Sun 28 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Humanists Promote International Cooperation
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IS CRITICAL
(Washington, DC) “At a time when the White House dismisses the role of the United Nations as irrelevant, the need for international cooperation is especially critical,” states Fred Edwords, Editorial Director of the American Humanist Association.
“Humanists recognize the need for stronger international responses and united actions to prevent and respond to crimes against humanity. The raging genocide in Darfur, Sudan, illustrates the need for a swift, strong, and just international response. The international rule of law must have a mechanism for evaluating potential acts of genocide and other preventable crimes against humanity,” adds Edwords.
HUMANISTS URGE U.S. TO JOIN INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
In pursuit of establishing the highest ethical principles as standards for the international rule of law, the AHA urges the United States to join the International Criminal Court in a resolution passed this weekend. The International Criminal Court is vital to global justice and would enforce real consequences for crimes against humanity.
“In order for world peace to ever be realized a strong system of consequences must be implemented. The International Criminal Court sends the message to the world: that those involved will be held responsible for atrocities,” continues Edwords.
HUMANISTS SUPPORT U.N. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The AHA also unanimously passed a resolution in support of the UN Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs stand in stark contrast to the Bush Administration’s “go it alone strategy,” continues Edwords. The resolution states, “Humanists recognize that it’s the obligation of every nation to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world.” Even the U.S.’s MDG awareness campaign is largely faith-based and excludes family planning and reproductive health organizations. Furthermore, the Bush administration suggested that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, should take a reprieve from issuing grants. This action raises concerns that delaying funds to combat HIV/AIDS, which is one of the eight goals of the MDGs, will cost lives. “The MDGs represent the first step toward a world where the inherent worth and dignity is a real achievable objective for every person,” Edwords concludes.
~ ~ ~
Here are the resolutions:
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION ON THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT November 2004 ~ Albuquerque, NM
The twentieth century was perhaps the most violent in history as genocide and ethnic hatred raged. Recognition for stronger international responses and united actions to prevent and respond to crimes against humanity is needed. Modern genocide exemplifies the need for a swift, strong, and just international response. The international rule of law must have a mechanism for reviewing possible acts of genocide and other preventable crimes against humanity.
WHEREAS Humanists believe in the peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts; and
WHEREAS, genocide, acts of terrorism, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity are too often committed with impunity;
WHEREAS, the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION asserts that an effective international court is necessary to bring justice to the perpetrators of these terrible crimes;
WHEREAS, the International Criminal Court is bound to the same standards of independence, and fairness as those in proficient national court systems;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, in pursuit of establishing the highest ethical principles as standards for the international rule of law, urges the United States to join the International Criminal Court.
~ ~ ~
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION ON THE UNITED NATIONS MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS November 2004 ~ Albuquerque, NM
Humanists recognize that the problems of economic growth and development can no longer be resolved by one nation alone; they are worldwide in scope. It is the obligation of every nation to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world.
WHEREAS the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION affirms the notion that societies should not evaluate themselves by rhetoric or ideology, but by whether or not they increase the well being for all individuals and groups, minimize poverty and hardship, increase the sum of human satisfaction, and enhance the quality of life;
WHEREAS Humanists recognize the global community’s shared ethical responsibility to achieve the basic needs that lay the foundation for a sustainable society;
WHEREAS all 191 nations in the United Nations have pledged their commitment to achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015;
WHEREAS Humanists recognize the individual importance of the Millennium Development Goals which are: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development;
BE IT RESOLVED that the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION supports the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
~ ~ ~
Humanists Geared Up for Struggle on Same-Sex Marriage
(Washington, DC) The Religious Right, bolstered by the bans on same-sex marriage that passed in eleven states, plan to push the debate further in the next Congress. “Despite these setbacks in the struggle, now is not the time to tolerate the withholding of equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation,” states Fred Edwords, editorial director of the American Humanist Association.
