transcending silence...
Fall 2009 Issue


Poet's Statement

To most of us in Western societies the concept of human rights is grounded in the relationship between one’s free will and one’s obligation to all people. The Human Rights Movement makes the assumption that we all have the ability to be free, rational beings that care to act for the benefit of all people in our society.
I take issue with this, however, because it is overly theoretical and too removed from praxis. How many people living today are aware of themselves as free, rational beings? Most of the 6 billion people alive today live in poverty and starvation. Do they feel as if they can decide to behave in any particular way? Furthermore, I wonder how the majority of people came to live in destitution. Personally, I have found the answer to this in the processes of modernization.

My poem takes a different perspective on Human Rights. It explores the feeling of rage and indignity aroused by the processes of modernization (i.e. imperialism, colonialism, industrial development, out-sourcing, free trade, global commerce, etc). To be sincere and productive, any conversation about Human Rights must consider the lifestyles of people who are forced to submit to these processes.

I seek to raise consciousness about the correlations and connections between the Human Rights movements and the global economy. These correlations and other connections give reason to doubt the need for a human rights movement. Is it possible to develop the best standards of health and nutrition without the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or without the nation-state? I think so. I believe that the most important human right to advocate for is the right to live independently of the modern nation-state, thereby avoiding compulsory “modernization.”

By investigating the problematic inception and execution of the Human Rights movement, I want to highlight the sentiments of individuals forced to live in modernity. What this means is that I consider the sentiments of those who are forced into citizenship and global economic development.  However, I should note that human rights advocates have used citizenship to advance the cause of human dignity. International treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), have allowed individuals and international organizations to persecute governments that fail citizens. I believe such failures are a natural consequence of creating nation-states, thus the need for legal advocacy could be eliminated if the nation-state existed in a different form. Since my position on this issue is seemingly controversial, I chose to focus my poem on the effects of modernization through global economic development rather than focusing on the effects of citizenship.

My poem explores the thoughts and feelings of people who are forced into economic modernization. I specifically draw on the history of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Cuba highlights that capitalism is not necessary to generate a good healthcare system. In the Dominican Republic we see that the obligation to American and European financiers hinders the development of human rights and its status as a commonwealth of the US forbids Puerto Rico from developing its own sovereignty. Interestingly, these countries and islands exist within a 100-mile radius and their people share a common history. Within this history, I situate the protagonist of my poem. He is a man living and confronting global economic development.

I refer to the works of artist and activists whom I feel have the best, or worst, insight into human nature and human dignity. I reference Jose Marti, Joseph Conrad, Hector Lavoe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Claude McKay and Toni Morrison. I also refer to the Boston Tea Party, seeing as the United States was the last country to revolt against an Empire and develop into a rich nation. This poem highlights the significance of considering the history and impact of global economic development, as it relates to the theory and praxis of the Human Rights Movement.

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