Universality

It is somewhat embarrassing to admit that, in addition to mispronouncing words or names, I am sometimes prone to thinking of words that do not exist. The word “universality” came to mind recently. I immediately berated myself for dreaming up some more nonsense but it seems this time the word does actually exist. Yes, I still rely on my Oxford Concise English Dictionary now and then. The practicality of the word, however, is another matter.

Every discipline would appear to have blind spots or shortcomings that those who are schooled in a particular discipline probably like to pretend do not exist. In recent times, as a “sometime international relations scholar” I have been drawn to question of human rights and its relevance, if any. The reason why I say “if any” is the perhaps obvious fact that many declarations on human rights, by the UN and other bodies, are not legally binding; a matter that a TCD scholar wrote an interesting piece about online a few years ago. Peter Sutherland, an Irish founder of the World Trade Organisation, used to emphasise a similar point regarding that “initiative”.

Last year, I was interested to hear a talk by David Donoghue, a former Irish ambassador, who managed to get over a hundred countries to agree to the wording of a declaration regarding the UN’s Global Compact programme (I think he has since written about his experience) but he noted that it was perhaps of limited significance because the declaration of support was not legally binding. A similar phenomenon…

I am currently awaiting the arrival by post of a book by an author whose reflections on the origins of the notion of a supranational moral law within his book on European unification fascinated me, as did his book on cultural diplomacy (which works well as a history book, even if the author is not a historian), although I am personally inclined to be sceptical that the world of international relations is ever truly governed by factors other than the financial and all that comes from that (militarily or otherwise). Whether or not that is a healthy scepticism, I’ll let the next time (or the time after that) I dwell upon the subject decide. Theories of natural law or rights by beneficiary and all such matters may, after all, just be theories. The greatest enigma of the law to my mind is how anyone can have the vanity to be a judge, as I think I once said in an earlier internet incarnation. But anyway…

For now I’m just going to blog, now that I have a free minute, upon the idea that, even to my own suspicious mind(s) or ways of thinking, it is a bit of an eye-opener sometimes to what extent states either can or do use “cultures” for their own ends. With a bit of an obsessive mentality regarding causality, I’m also often inclined to wonder how much the new discipline of futurology, in addition to ye olde history, is something that can make people believe that things are as they are not, although perhaps that thought is, in itself, a complete waste of time. Yes, I believe it is.

Music is one of the few blessings in my life or, in other words, something that I can actually believe to be uncontaminated by ulterior motives; that being an idea which I am perhaps inclined to romanticise about too much, to myself at least. Youtube, as “my favourite TV channel”, can have all sorts of fascinating musical videos to digest with the ears. Its algorithms recently recommended to me to watch a video about…coincidence of coincidences…a jazz musician being on a cultural diplomacy “mission”, talking about Joseph Nye and vibes in the same breath…“Dear God, what is the world coming to”. Whether or not it is worth a watch, a reader of this blog entry (if it, in fact, has any readers) can decide, but it made me wonder “once more” if the true root of the “big brother” idea that preoccupies many is simply that so many things in life, culturally or otherwise, never really do happen by accident or in isolation. Whether or not that appears to be a good or a bad thing may simply be a question of individual temperament. I’m reminded of the joke in the Woody Allen “Sleeper” film when upon being told “I believe there is someone out there who watches over us” he responded “unfortunately it’s the government.” The “universality” of living under the same sun and the same moon does not generate a profit may have been his mantra, but as Miles Davis didn’t say “so what

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