“It’s deplorable that the Religious Right uses discrimination against 601,209 same-sex families as a political weapon. It’s simply inexcusable to hurt families in an effort to put one narrow religious issue in the Constitution,” he adds.
Karl Rove told journalists this week, when asked if politicians should vote against same-sex marriage bans at their own risk, “I think people would be well-advised to pay attention to what the American people are saying. This is an issue on which there is a broad consensus.” Yet sixty percent of Americans favor legalizing same-sex marriage or support civil unions.
“For over six years the AHA has been pushing for equal marriage laws in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, and we won’t stop until every state respects the rights of all Americans. As most of us know instinctively, sexual orientation has no bearing on depth of commitment, ability to raise children, or overall family stability. Lesbian and gay couples deserve equal rights-not unenlightened legislation that tries to tie our society to blind tradition,” adds Tony Hileman, executive director of the AHA.
The AHA passed a resolution over the weekend on sexual equality and support of same-sex marriage. The resolution affirms, “Intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by fundamentalist religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress the right of the individual to freely and unreservedly express her/his sexuality,” and “prohibiting committed same-sex partners from legal recognition of marriage infringes on human freedom.”
Please see the resolution below:
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION ON SEXUAL EQUALITY AND SUPPORT OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
November 2004 ~ Albuquerque, NM
Humanists are committed to values of social systems that promote liberty, maximize individual autonomy, and ensure such rights as the right to marriage and divorce, to alternate family structures, and the right to birth control and abortion. In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by fundamentalist religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. Without countenancing mindless permissiveness, a civilized society should be a tolerant one.
WHEREAS Humanists believe in the right of the individual to freely and unreservedly express her/his sexuality;
WHEREAS Humanists recognize the right of human beings to express their sexual desires and enter into sexual relationships as they see fit regardless of sexual orientation;
WHEREAS laws prohibiting committed same-sex partners from legal recognition of marriage infringes on human freedom;
WHEREAS marriage is a civil rather than a religious institution, neither state nor federal governments should exclude a group of people from receiving certain benefits, like those marriage confers, on religious grounds;
WHEREAS a civil union does not provide the legal benefits or recognition equivalent to marriage;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION recognizes that a civil union does not guarantee sexual equality or freedom from discrimination;
WHEREAS the financial, mental, emotional, and legal security that results from having legally recognized parents and spouses shall be afforded regardless of sexual orientation;
WHEREAS marriage has historically been a dynamic institution-race restrictions on marital choice have been eliminated, divorce regulations have been equalized to protect both parties, and government can no longer intrude on sexual intimacy-affording gays and lesbians the right would be the next logical change;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION reaffirms the validity of sexual equality and supports local, state, and federal action to legalize same-sex marriage.
~ ~ ~
CHECK OUT THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE HUMANIST MANIFESTOS FOR OTHER ISSUES SUPPORTED BY HUMANISTS
Sat 27 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on United Nations: Undercut, Undermined and Underrated
This callous Christmas Story of 2004 will scare the dickens out of any caring person. What does it matter that Congress closes up shop, goes home for the holiday, and slams the door on Tiny Tim! They’ve as much as said “Bah, Humbug!” to dozens of developing countries that look to the UN for help. Tiny Tim will not only go hungry and be cheated of nutrition and needed immunization and access to a clinic where there might be treatment for his crippled leg, but even worse, there’ll be no hope for a better future to break the hunger/ poverty cycle. No hope for his education which will empower him and his siblings and enable them to prepare for a more rewarding life. And you can bet that their struggling parents, not as lucky as the Cratchetts, definitely won’t get the holiday off! Believe me, they’ll be scraping and scrambling more than ever to feed the family. Or if they have any kind of minimal job it’s more likely they’ll be laid-off instead of enjoying any holiday or benefits, thereby wiping out even scanty support for the family! Such is the under-funded state of affairs that many developing countries needful of special UN humanitarian assistance programs will find themselves. Congress sent less than the assessed share of the US contribution. It shortchanged programs that are lifelines to millions of people who are in starvation situations. Can you imagine surviving on less than $1-a-day? I wonder if our members of Congress, immersed in holiday excesses, will even give this matter a moments’ thought. In the midst of our access to plenty they can’t identify with starvation. With a compassionate yes-vote, they can save children’s lives. This is the connection between power and poverty.
