Opening Closed Societies
About 35% of all humans currently live in “closed” societies. Closed societies, essentially, are countries where one’s position in life is permanently fixed. If, for instance, you are born into the lower classes you remain in the lower classes your entire life. There is no opportunity for you to advance beyond your initial station in life. Thor Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation to fight this exact problem. As a native of Venezuela, Halvorssen understands the danger of a society in which only particular individuals are able to achieve power. Through his foundation he intends to find ways to open doors for all people regardless of where they live.
Taking Things Personally
Thor Halvorssen advocates for open societies because authoritarianism has influenced his life. He has seen family members suffer the consequences of speaking out against corrupt governments and the dangers of protesting against a brutal enemy. In fact, his mother, Hilda Mendoza, was actually killed by supporters of Hugo Chavez during a protest of the 2004 referendum. Although he had founded the Human Rights Foundation earlier that year, the death of his mother gave Halvorssen the strength to make his activism a more serious cause.
What The Future Holds
Thor Halvorssen understands that his mission is far from over. He continues to pursue ways to empower those living under dictatorships and to fight corruption in government. Documentaries, and occasionally fictional works, are one of his most frequent means of expressing his message. At certain times, this has even led to the endangerment of his own life. His interview of a Vietnamese Buddhist activist under the scrutiny of the Vietnamese government is perhaps the most pithy example. After he had conducted the interview, Halvorssen was placed under arrest by the Vietnamese government. Eventually, after convincing authorities he was actually a recent convert to Buddhism, Halvorssen was freed. However, prior to his release he was subject to a variety of abuses at the hands of the Vietnamese government. Regardless of this danger, or perhaps because of it, Halvorssen continues to strive towards a world of open societies.