In our range of annual talks, the Global Awareness lecture is fast becoming one not to miss. In 2013, the first speaker in this series, Dr Shahidul Alam spoke powerfully about what he called the Majority World – the Developing World in current Western parlance; he also spoke compellingly about “othering” – the sense that we needn’t treat other kinds of people as well as we would expect our own to be treated because they are different or other to us – imperial subjects, refugees, people of colour, disabled people.
Last night Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, gave as fluent, clear and compelling a case for human rights and civil liberties as most of us are likely to hear. Take, for example, her stance on surveillance and the terrorist threat. Worldly and risk averse in terms of accepting the government measure of the security threat, but fiercely principled on the surveillance that is deployed being targeted and proportionate rather than the kind of universal surveillance as proposed in the draft Investigative Powers Bill. Do not be fooled by the “innocent have nothing to fear, nothing to hide” reassurance.
For the students proactive enough to get tickets, this was a brilliant example of the best kind of advocacy: warm, forensic, logical and rooted in a fierce belief in human dignity and rights.
Let’s hope that Shami’s next role will enable her to continue to deploy her gifts in the public arena.