Maybe it was easier this year to undercut the appropriations for the United Nations. We’ve had a lot of practice, what with the power over the years of Jesse Helms’ Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A lot of paranoid people in Washington have focused on fearing and hating the United Nations. You’d think that at least someone in Washington would be wise enough by now to recognize that the US is actually a part of the international family, and to point out the screaming inequities between our super-nationalistic-military-zillion-dollar budget and the relatively paltry sum that we grudgingly allot to the essential UN international humanitarian efforts. But no! ‘Tis not the season to be jolly or generous! Or to consider how to help promote Peace on Earth! ‘Tis the season to bad mouth the UN! Make sure that everyone hears the accusation: UN guilty of corruption! The timing, alas, alerts my conspiratorial instincts. So, how does it happen that a major scandal about the oil-for-food program gains its greatest notoriety about the time that Congress has to, at the last minute, belatedly, mind-you, deal with releasing money that was due and owing to the UN on January 1, 2004! It’s not right-on-time for next year; it’s late for this year! The chintzyness of the US contribution makes Scrooge, the tightwad, look like a “conspicuous consumer!” And why give anything to the UN, anyway…in light of the scandalous corruption? Right? Wrong!
Considering that the charges against the UN are not only unfounded and misreported by the major media, but completely scurrilous, it seems like a smear tactic that the likes of ol’ Karl Rove might pull out of his great big bag of dirty tricks! When we learned a little more about the circumstances of the UN’s overseeing of the oil-for-food program from Professor Joy Gordon who is studying the issue in depth, guess what! It was not the UN directly, that was even administering the program. The Security Council itself, with its 15- member states, the most powerful of which is the United States, was the administering body! How does that fit into the corruption pattern? There were UN staff members assigned to working on contracts that had already been approved by the Security Council, who then, after their own review went back and alerted the Security Council about 70 instances of contracts that needed to be given further attention because of irregularities. Did the Security Council look into the issues? No! Then, a major on-the-spot observer/participant failed to report any problems: the so-called Multinational Interception Force, which consisted almost exclusively of US 5th Fleet Naval Operations, was physically overseeing shipments of oil to approved countries. It seems that some nations with whom the US wanted to promote a best relationship, such as Turkey and Jordan, had special transaction arrangements that favored their supply of oil. I really resent hearing the efforts of the UN maligned, especially with those sound-bites of misinformation that reverberate with the public. My own son asked me why I still believed in the UN when it was proved to be corrupt! I answered, “Oh, mygod! You’ve been listening to Rush Limbaugh or some other rabid-right-wing-nut! Honey, do some research! Use a little critical reasoning, please?
I truly believe in the United Nations! It is the best thing that the Human race has going for it, believe me! And I will not tolerate hearing it denigrated by ignorant know-nothings! United States citizens generally approve of the concept of the UN, but in actuality know very little about its accomplishments. This is mainly because it is largely ignored by the media, except, that is, for something that is an attention-getter. Bad news is better than no news, I guess is the principle for the competitive media to follow. There is something so perverse about the sensationalism and misinformation presented by the networks in this country! Someone described them as lap dogs instead of watch dogs; I think this is an apt description! There is a UN TV Channel that airs current and historical information, but it isn’t carried on cable. It should be factored into every cable contract with a city, like making available C-SPAN or public access channels, so that those who are interested in the UN can find the straight, rather than skewed, information. We hear the UN criticized from every angle, as being both a useless debating society, and of being too powerful and a threat to the sovereignty of nations. Well, which is it? It can’t be both! Maybe, somewhere in-between would be about right. The flaws were designed that way, and many wish to keep the UN powerless. Kofi Annan has no power because there is no executive branch! I’ve heard peace-people complain, “Why doesn’t Kofi Annan take charge and do this or do that?” Well, the answer is, he does not have the authority to take executive action. He can recommend, and he can carry-out the wishes of the majority of the voting nations, but he has never been authorized to act unilaterally, and to take bold action, as we have seen the President of the United States do.
