Geo-Semiotics of Human Rights

By Fernando Buen Abad on April 5, 2021

Photo: Bill Hackwell

It’s not the same the “Right” in people who have never experienced Social Justice. In each territory, it is the objective conditions that determine the awareness and practice of “Human Rights”, no matter how many specialized organizations facilitate it. Where illiteracy, hunger, unemployment, and insalubrity reign, what does the “Charter of Human Rights” mean? Little or nothing. The defense of the rights conquered by humanity cannot be reduced to a demagogic recitation to decorate the reformist verbiage or the philanthropy of the market, which abound.

There is no defense of humanity if it is only illusionism -without territory- of “good intentions”. Territories are not only geography, they are history and “senses”, tastes and smells… generated by the class struggle that inhabits all social relations and all emotional and symbolic scales. Human Rights” cannot be invoked in isolation from the territory and the semantic tensions of the “terrors”. Places where everything is corruption, humiliation, and contempt against the people, the discourse of “Human Rights” is simply the talk of the parlor or the deceit of bureaucrats. In spite of the meaning and historical value of the “Human Rights” charter as a tool to oppose the Nazi-fascist project that was around at the time of its birth on December 10, 1948.

Where the native peoples are beaten by all the aberrations and privations imposed by the national bourgeoisies; where police, military, and ideological harassment is fierce against the indigenous and peasants to usurp their land, identity, and dignity… human rights only mean, paradoxically, enemy verbiage and bourgeois ideology. Territory weighs on meaning. There where the workers are victims of the triple extortion of employers, tax, and union, where the salary weighs like an alienating coffin, where life goes and time is consumed, in exchange for miserable salaries and obscene inflation, to speak of “Human Rights” is simply grotesque if it does not offer real instruments of concrete transformation instead of escapist idylls. It is reality that determines human rights consciousness. Semantics in crisis.

So let us not succumb to the idealistic temptations of a “Declaration of Human Rights” that does not have its “feet on the ground” and the semantics of reality. Because there is no going back from ridiculousness. It is useless to build sermons for a certain “snobbish” fanaticism about rights that mean nothing or that, in any case, means the thought that is not our own or that is the enemy ideology to defeat our hopes, struggles, and programs of revolutionary transformation.

And it is essential that the entire “Declaration of Human Rights” be reviewed from the point of view and scrutiny that questions the individualistic character of “Rights”, contrasting it with its inescapable social character and by definition political. It is an obligatory debate, it is a pending and historical subject, which is going through the decades in search of a territorial semiotic consonance, that is to say geo-semiotic, in which the critical power of “Human Rights” in the territories becomes visible and the need for a revolutionary humanist charter capable of revolutionizing humanism becomes visible as well. In these conditions, it is already indispensable that any analysis goes through, in detail, the universe of semantic resonance boxes that has every postulate whose pretension ascends to the generality of human beings, to the generality of their historical problems, and to the urgency of the transforming praxis.

Geo-semiotics means here the theoretical-practical effort to characterize the complex, diverse and dynamic network of the dialectics of meaning, the general laws of its development, in each territory. The complex, and not infrequently interconnected, network of meanings with which the daily class behavior of peoples is organized, its philosophical foundations, and its moral and ethical expressions. With the assumption that all action is preceded by a set of notions about reality, and about what is intended in the future by this idea, geo-semiotics is rooted in the need to characterize, also, locally the modes of production of meaning and the relations of production of meaning, in the concrete conditions in which it develops. It is not an esoteric category to make semiotics and its responsibility as an instrument of combat against the ideology of the dominant class even more incomprehensible. On the contrary, it is a matter of enriching the instruments of action or scientific praxis to facilitate its rise in the concrete realities of each people.

All the tasks that are necessary in the daily struggle for the emancipation of meaning have, before the “Charter of Human Rights”, a challenge of critical urgency that commits, in a multidisciplinary way, whoever intends to contribute to guide the emancipatory struggles to oppose the humanism of dogmatic, mechanistic or schematic forms with which it is intended to solve not only the human problems of our time but also the idea of a “Right” separated from the urgent principle of Social Justice.

Thus, the initiative to revolutionize humanism in order to confront the semantic fields of “Human Rights” with the political field of Social Justice, which is still to be built, takes on new meaning. Because it is clear that where all human hardships are exacerbated and locked in dead ends, there the very notion of the human, the very idea of Justice loses meaning. In any case, this is the dream of the ideology of the ruling class, to strip us of every notion and every humanist practice that could guarantee us concrete orientations either in the territory of Philosophy or in the most urgent scenarios of its immediate praxis. It is the sense of non-meaning.

To revolutionize the “Charter of Human Rights” is no longer a utopia when the pandemic has laid bare the bourgeois cruelty that hoards vaccines at the pace of the market and capitalist cruelty. To revolutionize humanism implies producing tools that permanently show the face of our astonished peoples who watch, with despair and rage, the delay of their Right to Vaccines; who watch the delay of the Right to Education, nutrition, work, housing, and emancipated culture. The Right to “live to live for living and not surviving” in the immoral conditions in which one “lives” under capitalism. Revolutionizing the humanism of “Human Rights” implies fighting philanthropic illusionism with a declaration of concrete action against class-divided societies where the inhumanity of the dominant mode of production and alienating relations of production reigns with all their meanings. Their means and their modes.

Source: teleSUR, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English