Thursday, September 11, 2014

Peter Tatchell's acceptance speech for Hononary Fellowship of Goldsmith's College

I had this via email. I don't think Peter will mind my posting it here. 
In my view Peter is a diamond. I worked with him on the Global Index of Human Rights document. What I admire (apart from his enormous courage and dedication) is his flexibility, his ability to pick up on any human rights issue, irrespective of what may or may not be considered fashionable or right-on.

Full text of Peter Tatchell’s acceptance speech, on receiving a Honorary
Fellowship of Goldsmiths College, University of London, presented to him by
the Chair of Council, Baroness Estelle Morris, in a ceremony at the college
on 10 September 2014.

Accepting the award, Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: 

Chair of Council, Warden, honorary guests, members of faculty, family and friends, and fellow graduands, I am deeply moved to receive this Honorary Fellowship.
 My gratitude to Professor Alan Downie for his most generous oration, and to Goldsmiths College for conferring on me this prestigious award. I was hesitant about accepting such an honour. After all, my fellowship has not been earned by academic study, and I often have doubts about the significance of my contribution to human rights. Many others are much more deserving than me.
 Nevertheless, after so many years of demonisation by the tabloid press, right-wingers, 
homophobes and even by some people on the left and in the LGBTI community, this 
recogniton is much appreciated. 

 I dedicate my acceptance of this Honorary Fellowship to the people of Palestine, dispossessed from their own land, denied statehood and subjected to decades of Israeli occupation, annexation, bombardment, siege and imprisonment.

In all my 40-plus years of supporting peace with justice for the people of Palestine, I have witnessed repeated land grabs by Israel. These are still happening. 
This is a human rights issue.

I urge you to boycott Israeli products and to lobby your MP and the UK government to halt all military aid to Israel until it withdraws fully from the occupied territories and ends the siege of Gaza.

 Equally, of course, there should be a boycott of Arab tyrannies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria - and human rights abuses by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority must stop. 
I pay particular tribute to the heroic, inspirational Palestinian activists
in villages like Bil’in who are resisting Israeli abuses non-violently and
who are committed to a state where Jews and Arabs can live together in
peace and equality.

I deplore the violent methods used by Israel to suppress their peaceful
protests and just demands.

I salute the human rights defenders of the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights and B’Tselem, who challenge human rights abuses by both sides -
Israel and Palestine.

I walk in their shadow, humbled by their exemplary, impartial witness and
defence of human rights.

In terms of my own humanitarian work:

I’m not special or unique. I do my bit for social justice, but so do many
others. Together, through our collective efforts - despite the setbacks we
have recently witnessed in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq - we are slowly,
but surely, helping make a better world – a world more just and free.

My key political inspirations are Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin
Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X and Rosa Luxemburg. I’ve adapted
many of their ideas and methods to the contemporary struggle for human
rights – and invented a few of my own.

I began campaigning in my home town of Melbourne, Australia, in 1967, aged

My first human rights campaign was against the death penalty, followed by
campaigns in support of Aboriginal rights and in opposition to conscription
and the Australian and US war against the people of Vietnam.

In 1969, on realising that I was gay, the struggle for queer freedom became
an increasing focus of my activism.

After moving to London in 1971, I became an activist in the Gay Liberation
Front; organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve queers, and
organising protests against police harassment and the medical
classification of homosexuality as an illness.

I was roughed up and forcibly ejected when I challenged the world famous
psychologist, Professor Hans Eysenck, during a lecture in 1972, where he
advocated electric shock aversion therapy to supposedly ‘cure’

The following year, in East Berlin, I was arrested and interrogated by the
secret police - the Stasi - after staging the first gay rights protest in a
communist country.

I have continued in the same vein for four decades, with many controversial
protests: such as taking over the pulpit and condemning Dr George Carey,
the then Archbishop of Canterbury, on Easer Sunday 1998, over his support
for legal discrimination against LGBTI people.

Plus two attempted citizen’s arrests of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe,
confronting Mike Tyson face-to-face over his homophobia, and outing 10
Church of England Bishops in 1994.

The bishops were outed, not because they were gay but because they were
hypocrites. They colluded with the church’s anti-gay stance in public but
were gay in private. They were outed because of their homophobia and
hypocrisy, not because of their homosexuality.

I was widely criticised at the time. Critics said I had no real evidence
that the bishops were gay. Not true. I had the evidence. I was gratified
some years later when a doctor approached me to confirm that he knew one of
the bishops was definitely gay. He told me that the unnamed bishop was a
patient and once came to his surgery with a rectal problem. The doctor
asked the bishop to show him where the problem was. Dropping his trousers
and pointing to his bottom the bishop said: “It’s here, just by the
entrance.” To which the doctor replied: “Excuse me bishop, most us call it
the exit.”

Looking back on my 47 years of human rights campaigning, my advice, for
what it’s worth, is this:

Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. Don't conform and never be
ordinary. Shun the mob, think for yourself. Be your own special creation.

Remember, all human progress is the result of far-sighted people
challenging orthodoxy and tradition. Thanks to innovators and reformers –
often people who have taken on rich, powerful, established interests - most
of us have better lives and more opportunities than our forebears.

For the sake of yourself and future generations:

Be daring, show imagination, take risks. Be a radical for peace, social
justice, freedom and equality.

Fight against the greatest human rights violation of all: free market
capitalism, which has created a world divided into rich and poor, where the
85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest 50 per
cent of the global population.

In Britain, the richest 1,000 people have a combined personal wealth of
£450 billion.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of impoverished people in developing
countries are malnourished, homeless and without clean drinking water – and
tens of millions die from hunger and preventable diseases.

My motto is: Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream of what the world could
be – and then help make it happen.

Whoever you are and whatever your field of endeavour, be a change-maker for
the upliftment of humanity.

To quote my fellow sodomite and socialist Oscar Wilde:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”


Read more about Peter Tatchell’s four decades of human rights campaigning

And about his current campaigns here:

*Further information*:

Peter Tatchell
Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790

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