Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Sad Day

It's gotten to the point where I am starting to hope that President Bush was right about everything. Let there be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Let the new Iraq be a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. Let the never-ending insurgency be made up of Saddam loyalists and dead-enders. As depressing as it would be to see American force brush governments aside with a single pre-emptive swipe, it would be far less depressing than what's going on now.

To sum up today's news: 36 troops died in Iraq today as a request is being put in for another $80 billion in war funding (despite the fact that little of the reconstruction budget has been spent). Britain is changing their laws to allow for the improsonment of terrorism suspects without trial, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Iraqi police are being accused of Saddam-era systematic abuse of prisoners. Oh yes, and the Tamil Tigers are using the aftermath of the tsunami to help recruit child soldiers.

And if you thought that was bad, have a look at the places we don't hear about.

I can understand why a lot of people don't read the news. It's pretty damned depressing. The sad thing is, that unless you look at these issues, form an informed opinion, and take some kind of action, things aren't likely to change.

Seeing change in human rights is a lot like running a marathon with your eyes closed. It can drain a lot of energy, and you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. But it still feels better doing something... anything.

I got a letter back from Peter Milliken in reply to my note of thanks for Canadian support of the tsunami victims. Still just a single letter. It doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but at least it's something. And lots of somethings add up. Just ask the Red Cross, who now has $1.2 billion to spend. All that from kind hearted people with a few dollars to spare.

As cliche as this is, it's true: ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle,' or in it's more common form, 'All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.' - Edmund Burke

4 Comments:

At 4:15 PM, Blogger JTL said...

Working in any sort of human-rights or social-justice movement is a tough slog, and subtle ideological differences can create huge practical divides. It's very difficult to get people to work together for a common cause... witness the very separate Communist, Marxist-Leninist and Socialist movements (to just highlight that particular area of lefty thinking).

But, the overwhelming response to this disaster (one month ago to the day) shows what sorts of stupendous things can be done when people get together on an issue or crisis. A billion dollars, last time I checked my bank account, was a hefty amount of money.

(Well, unless you're Dubya and you have a war to run. Then it powers that Iraq thing for about six hours.)

The images and immediacy of this disaster hit home with a lot of people, and they responded with generosity. Unfortunately, there are larger problems (e.g. global warming, U.S. hegemony) which come in farther under the radar and escape the average person's consciousness, but may end up being bigger in the end. The key, then, I suppose, is to translate these important issues into tangible outcomes that resonate with people... and aren't so far-fetched as to provoke disbelief and indifference.

 
At 7:10 PM, Blogger 'nee said...

People who don't watch the news because it's depressing really chap my hide; there's never any excuse for purposely stupidifying one's self. It's depressing, eh? Well, gee, that might mean that THINGS ACTUALLY SUCK! Really?

Not knowing about it means it's not happening, right? And the tooth fairy exists, too, right?

Sorry... pet peeve :)

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

JTL: This is true. A nice side benefit of the Internet is that the ease with which information is available allows people of various beliefs to match themselves with organizations that align with their particular values.

Perhaps the most complicated situation is when a humanitarian disaster is brought on by war. These situations require a great deal of thought in order to launch effective advocacy.

Will the problem go away without a military intervention by the UN? Are aide groups prolonging the conflict by failing to stop rebel recruitment at refugee camps, or by setting up a situation whereby the aide is placed into the hands of various armed factions? These are complicated issues that people with PhDs wrestle with, let alone someone who has to try and figure out what's going on in the world based on a 8 minute segment on CBC.

I think things are improving relative to the way the world was 20 or 30 years ago. But there's still a long way to go. I think citizens of the Western world need to keep themselves informed, and to vote (in part, at least) based on their beliefs in human rights and global issues.

Nee: You're right, and I think it hurts people in the long run. It's like Ralph Nader said, "If you're not turned on by politics, someday politics is going to turn on you."

 
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