Handmaiden to Despots?

Responding to Heather Morrison, who writes,

As any movement grows and flourishes, decisions made will turn out to have unforeseen consequences. Achieving the goals of the movement requires critical reflection and occasional changes in policy and procedure.The purpose of this post is to point out that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) appears to be inadvertently acting as a handmaiden to at least one despotic government, facilitating dissemination of works subject to censorship and rejecting open access journals that would be suitable venues for critics of the despotic government. There is no blame and no immediately obvious remedy, but solving a problem begins with acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion of how to avoid and solve the problem. OA friends, please consider this such an invitation.

Sustaining the knowledge commons full post:

https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/14/doaj-handmaiden-to-despots-or-oa-we-need-to-talk/

This is an issue I have thought a lot about. My work takes me to various countries, some of which might be classified as despotic. I have worked with the governments of those countries, always from the perspective of advancing open access and free learning. The question I have asked myself is whether it is appropriate to work with them.

I have decided that it is, and for a very simple reason: any principled selection process would leave me with very few countries to work with, if any.

It is easy to point to a particular country and suggest that we should not work with that country. But if we apply the same principle that led us to that decision the we are left with a significant practical problem. And if we extend that principle to agents of the country, including companies that support that country, or customers of that country, or suppliers to that country, as we most surely should, then we are left with no countries in which to work.

And at a certain point, when a recommendation to boycott a given country is made, I find that I have to ask, why this country? What made the person select this country to address, as opposed to one of the many others engaged in the same practice?

I will most certainly concur with Heather Morrison that a problem exists. There are countries in the world that murder their own citizens, either extra-legally, or by some sort of state sanctioned capital punishment. There are many countries that interfere with the publication of academic materials on political grounds. There is definitely a problem, one of many problems plaguing our world today.

How to address this? It is easy to identify what we oppose and to work against it. But my experience is that, in the long term, if is much more effective to work for something. It is also a lot harder, which is maybe why we don’t see so much of it.

We need, globally, to build the structures and institutions that will address issues such as this. Support for entities such as the United Nations and the World Court will go a long way toward addressing oppressive regimes. It is essential to build international trade regulations that prioritize justice, human rights, and environment as much as they do the needs of global capital.

It is tempting to short-cut this process, to have (say) DOAJ stand on its own against countries that oppress their citizens. But this is not justice, nor can it be seen as any pretense of justice. Only by building the institutions that serve all people, on a global scale, will we be able to address the injustices that we, as individuals, seek to redress. Any other approach would be parochial and sectarian.

Meanwhile, as an individual, I stay firm and unwavering in my own commitment to individual autonomy, celebration of diversity, an open society, and collective governance. Change happens not by changing governments, but by changing people, and the only way to change people is to be an example of the change you want to see in them.

activism-2

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