Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Contributions of Africa in the World Family

Every group of people in the world contributes in some way to human life and civilization. We don't always realize it. That's part of what makes us who we are; beings under orders to be the best to ourselves and others. If being this way goes on without us realizing it, then, we can't do much to alter it. This is consistent with the idea that the greatest percentage of our existence is subconscious, and only a small percentage is conscious. We are are not mindless; we have the wonderful gift of mind bound to a benevolence that compels us to live out unity, harmony, peace, and love. For this is the only way we can live. When we exemplify these values, we make an immense contribution to our being and our becoming the human family.

We find these examples on every continent. At some level, the continents of the world are themselves examples. I recently had an opportunity to start a series of presentations called "Contributions of Africa in the World Family." One of the presentations is on the life of Nelson Mandela, the great South African who fought for freedom, justice, and unity in South Africa. This presentation gives me a rare opportunity to explore basic facts about the life of an anstonishing human being. Mr. Mandela is an African whose life is an example to not just South Africans, but to every member of the human family.

Also, this summer, I presented on Kenya to kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students during the summer program at Imagine Academy at Sullivant in Columbus, Ohio. To say the least, this was a joy and a pleasure! I discussed and presented wonderful images on Kenyan life and culture. The students could not contain their excitement as they asked questions about Kenya, its children, its schools, its peoples, and animals. I emphasized to the children that in many ways Kenya like the United States, and every other nation in the world, is an example of love of self and family, unity of culture, and harmony of life.

I look forward to doing the Nelson Mandela presentation and the others in the series of "Contributions of Africa in the World Family.

Joy and peace!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I ask this question because it is useful to ponder the broarder picture: where does real change begin? Even something less than a robust common sense would cause one to say it starts in early childhood. So what's the problem? Why aren't people of every age, race, religion, and socioeconomic background demanding that some form of instruction in human rights be incorporated into the elementary curriculum? Of course, one could come up with a multiplicity of reasons why this is easily dismissed as an irrelevancy or a non-exigency of education in America today. One that looms in awful rage is the dastardly criticism of human rights, that the brand encountered through U.N. efforts and other international organizations is a foreign contrivance; they claim it is un-American. Some even suggest that it is an international ploy to force America to abandon its norms, values, and institutions in favor of ideas that have little to do with the nation's founding and purpose.

When we manage to extricate ourselves from the clutches of narrow political agendas, we are inclined to see more brightly; even without becoming necessarily cosmopolitan in our outlook, which I dare say is good, we might see that scattered throughout the curriculum and across the American landscape are pieces of the cloth that constitutes instruction in human rights (right to life, liberty etc., and the many protections in torts and the criminal law against grievous violations of the human person). Is it a bad idea to concentrate them and say, "We want to teach human rights?" If we lose the value attached to the human person and celebrate "things" above all else, we lose our humanity and render bleak our unrelentling ode to the future.

My deepest thanks for stopping by. Remember, change begins with you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Children for Human Rights

Youth for Human Rights International is doing an extraordinary job of reminding communities and society that human rights are important. They are also doing a great job of pulling us back from our legalistic obsessions (or realism!) with tracing the origin of human rights to determine their validity. Whenever something is framed in the language of rights, it becomes an issue of stark realism: where did the rights come from? Are they justified? Are they contrivances for the gain of some, while disadvantaging others? Indeed, the legitimacy of these questions is not in question, what is in question is the inescapable hold of realism that digs into what claims human rights guarantee or what interests they protect, not to learn the truth, but to discard it with a hideous sophistry that can't be helped. Even if the probe is serious and has no hidden agenda, too little attention is paid to the felt element; deep down there is a sense that human survival is not just instinctive, it's reasoned, planned (... by design?), mandated in some fashion. Youth for human rights have picked this up evidenced by their generosity and compassion. Their work which includes helping in the building of schools in poorer, less fortunate parts of the world shows it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Remembering the Tragedy of Melody Island

I truly appreciate Kimberly T's comments on the last piece. As always they were insightful and I look forward to responding. As at now, we are still mourning the loss of Natalia Estemirova. Today, I'll do so by telling a tragic story...

On the continent of Stanis, there were three island kingdoms; they lay serenely next to one another. It was impossible to miss the incredible sight they made as you entered the navigational waters of Stanis. How could they ever be missed when they lay in such incomparable beauty. They glistened in the brilliance of the afternoon sun. A sight to behold! Once, a non-stanis traveler called them three princesses that could only rely on the power of personification for life, yet, had the power to arouse the strongest of men.

