereby a democratic will is formed in society, since all collaborate in the genesis of the law. This means that it is everyone’s law; it can and must be respected, precisely because it is everyone’s law. And as a sheer matter of fact, the guarantee of a shared collaboration in the elaboration of the law and in the just administration of power is the basic argument that speaks in favor of democracy
as the most appropriate form of political order. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-29 13:17:20
And yet it seems to us that one question remains unanswered. Since total consensus among men is very hard to achieve, the process of forming a
democratic will relies necessarily either on an act of delegation or else on a majority decision; depending on the importance of the question at issue, the proportion of the majority that is required may differ. But majorities, too, can be blind or unjust, as history teaches us very plainly. When a majority (even it if
is an utterly preponderant majority) oppresses a religious or racial minority by means of unjust laws, can we still speak in the instance of justice or, indeed, of law? In other words, the majority principle always leaves open the question of the ethical foundations of the law. This is the question of whether there is
something that can never become law but always remains injustice; or, to reverse this formulation, whether there is something that is of its very nature inalienably law, something that is antecedent to every majority decision and must be respected by all such decisions.

AP2008-06-29 20:12:31
Apart from the philosophic digressions, and to be very pragmatic: yes, it is in fact Torture what he's been going through. Full stop. Now what is the Finnish government going to do about cases like this one? Well the Finnish government is guilty here, but could at least present any apology. What is the EU going to do about it?

AP2008-06-29 20:15:30
ps - and, not being enough to be imprisioned because of the way you think about going to the army, why the prison officers are instructed in such way that they have no respect whatsoever for a CO as a human being?

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-30 00:48:13
The answer to your final question Ms. AP would probably be best answered by the pragmatist Niccolo' Machiavelli who putting aside all philosophical digressions would simply answer that respect is due only to those who know how to grab and hold power, or as Napoleon put it even more pragmatically, victory belongs to those who have the bigger cannon. I am afraid that philosophy cannot be dispensed that easily and pragmatically if we wish to search for the truth of the matter; that may indeed be a bit more challenging and slightly less pragmatic but it remains the best chance to oppose raw irresponsible power. Period.

AP2008-06-30 01:46:17
Goodness, I just wanted to be pragmatic, don't identify that with Machiavelli please. There would be many interesting answers and discussions around the questions you pose, I just felt like being more direct. Period too.

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-30 02:17:50
Nothing personal Ms. AP, and nothing wrong with pragmatism either, for indeed rhetoric without deeds is sterile, and indeed pragmatism was invented here in America. However, the other side of the coin is also true as was pointed out by the same Benedict XVI in one of his enciclicals: activism without theory is blind.

AP2008-06-30 02:39:58
Goodness multiplied. Paternalism can be blind as well.

AP2008-06-30 03:39:04
Let's hope the Finnish government will react to this, okay?

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-30 11:15:25
I wonder if the arrogance of power can also be matriarcal, given that Mrs. Brax, who is being appealed to, is a woman, or has she merely adopted the patriarcal paradigm of Machiavellian power? Be that as it may, I join in the hope and the prayer that, after due reflection, Mrs. Brax will decide to offer the people of Finland a real alternative with theory as the foundation of praxis, for to do otherwise to put the cart before the horse.

AP2008-06-30 13:47:47
One airplane carrier sinks... naval battle, what we used to call it as kids. The point here IS: the article's subject and the government reaction, not to prove who is more right or has more theoric foundations than others. Thanks. Gracias por que la España esta en fiesta.
Gracias Thanos for having written this. Obrigado (portuguese). Domo arigato.

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-30 16:05:22
Aside from non-important personal distractions and digressions, I am afraid Ms. AP that the point has been missed and you have so far failed to convince me that putting the cart before the horse (i.e., the praxis before the theory) leads to any kind of resolution of any social problem or desease being debated and analyzed. Was it not Aristotle who wisely reminded us that the diagnosis ought to always preceed the prognosis and prescription for a sickness? Molte grazie a lei e Thanos, ed abbi una buona giornata.

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-30 22:17:18

A brief follow-up on this important issue, Thanos and Ms. AP. The above link speaks for itself. It ia a request by an international organization in Helsinki to post their protest against imprisonement of conscentious objectors in Finland. Surely you will not fail to consider their request and I for one would applaud it. However, notice that the appeal hinges upon the very issue I have placed on the table: when is it legitimate to violate the laws on one's country even when they have been encacted by its political institutions? Or, to put it another way, on what should inalienable human rights be anchored? On the poser of the State? If so, I am afraid that it would constitute a vicious circle and an exercise in futility. In fact, if so, I can confidently predict that the protest will be utterly ignored by those who have the political power to ignore the human rights of a minority. You and I may feel good about the protest but little will have been accomplished thereby. I continue to think that Benedict XVI has in on target: praxis without theory is not light and that those who refuse to contemplate such an issue may have good intentions but are misguided at best.

AP2008-07-01 19:52:48
Mr. Paparella:
"Or, to put it another way, on what should inalienable human rights be anchored?"
If it's theory you want to discuss then, very well, I think they should be anchored in the Declaration of Human Rights (aren't they already???) and most humans sense of ethics. I know you think otherwise and that we need a God to save us, but I'm a convict atheist and I'm sure many Human Rights defenders are too... or not. Religion simply doesn't matter, but your inner values and ethic sense, and maybe the way you were educated to some extent, and your own thoughts about basic human life values.

