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New book being shunned by NZ’s Establishment

New book – Freedom from our Social Prisons - is being shunned by New Zealand’s Establishment

Anthony Ravlich
Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Inc.

My book – Freedom from our Social Prisons: the Rise of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – just released in New Zealand and which gives hope to the poor and marginalised has so far been ignored by the establishment. This shows that freedom of speech does not extend to a voice for the poor as I have been forced to live in poverty for about twenty years and mixed with the underclass. My ‘crime’ was being too truthful. Professor William Felice, of Ekerd College, America, and an international expert in the field (his books include Taking Suffering Seriously and The Global New Deal – Economic and Social Human Rights In World Politics) provides a very positive endorsement on the back cover of the book. He states: “This informed study will be of great use to all concerned with social justice” Also on reading a broad outline of the book, released by a major publisher in America, Rowman and Littlefield Ltd, Noam Chomsky described it as ‘most interesting’, Yash Ghai, internationally recognized human rights expert and who spoke at a recent Commonwealth Conference, described it as ‘very valuable’. Also the editor of the Nordic Human Rights Journal, described it as highly interesting and wants to do a review of the book. In addition Ellie Palmer, Human Rights Center, University of Essex, stated: "I like your thesis very much - I have ordered a copy".

The book, which involved extensive research, demonstrates that a more civilized version of neo liberalism can be adopted by liberal democracies such as New Zealand. As a first step to a comprehensive human rights vision, which includes both traditional civil liberties and democracy and also economic, social and cultural rights with the latter presently excluded from human rights law, it is considered necessary to address the most serious violations by ensuring core minimum obligations for all. These core minimum obligations include ensuring a voice in the mainstream for the poor and marginalized, ensuring no one falls below the poverty line as well as the right to human rights education and the right to development. The latter two rights will empower the most disadvantaged to hold the elite to account making use of the democratic process and supporting those who wish to a follow their dreams, including their holistic development. It is argued that if those with talents and abilities are encouraged and given more opportunities, rather than being forced to leave New Zealand, they will eventually employ the underclass with the setting up of small businesses and manufacturing plants

The book can be obtained at the library by interloan or you can google Lexington Books, enter the title, and order. It is hardcover (approximately $NZ120) but in about eight months time it could be less than half the price as a soft cover.

Below is the email (with slight alterations) sent to a number of politicians and forwarded to the media:

‘……we are born for Justice, and that right is based not upon men’s opinions, but upon Nature’. Cicero, The Laws (Book I).

The above book has now been released in New Zealand and overseas. It maintains that the State can choose a more civilized version of neo liberalism. It is very rare for a person, like myself, who has been kept in poverty for so many years to write such a book. The last time I emailed nearly all MPs about my forthcoming book, apart from a few secretaries, I received only two responses – a short sentence from a Green MP and a mailed letter from the office of John Keys thanking me for the information. Have you become so alienated from your universal liberal belief system – the right to free speech – that you no longer acknowledge any differing opinions outside the ‘left/right wing neo liberal square’. I am prepared to debate human rights on national TV (or on any Marae) with anyone in New Zealand. Unfortunately I have just learnt that a rare, although only occasional, avenue open to the poor – a show on Triangle TV – has been finished, being ‘user pays’ priced out of the market. Even to have a stall at Auckland University costs about $1, 500 and more. Despite my four university degrees once they had read my more recent articles none of the universities in New Zealand would accept me for a PhD (even though two years previously both AUT and Massey University were prepared to) yet my publishers, one of the largest in America, call me Doctor as an honorific. When you lose all principles you are ruled by ‘nothing’ – perhaps I could recommend a children’s movie, the Never Ending Story, about a boy reading a book about a kingdom, with its beautiful princess, being slowly taken over by the ‘Great Nothing’ – suddenly he no longer remains an observer and becomes involved in the story itself to save the kingdom and the princess from the ‘Great Nothing’. When you are ruled by nothing nobody, not even you, matters simply because you become so alienated from your own self. And when you lose your principles e.g. such as having double standards, as global pressures mount you eventually lose the will to continue. Money and power will not sustain you. H.G. Wells in describing the fall of the Roman Empire stated: “All empires, all states, all organizations of human society are, in the ultimate, things of understanding and will. There remained no will for the Roman Empire in the world and so it came to an end”.

My book is in line with what I consider to be the proper interpretation of human rights which places an emphasis on those suffering the most serious violations. The latter includes the underclass, who are voiceless and powerless, and those with talents and abilities who are often neglected, struggling, sometimes resulting in serious health problems, at the bottom end of society or escaping the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in New Zealand in order to reach their full potential overseas. It is the latter talent pool, if given more encouragement and opportunities, who are likely to eventually employ the underclass. While welfare benefits are necessary and, in fact, should be increased where they fall below the poverty line, there is more dignity in helping oneself rather than being kept in a state of complete dependence as is presently the case.

The book is critical of New Zealand’s human rights record although this is usually in the context of liberal democracies in general. It is argued that given the present global changes such as regionalization e.g. the proposed East Asian Regional Bloc, the food price crises around the world, and the shift in global opinion against the leading proponents of neo liberalism (the US and the UK), the large gap between rich and poor within and between countries, it would be a mistake to ‘put all our eggs in the corporations, globalization basket’. It is simply a matter of globalization with social responsibility ensuring, at the very least, core minimum obligations are met. Hence there is a need to also encourage small economic and social enterprises . The right to development, presently being discussed at the United Nations, should be under both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights to maximize ideas to the benefit of all and not restricted to the neo liberal square which favors the elite. An holistic approach to development is seriously undermined by the severe marginalization of very spiritual individuals in both Pakeha and, I believe, Maori society leaving our leadership virtually completely spiritually bankrupt – in the present situation leadership such as Kirk, Savage, Fraser etc. is very unlikely to be seen. New Zealand has become consumed with image rather than substance and mediocre leadership is the result. Post Second World War New Zealand demonstrated a kinder form of liberalism indicating that neo liberalism is your choice and my book shows how a more civilized approach can be adopted even within the framework of neo liberalism although, in my opinion, the later would not last long if people were educated in human rights and the democratic process was not controlled by a liberal oligarchy. To New Zealand’s credit it has frequently promoted economic, social and cultural rights at the international level but has kept New Zealanders ignorant of them (simply ask Rosslyn Noonan, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner).

I believe that the truth as defined by human rights, including the right to development, will set people free from oppression and ensure justice for all - and save the world from the ‘Great Nothing’.

*************

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