The one in the middle was Melody Island. To the north of Melody was Sallowmile and to the south, Cacophony. King Gustaro ruled Melody. Sallowmile had its strong man, King Rasule; and King Franksell in Cacophony. Stanis historians tell the story of the three islands having once been part of one big Kingdom until the kings' ancestors, three cousins, many centuries ago decided they wanted their own domains and fought their way to that end. However, as time went on, old wounds healed.

But Stanis historians suggest that time wasn't really the medicine that healed the kingdoms and mended their relationships. The greatest impact came from the tradition of music of the three islands. As the center of the three, Melody Island had the most talented musicians and the most charming sounds came from within its gates. Sallowmile loved the sounds of Melody Island. It brought joy to the neighboring kingdom. Negative emotions under the stresses of daily living were taken away, almost vaporized by enchanting melodies from the center of the three. Cacophony needed Melody Island; its survival depended on it. King Franksell could not be honest with his cousin that there was concern in Cacophony and Sallowmile that fewer and fewer women were being seen in Melody; fewer and fewer women were being heard within its gates.

Even though none of the kingdoms dictated sexual orientation, heterosexuality was dominant. But times were changing. Sexual preference was becoming a diverse reality, especially, in Melody Island. The concern in the neighboring kingdoms was not the sexual orientation of the subjects of Melody, but the dying of the sounds of Melody Island, loss of the voices of women.

Slowly but surely, what had remained a well kept secret in Melody Island started coming to light. The ladies of Melody were being killed, not because of sex, but because of a bizarre ritual. The string instruments had to be made of the flesh of women. At least, that was what they believed. So women were being killed and their flesh used to make the strings. But the music didn't get better; it worsened. Melody knew this but would not stop.

Franksell could not stand up to Gustaro : he needed him. Rasule in Sallowmile was a strong-man, but Sallowmile would not support war at this time. Moreover, Rasule was not one to go against tradition. So no one spoke up about the killings! Before many years passed, Melody Island lost its sounds, and died a slow and awful death. Cacophony needed Melody so it died a few years after. Today, Sallowmile's existence is worse than that of the living dead!

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Silence is betrayal!"

Don't cry for Melody Island. Remember Estemirova. And my deepest thanks for stopping by. Take care!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We Mourn the Death of Natalia Estemirova and Listen for the Bells of Justice!

An article appeared in The Human Rights Watch newspaper entitled, "Russia: Justice for Killing Natalia Estemirova." The article stated: "Natalia Estemirova, a leading human rights activist in the troubled Russian republic of Chechnya and a close colleague of Human Rights Watch, was abducted near her home in Grozny on the morning of July 15, 2009, and carried off in a car as people on a nearby balcony heard her call out that she was being kidnapped. She was found shot dead later that day in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia."

Here is a dramatic dialogue dedicated to the memory of Estemirova:

Natalia: Have you found me?

Citizen: We never lost you. It happened before our eyes. We cried out!

Fellow Activist: We'll get to the bottom of this. Justice will be done.

Human Rights Lawyer: What does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say? What precedents guide us in our understanding of its provisions?

Citizen: Aren't we getting a bit ahead of ourselves? Don't we first have to get those responsible for her death to get justice for Natalia?

Natalia: Find me first; in Russia, in the Congo, in Dafur... Then, you would have journeyed closer to justice, don't cry for me nor for Russia, but for humanity...the threat to life, to human rights. Get back at "disregard" and "contempt" for human life.

Good evening, Natalia!

To all, thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a precious portion of that great document. I have chosen for today's reflection...

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Should the United States Continue to Engage with North Korea?

In a recent interview, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton explained her approach to North Korea in terms of motherhood through which she has gained experience on how to deal with children. The gist of her comment was that as a mom she knows one does not give in to a child's tantrums and demands. The implication is clear: the United States will not give in to the whims and caprices of North Korea's childish emotionalism that often boils down to threats and demands.

What happens to "carrot and stick" diplomacy as the U.S. approach in dealing with North Korea? Does it still work in this context? "Carrot and stick" diplomacy requires some rewards and some punishment to induce behavior. I suspect that anything that remotely resembles punishment would be totally unacceptable to North Korea despite the carrots to go along with it. Does this mean we are left with the Bush doctrine with respect to the policy of preventive war? This policy essentially held that foreign regimes should be deposed that represented a potential or perceived threat to the security of the united States, even if that threat was not immediate..." Can a soft-heart policy be adopted towards North Korea?

Thanks for stopping by. As always remember change begins with you!