Development occurs due to a variety of reasons; due to Brazil winning the bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016 a range of projects have begun in the country which will contribute its development. However this is not good news for all, Al Jazeera’s report titled “The real cost of Brazil’s Olympic Games” sheds light on the issue of ‘social cleansing’ of people living in Vila Autodromo which is clearly a human rights violation. Using Al Jazeera’s report, and other sources that deal with Brazil’s deployment for the Olympic Game, I will attempt to identify the meaning of development and the human rights issues that arise due to development, or a lack thereof.
The community of Vila Autodromo is bordering on Olympic Park which is an area being developed for the Olympic Games, the park will receive a lot of international attention during the Olympic Games in 2016; the community believes this is the reason they are being evicted from their homes, as one of the inhabitants put it “world doesn’t want to see poverty”. As Vila Autodromo is not being developed due to the games, I could argue that to ‘develop’ is to ‘reduce poverty’; however I believe this would be an incomplete meaning. This is because poverty exists in developed countries such as Australia, however there is no denial of the fact that Australia is considered to be a developed country. This is not to say that the reduction of poverty is not development; the reduction of poverty does raise the quality of life for people however what we need to keep in mind is that even in the most developed nations there are minorities that remain undeveloped.
The common conception of being developed is an economic one, this is one of the reasons why Australia is considered to be highly developed. However Brazil has the 7th highest GDP in the world but is still considered to be under developed, the reasons given as to why Brazil is not considered developed is due to a high birth rate, high death rate, lack of career opportunities, high levels of gender inequality, lack of education, lack of healthcare, low living standards, and a low per capita GDP. Some of these reasons align with the UN’s definition of development, and some of these issues are also in violation of the UN declaration of Human Rights such as gender inequality, lack of education, and living standards. If we accept the UN declaration of Human Rights, we can now then identify that a lack of development is a Human Rights issue.
One of the elements need to reduce poverty is the infrastructure needed to support the population; Brazil has started to tackle some of these issues, Al Jazeera’s report points out that banners on the construction activities in Rio de Janeiro boasts “The Olympics bring more than just the Olympics”, this is referring to the long term effects that the games will have on the city. As a result of winning the bid to host the Olympic Games several projects have been started across Brazil which aim to develop communication, electricity, sanitation, roads, transport, water, and other infrastructure in the host cities. While the primary purpose of these project may be to meet the operational requirements to be the Olympic Game’s Host City, the infrastructure improvements will create jobs and contribute to the quality of life for millions of people long after the Olympic Games are over. If the reduction of poverty and raising the quality of life for people is considered development the infrastructure upgrades can also be considered development.
A flaw with infrastructure is that control of it can fall into the wrong hands thus making it unsafe to utilise by the majority of the population. One of the main human rights issues facing Brazil is its high crime rate, which is a major issue for human rights. The 1995 Country Report on Human Rights Practices highlights some human rights violations such as torture, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings; some of these violations are also committed by the state police. Brazil has tackled some of the issues, over the last few years there has been a reduction of gang activity, more police patrols, and the government has gained back control of parts of cities. These security improvement can also be considered development as they generally improve the people’s safety and quality of life.
One thing to keep in mind while striving for development is the effect it has on everybody, going back to Al Jazeera’s report, the people of Vila Autodromo are being forcefully removed from their homes even tho they have a legal and human rights protecting them from such action. The state of Brazil has violated some of the basic human rights of its people in the name of security and development for the Olympic Games. Reports of state brutality has surfaced in Brazil just as it does in similar ‘developing’ nations when people’s human rights and development needs of state are in conflict.
Using Al Jazeera’s report on “The real cost of Brazil’s Olympic Games” I’ve explored the various development activities which is taking place in Brazil due to the Olympic games; I’ve attempted to identify what development means and how it relates to Human Rights. I have identified that Development is the process of improving the quality of life for the majority of people; and that a lack of development can be a human rights issue. The pursuit of development can also result in human rights violations by the developers when the rights of people and development needs are in conflict.
The first formal Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest took place on September 17 2011 attracting around 1000 activists, the march was instigated by an article from Adbusters magazine which originally challenged citizens to start a popular uprising with a “million man march on Wall Street” then later asked its readers to “flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street”.  Prior to September 17 the protests also gained support from the internet activist network Anonymous, and prominent activists such as David Graeber, Lisa Fithian, and Micah White among others helped organise the original protest. Since its inception in 2011 the OWS protest has inspired over 1500 registered occupations and countless protests across the world. The Occupy movement is a branch of the OWS movement which focuses on occupations outside of Wall Street. This essay will focus on the Occupy movement, however, it will refer to OWS frequently as it was the inspiration and trigger for Occupy.