AP2008-07-01 19:59:27
Every human being has the right not to suffer physical nor psychological torture, and I don't need Jesus nor Allah, not even Buddha, to tell me that. Nor are they (and even less Benedict XVI) the reason why I think like that. Intriguing for you, ah? Well not for me. But if you want to write several dissertations on this topic go ahead, personally I prefer fiction and art to dissertations. Sometimes I feel they can teach you more.

Emanuel Paparella2008-07-01 21:19:49
Obviously you are not indifferent to a dialogue on the issue Ms. AP, but if you will be so kind as to indulge me a bit further, I would have one more question, whose answer I trust will be honest and straightforward as usual. Had you not known that it was I who pointed out the above statement on law and power, and that the ones who wrote it were Habermas (an atheist, by the way, as he declares in his “Religion and Rationaltity”) and Benedict XVI, would you have found it reasonable and even admirable?

AP2008-07-02 04:59:30
Let me reformulate: activism without experience is blind; theory to distract deeds is useless.

AP2008-07-02 05:10:16
"the guarantee of a shared collaboration in the elaboration of the law and in the just administration of power is the basic argument that speaks in favor of democracy
as the most appropriate form of political order"
As the CO has stated, a referendum would probably not support his cause (and he explained why). Many americans or citizens of other countries, if asked to choose, would also vote for death penalty.
Do you ever question your intellectual idols, Mr. Paparella?

Emanuel Paparella2008-07-02 07:26:31
You have answered my question with another question which is the equivalent of a cop out Ms. AP. And yet it was a rather simple question which if answered honestly would allow us to determine if we at least believe in reason, never mind God, period (a reason though that is not mere logic but encompasses imagination and the poetic) or do we simply worship idols such as activism for its own sake.

Emanuel Paparella2008-07-02 07:53:52
On the "Co"'s statement: indeed, whether he is an idol or not, he has put his finger on something and it is this: voting for injustice does not make it right and there is such a thing as the tirrany of the majority; which is why the American Founding fathers added the bill of rights to the Constitution but both Constitution and Bill or Rights were anchored on a power which transcendens the power of the State. Not to do so is to be stuck in a vicious circle from which. as active as we may be, we will not extricate ourselves.

Emanuel Paparella2008-07-02 19:46:30
Regarding the generalization of American public opinion supporting the death penalty and European opposing it, since you brought it up to support the alleged EU moral superiority, that may sound good in theory, but in practice the situation is quite different Ms. AP. Here is a more realistic assessment from CNS News of Sept. 26, 2007:

"Yet in Europe, as in the U.S., opinion polls have for years reflected significant levels of support for the death penalty. At an Oct. 2006 press conference in Brussels marking the "world day against the death penalty," CoE Secretary-General Terry Davis conceded that "many Europeans are still in favor of the death penalty."

Soeren Kern, senior fellow in transatlantic relations at the Strategic Studies Group in Madrid, Spain, says that although support for the death penalty has been declining on both sides of the Atlantic, there is in fact little difference between Americans and Europeans on the matter. "Despite all the media hype, public opinion polls consistently show that Europeans and Americans hold similar views on the death penalty," he said Tuesday, adding that "roughly half" of Europeans and "roughly half" of Americans support it. Kern said there were questions about the basis to Europe's anti-death penalty stance. "Many analysts say that European opposition to the death penalty has little to do with morality, and much to do with the desire by European elites to build a European identity that is based on being different from the United States," he said. "Because there is no such thing as a pan-European identity -- unlike, say, a French identity or a German identity -- Europeans, who for centuries have been the primary champions of the death penalty, now say they are purveyors of a superior morality in a contrived effort to be better than the United States," he said.

JR2008-07-04 01:25:29
Conscientious objection is the check and balance against war and militarism.

Antimilitarist conscience is not a crime: it is an ethical and political choice. The only "crime" of conscientious objectors is refusing to carry a weapon, and refusing to be trained to kill other human beings.


JR2008-07-04 19:10:50
I thought this text by my mentor for Kosen-rufu (work for peace) fits CO's very well. They are the treasures of society because they don't accept the unjust principles of society and so act out of their believe that one society with education and peaceful values is possible and the straight way to do it is to end militarism!
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, disarmament education consultant for the UN also stressed at the SGI- Cultural Center in NY-Usa during Martin Luther King celebration day, the need to redirect government spending from the military budget to education, health, etc.. The more is spent on military expenses, the less secure the world becomes!

SGI President Ikeda's Daily Encouragement for 04th July

I place a high value on personal initiative. Spontaneity underlies the spirit of autonomy and independence; conversely, taking action because one is told to amounts to slavery of the spirit. Kosen-rufu will be advanced by brave people armed with the spirit of independence who voluntarily strive to fulfill the vow they made at the time of kuon ganjo. Because they struggle of their own volition, they have no complaints or grievances. The greater the obstacles they face, the greater the courage, wisdom and power they muster from within.

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