Countering authoritarianism: the very essence of freedom
As 2022 dawns, those of us who cherish freedom would do well to take note of the chilling words recently spoken by three amazing people.
Despite the harsh personal threats two of the three – two journalists – face, they dare to call for a brighter and healthier future.
Remember the shadows of fascism
I was born in the shadow of fascism. My parents who were to meet in London in 1940 escaped the Nazis in early 1939 to find refuge in the UK.
My mother had fled Chemnitz in Germany, while my father was from Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia. Many of their relatives and friends weren’t so lucky.
The very few people who found their way back to Czechoslovakia from the camps could only briefly taste the fresh air of freedom. Soon, Communist brutality took hold for four decades.
What does freedom mean?
Recent developments in Russia, like the shameful closure of Memorial, and in China are just two examples of understanding the essence of freedom – countering authoritarianism.
On December 10, 2021, which was United Nations International Human Rights Day, the Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded in Oslo, Norway.
On that day, the president of the World Food Program, David Beasley (his organization won the 2020 Nobel Prize but the conference could not be given at the time), and journalists Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Mratov from Russia spoke with great clarity.
All three stressed the urgent need to protect freedom and fight violence. As Ressa said, “We stand on the rubble of the world that was, and we must have the foresight and the courage to imagine what might happen if we don’t act now, and instead, let’s create. the world as it should be – more compassionate, more equal, more enduring.
Mratov said: “The world is no longer in love with democracy. The world has become disillusioned with the ruling elite.
And he added: “The world has started to turn to dictatorship. We have the illusion that progress can be achieved through technology and violence, not through human rights and freedoms. Is it progress without freedom? It’s as impossible as having milk without having a cow.
Violence is a word that resonates strongly in Beasley’s speech. He has squarely put facts on the table that tell uncomfortable truths.
Hunger: a function of human-made conflict
According to Beasley: “811 million people suffer from chronic hunger. 283 million are in hunger crisis – they are walking towards famine. And within that, 45 million in 43 countries around the world are in food emergencies – in other words, famine is knocking on their door. “
Beasley claimed that never before has famine been so widespread – “Afghanistan. Madagascar. Burma. Guatemala. Ethiopia. Sudan. South Sudan. Mozambique. Niger. Syria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Haiti and so on.
The main reason is the human-made conflict. Dozens of civil wars and regional conflicts rage, hunger has been militarized to achieve military and political goals.
Beasley said if WFP had $ 6.6 billion it could do a lot to help hungry people around the world. He stressed that this is an insignificant amount of money compared to the massive annual costs of violence and conflict.
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, both journalists, have denounced the growing crackdown on journalists and media outlets in more and more countries, most of them without causing a global outcry.
Ruthless governments, including theirs in Russia and the Philippines, can thus act with impunity.
Ressa noted that government acts that undermine democracy and punish journalists are only part of the problem.
Criticizing Facebook and social media companies, she noted that these companies seek to divide and radicalize us on purpose, as greater user “engagement” by spreading nastiness increases the profits of these companies.
As she noted: The demise of democracy is being accelerated by “technology, at a time when creative destruction takes on new meaning.”
The battle for the truth
Ressa also told her Oslo audience that; “Without facts you cannot have the truth. Without truth, you cannot be confident. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to face the existential problems of our world: climate, coronavirus, battle for the truth.
Ressa has called on official Western aid agencies to increase funding to support media organizations in developing countries from a paltry 0.3% today to 1% of foreign aid for this purpose.
Darkness over Russia
As Mratov said in Oslo: “Journalism in Russia runs through a dark valley. More than a hundred journalists, media, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been qualified as “foreign agents”. In Russia, it means “enemies of the people”. Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country. Some are deprived of the opportunity to lead a normal life for an indefinite period. Maybe forever … “
The current situation in Russia could be the situation in the majority of the nations of the world if we do not act now.