THE NEW MANDATE: ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT’ MAKES CHANGE NECESSARY
When the UN was formed only a few powerful nations were involved. Today there are 191 nations. Of these, 144 are self-designated developing nations, by far, the majority of nations on the face of this earth, representing in total, the majority of Earth’s population. The inequity is screamingly obvious. Something is wrong here! There must be better balance in representation. The big problem is an old one; there’s even an old saying that describes the problem: “Power does not relinquish itself.” I love the old fable about the mice having a convention to discuss the problem of the cat. They considered long and hard about how to deal with this problem. There was much jubilation and agreement when they decided that the cat needed a bell around its neck to warn them it was coming. What a grand solution! Except that, hmmmmm, ah,… how can?, er, ah,….. who will? You got it! And we have the same situation to deal with, and to work out a solution for. The tragedy of the Rwandan massacres, for which the UN took disproportionate blame, has been the impetus for soul-searching and the newly-articulated conviction that the UN has a Responsibility to Protect those who cannot protect themselves. This is a whole new concept! Of course, the UN was formed to protect the “Peoples of Earth from the scourge of war,” but, unfortunately, the organization was not placed in the hands of the People! It was left to the nations, whose representatives have been posturing and maneuvering on the world stage even since. Change will come. But it will not be easy. One of the major factors will be public sentiment. And without positive information, and exchange of ideas, and the building of momentum for a great public outcry, and demand for change, we can’t get there from here! Especially, with a media that knows nothing and wants to ballyhoo alleged corruption instead of promoting a UN that can take responsibility to create the “Peace on Earth” that we read about on holiday greeting cards.
Tue 23 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Edd Doerr, Past President of the American Humanist Association has his say!
This timely message missed The Humanist magazine so it seems just and fittin’ that it appear here. We think that you’ll agree!
Am I Blue? by Edd Doerr
Yes, clinically, because on November 2 so many millions of my fellow Americans flunked our quadrennial national intelligence test. They voted for fantasy over fact. They voted against their own economic interests, against their own civil liberties, against protecting the environment and moving toward energy independence and keeping good jobs in this country, against this country’s and the world’s safety and security.
They voted for George II’s mistaken adventure in Iraq and for sending more of their children to slaughter and be slaughtered.
Yes, I’m blue, in the political/geographical sense that I was one of the more urban, educated, informed, and “secular” voters who supported and campaigned for John Kerry and John Edwards.
By the time you read this column you will have seen the election analyzed, reanalyzed, picked apart, and despaired over ad nauseam. But in a column dedicated to church-state and religious liberty concerns there is still much to be said.
Among the all too few bright spots on November 2 are these virtually unnoticed items: George Bush’s own congressional district reelected Chet Edwards, a Democrat who has been an outspoken defender of church-state separation. And South Dakotans voted 53% to 47% to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to provide transportation and food service for “sectarian schools.” This continues the trend of voter rejection of attempts to divert public funds to faith-based schools in 26 statewide referenda between 1966 and 2004. Interestingly, South Dakotans defeated this measure most heavily in the counties that voted strongest for Bush, according to a county by county analysis by my colleague Al Menendez.
Then, too, Californians voted to provide $3 billion for embryonic and other stem cell research.
It is useful to recap the damage that the second Bush administration will surely try to inflict on church-state separation and religious liberty, the subjects on which this column (in The Humanist magazine) specializes.