The main issues that the OWS movement were protesting were economic inequality, corporate greed, the Robin Hood Tax, US foreclosure crisis, and political corruption. The movement was directly inspired by the Arab Spring movement especially that of the events which took place in Tahrir Square, the movement also used many of the same tactics as the Arab Spring movement. Both the OWS and Arab Spring movements had deep roots in anarchist philosophy and focused on consensus-based decision making, using a horizontal structure, and taking direct democratic action rather than recognising the state and its current political systems. These movement also relied heavily on the internet and social media.
Internet and amateur media.
On 23rd August 2011 a new blog titled “We are the 99 percent” was launched, this blog encouraged citizens of the ‘99 percent’ to post a picture of them with a note holding up their circumstances so that people from the ‘1 percent’ can see their struggle. The ‘1 percent’ in this context is referring to the wealthiest individuals in America whom owned around 40 percent of American capital in 2011. ‘The title of the blog later went viral on the internet and became the main slogan for the OWS and the broader Occupy movement.
Blogs and other websites played a huge role in the spread of information about the Occupy movement, the official and unofficial Twitter accounts related to the occupy movement were linked to blogs related to the movement where more information could be attained. These tweets were spreading information from six categories which were “Occupy Wall Street tactics, rationale for Occupy Wall Street, critique of Occupy Wall Street, critique of critique of Occupy Wall Street, connection to other social movement, and general educative”. It’s suggested that blogs and the micro blogging site Twitter played a significant role in the education of the activists and general public observing the Occupy movement, as well as generating funding for the movement.
Even though twitter had a large impact on the occupy movement its suggested that most of the activists used Facebook more than twitter, this may be the reason why Facebook also contributed in recruiting activists for protests and the spread of information across national borders. It has been shown that ‘likes’ on Facebook pages of major occupations are not geographically divided. It is also interesting to note that most of the ‘posts’ that had the most interaction had images or videos in them, some of the content included pictures or videos that was created by activists that were currently occupying a site.
User created media from activists taking part in the movement serves a vital role in the Occupy movement, such content has been credited to information sharing, building solidarity across occupation sites, expose police violence and lift the media blackout of the OWS occupation. When the OWS began most mainstream media outlets were ignored or attacked the movement, makeshift media teams such as ‘globalrevolution tv’ and ‘timcast tv’ were formed so that the general population could find out more about the movement and what was going on. Some of these makeshift media teams were said to be more accurate and provided more footage then mainstream media, the main reason for this would be because the people running these makeshift media teams are participants of the movement and are part of the occupation who stay at the occupation site.
Apart from the makeshift media teams, amateur footage from activist’s smart phones made sure that no action within the movement was un-recorded, this footage included incidents of violation of human rights and the freedom of press by the state. The release of such footage is accredited to recruiting more supporters for the Occupy movement and the successful protest which took place on November 17 2013 where over 30, 000 activists demonstrated in New York City.
It is also worth noting that one of the original organisers of the OWS movement states that the use of social media and the internet, while overall a success, was considered to be one of the reasons why the Occupy movement lost momentum as activists showed support online rather than participating in occupations. This goes against current research which show social media and the internet to be a positive influence on social movements and that, where encouraged to participate, slacktivists are twice as likely to participate in offline activism It is likely that the occupation sites started to clear out due to sanitation issues, funding issues, lack of proper coverage by mainstream media, and police raids among other factors.
General assembly and consensus
One of the reasons the OWS movement gained and kept its momentum were general assemblies. On the night of September 17 2011 the first of many general assemblies, within OWS, was held and decided that the activists were staying at and occupying Zuccotti Park. These assemblies allowed activists to part take in consensus (horizontal) decision making and was credited as one of the reasons that the movement picked up momentum so quickly; general assemblies were the main decision making tool of the OWS movement and anyone could part take in them. Although the general assemblies are leaderless, facilitators were used to ensure order and make sure everyone had their say; anyone could become a facilitator after training. Participants of the general assembly uses hand signals to indicate agree, disagree, add critical information, ask clarifying question, indicate that the conversation is going off topic and to ask the speaker to make their statement quicker, however many different variations of hand signals were used as demonstrated by Occupy Boston. General assemblies, as well as other parts of the occupy movement, uses the “people’s microphone” to amplify the speaker as amplified sound in public is not legal in New York City without a permit.
The main criticism of general assemblies is that they needed a unanimous consensus to make decisions and the amount of time it takes to arrive at decisions. As consensus was beginning to get more difficult to obtain in larger occupy encampments, such as the one at Zuccotti Park, a consensus threshold of 90% was agreed upon. To make sure everyone still had their voices heard participants were encouraged to speak to members of ‘working groups’ outside of the general assembly so that members of the working group could address their concern in or out of the general assembly, this resulted in more concise general assemblies.
The use of general assemblies achieved several things apart from shaping the direction of the movement and making decisions. In general assemblies, activists were encouraged to participate in decision making and hold general assemblies in their own towns and cities; the usage of general assemblies as the means of decision making reflects the ends of the Occupy movement as the movement is trying to build a world where the people shape their own lives rather than relying to politicians, who can succumb to political corruption, to represent them.
Maddison and Scalmer state that a unified movement identity is necessary to achieve a movement where there is “equality among socially and culturally differentiated groups, who mutually respect one another and affirm one another in their differences” however building such a movement is hard work, It would seem that general assemblies in the occupy movement assisted in the creation of such a movement. The occupy movement had attracted people from a diverse range of backgrounds so open dialogue in general assemblies was a crucial part of maintaining unity. Open dialog ensures that all members of the movement are aware of the needs and objections of others within the movement, even if someone disagrees with a decision they will be aware of why that decision was made; this is important as people are more likely to be tolerant and resist division within a community if they understand the needs of others. This open dialog helps build solidarity among individuals and helps shape the collective identity of the movement. As the goals and direction of the movement was also openly discussed in general assemblies it helped build further unity within the movement as the activists could focus on common goals rather than focusing on their differences which may have resulted in conflict and alienation of some activists. General assemblies therefore created strength, solidarity and resolve within the movement.
Closing thoughts and improvements
The Occupy movement triggered a change in the political discourse of America and across the world, with some reports that economic inequality, corporate greed, and political corruption are now discussed more openly than before. The Occupy movement has also shown a new generation of activists that they are not alone and created “communities of mutual support, cooperation, open spaces for discussion”, or solidarity, between its participants. As a result of OWS the phrases “the 99 percent” and “the one percent” has entered into the common western English lexicon, and the broader international branch of the Occupy movement still struggles for economic equality and corporate influence on politics among other issues.
However, while OWS and the Occupy movements have had some impact on social and political issues, by bringing them to the public’s attention, none of them are directly measurable, as Forbes describes “There are no real Occupy policy briefs, no legislation, no candidates. And therefore, it’s fair to observe that nothing has really changed in terms of the middle class, the under-represented, the ‘99 percent’ or however you’d define it” and therefore it has been deemed a failure by critics.
Micah White, one of the original organisers of OWS, argues that the Occupy movement is a “constructive failure” and that “Occupy was a perfect example of a social movement that should have worked according to the dominant theories of protest and activism. And yet, it failed”. White argues that activists need have a mental shift and think about how to make protests more successful in creating change.
One of the defining characteristics and limiting factors was that the Occupy movement does not have a clear leader. Police eventually cleared occupations across the country, as the occupations or the Occupy movement did not have a leader it would have been extremely difficult to mobilize activists repeatedly to keep the momentum of the movement alive. A lack of a clear leader also meant organisations that supported the movement’s cause could not easily form a formal alliance or negotiate, this along with the stringent conditions that were expected of external entities wanting to support the movement meant organisations could not easily support the movement. A working group should have been formed to acquire and negotiate with supporters of the movement and less stringent should conditions should have been expected of external organisations.
Finally one of the downfalls of the Occupy movement was that some activists became “spectators of our own protests”, this means that some supporters of the Occupy movement only supported the movement via the social media. This had the result in lower numbers in occupation sites such that the occupations eventually cleared out due to a variety of factors as discussed earlier. However the owner of these social media sites should have encouraged supporters to physically go to the occupation sites, re-occupy cleared sites, and ask their followers to continually support the occupations in meaningful ways. This would have been hard or organise without any leadership as there were hundreds of social media pages and accounts in support of the Occupy movement and in most cases the owners of these pages were not associated with one another.  The social media working group could have contacted the owners of unofficial OWS social media pages such that the pages worked in unison to coordinate efforts when required.
The Occupy movement has shown other activists and organisations how to utilise modem technology and the internet to benefit the movement and the cause, the importance for activists to create their own media coverage has also been demonstrated. Direct democracy and a ‘horizontal’ structure to the movement has also allowed the movement to be inclusive and unified while allowing the activists to participate directly in the movement. The Occupy movement is not without its shortcomings however as the Occupy movement was one of the largest social movements in the early 21st century activists should examine and take on board the lessons learnt from it.
Del Vicario, Michela, Qian Zhang, Alessandro Bessi, Fabiana Zollo, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli and Walter Quattrociocchi. “Structural Patterns of the Occupy Movement on Facebook” eprint arXiv:1501.07203 (2015).
Enriquez, Laura E. “Undocumented and Citizen Students Unite: Building a Cross-Status Coalition through Shared Ideology” Social Problems 61 no.2 (2014): 155 – 174.
Thorson, Kjerstin, Kevin Driscoll, Brian Ekdale, Stephanie Edgerly, Liana Gamber Thompson, Andrew Schrock, Lana Swartz , Emily K. Vraga , and Chris Wells. “YOUTUBE, TWITTER AND THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT” Information, Communication & Society 16 no.4 (2013): 421 – 451.
It is interesting to observe the impact race and religion has on refugees. Australia, as we know it today, has been built by immigrants. The first non-indigenous arrivals were the British in 1788 and declared that the land was ‘terra nullius’ even though the settlers were aware of the native population (Thompson 2011). Around 1850 when the Australian gold rush began, a significant amount of migrants entered the country from Europe and China to work in the gold mines. However laws to control the only the Chinese population at the time were created (Price 1974), it is suggested that “Cultural differences” among other issues was the cause of this (SBS 2015). In 1901, the “White Australia policy” was introduced and which restricted the entry of Non-European immigrants into Australia.
While the above relates to immigrants and not refugees or asylum seekers, it is safe to assume that even stricter laws would have applied to refugees. For example, in 1835, New South Wales Governor, Sir Richard Bourke declared that “all people found occupying land without the authority of the government would be considered illegal trespassers”; this effectively made aboriginal Australians “illegal trespassers” in their own land. And after many non-white refugees entered Australia during World War 2 the Australian government wanted to deport those who did not leave voluntarily, however due to protest, needed population growth, and labour the government relaxed its policies (Racismnoway 2015). Tazreiter states that “persistent fears over border control and the protection of insiders or citizens from both real and imagined threats have been dominant and potent since early white settlement days” (Tazreiter 2010), this is quite evident in the above examples.
In contemporary Australian society, it is argued that the ‘othering’ of muslins is “…grounded in a series of interrelated cultural myths and stereotypes, largely based on the opposition of a ‘primitive’ Islamic culture…vilification of Australian Muslims continues the historic xenophobia by non-Muslim Australians, embodied in commonwealth policies aimed at discouraging ‘undesirable’ immigrants from coming to Australia” (Saniotis 2004). This sentiment seems to be reflected in current Australian policies where the current federal government implies that it prefers to take on Christian refugees over Muslims from the current Syrian migrant crisis (Bagshaw 2015). The Australian government states that this is on the bases of those who are ‘persecuted minorities’, however it is suggested by journalists who have been in Syria that the most vulnerable were Muslims (Pasha 2015).
Impact of race and religion for refugees in Australia references
“…the camera’s ability to transform reality into something beautiful derives from its relative weakness as a means of conveying truth.” (Sontag 1973)
The above quote by Sontag (1973) refers to the fact that the end photograph someone sees has been influenced by the photographer’s choice of composition and any alterations made to the overall work, as a result the photograph does not necessarily reflect reality but reflects a ‘beautiful’ (I’d use the word constructed) version of the subject being photographed.
This is why photojournalists need to follow a strict code of ethics to ensure they do not mislead the public with their images, the code of ethics deal with photo manipulation, privacy and how ‘graphic’ it is (Burkholder 2009). It is important to note that even if photojournalists follow these ethical rules the end picture will not portray the truth; this is because ‘the truth’ is relative and contextual. For example in the 1994 US intervention of Haiti, also known as “Operation Uphold Democracy”, there were two photographs of US troops landing in Haiti which show the situation from different perspectives. One of the photographs depict US troops on the lookout putting their training into action (image 1 below) on the other hand another photographer captured the fact that those reported images were staged (image 2 below) (Ritchin 2008).
We need to keep this in mind when dealing with visual media for human rights activism as the images we display could easily be misinterpreted or portray the wrong meaning. However to create humanitarian images and depict the intended gaze the creator of the image must be aware how the image will portray the subjects to the spectators. In the book “Human Rights Film Festivals: Activism in Context “ Dr.Tascón (2015) explores the role of ‘the humanitarian gaze’ in film festivals but based on how easily visual media can be manipulated. To ensure we understand the issues the media is trying to portray it’s worth thinking about what gaze is being used, regardless of if we are spectating a film festival, the news, or any other source.
An interesting topic to think about is the fact that in modern society it’s not only photojournalists or professionals who will take photographs of events, amateur footage from smart phones and cameras may also provide insight into events. As such these armature images may help provide the general public gain a more impartial, or at least a broader range of, views for significant events. An example of this is in the Occupy Wall Street movement where activists formed makeshift media teams to show the people what was going on in the protests as the mainstream US media was either ignoring or attacking the movement (Al Jazeera 2012). These teams set up live streams on the internet so that people outside the movement could find out about the movement and what was going on inside it (Al Jazeera 2012). As we know today, the early gaze some US media attempted to set up for the movement was completely wrong.
Notes Briefly “the humanitarian gaze” is the power relationship which is set up due to people observing the image; for example, INGO’s such as Oxfam use images of sick children to set up a relationship of the viewer (powerful, can aid) to starving children (weak, helpless). While such relationships are positive in the short term they have negative consequences later, I may explore this further at another time.