The Supreme Court: George II has made it abundantly clear that his two favorite justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the most anti-separation duo ever to serve in the Court. With three or four vacancies expected on the Court in the next four years, expect Bush to nominate clones of these two. On page 4 of Ken Foskett’s new biography, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas, we read: “Senior aides to President George W. Bush, whose father put Thomas on the Court, have consulted Thomas about succeeding William H. Rehnquist as the nation’s next chief justice.”
Now there’s a helluva scary thought! Further, as the lower federal courts are traditionally stepping stones on the way to the Supreme Court, we can expect Bush to flood the Senate with nominees well to the right of the moderates nominated by Bill Clinton, many of whom were turned down by Senate Republicans.
The only protection the country has against Bush’s remaking the federal courts in his own image is the thin blue line of Senate Democrats, hopefully augmented by a few moderate Republicans, who are not afraid to use their one remaining weapon, the filibuster.
Congress: Bush’s congenial Congress can be expected to continue pushing for the privatization of education and social services, a drive intended to compel American taxpayers to support “faith-based” operations exempt from most anti-discrimination rules applicable to public institutions. Bush and his myrmidons are flipping the bird at Ben Franklin’s wise dictum in his Poor Richard’s Almanac exactly 250 years ago: “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one . . . God helps them that help themselves.” Until more Americans wake up, only the courts can halt the worst violations of the spirit and letter of the First Amendment.
Executive Branch: What Bush cannot get done by Congress he tries to do by executive order. One example is his order to allow tax-funded faith-based charities to discriminate in hiring and to promote sectarian religion. Another is his refusal in 2003 and 2004 to deliver $34 million approved by Congress to the UN Population Fund, despite his own advisers’ approval of the grants. Still another is his ideologically and religiously motivated thumbs-down on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. (R.I.P. Christopher Reeve.)
Reproductive Rights: Although Roe v. Wade may not be in immediate peril, Congress, state legislatures, and federal and state courts have slowly and in diverse ways gradually eroded reproductive rights. In December 2003 I addressed the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington, a few days after Bush signed into law a congressional ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions (bans ruled unconstitutional in recent months by federal courts in California, Nebraska, and New York) surrounded by a grinning, exclusively male photo-op cheering section. As I noted to the WNDC audience, if women were proportionally represented in Congress, instead of making up only about 15%, such legislation could not pass. November 2 added only five seats for women.
Bush won on November 2 largely because religious fundamentalists – Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish – were harnessed to a political bandwagon and/or rose to great prominence in one of our historic political parties. Led by unscrupulous “pastors” (etymologically, those who herd sheep or other docile creatures), fundamentalist preachers and televangelists put their version of “faith” ahead of science, reason, common sense, and the nation’s best interests. More moderate, progressive, and liberal Protestants, Catholics, and Jews resonate to what John Kerry said about religious values that support inclusion, fairness, social justice, peace, and deeds (“faith without works is dead”).
In the months and years ahead Humanists and moderate to progressive “people of faith” across the spectrum will need to think, rethink, and strategize to bring our country back on course toward a more egalitarian, free, humane, and progressive path.
– 30 –
Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty and immediate past president of the American Humanist Association, is the author of three new books, Min liv som Humanist (My Life as a Humanist), a Memoir; Somebody Has to Say It, a collection of letters and essays; and Rejoyce, Rejoyce!, a collection of poems. All are available from the author.
Thu 18 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Fallujah in Pictures
I clicked here to send to GeorgeBush@Whitehouse.gov.
I’m not even sure what I wrote to him, my eyes were so bleary with tears, my heart so heavy with grief. After witnessing these searing frames of a slide-show descent-into-hell, entitled Fallujah in Pictures, my adrenaline was pumping so wildly that I was screaming inside. Some of the sweet faces of our Marines looked so familiar, like they’d gone to school with my kids. Some of the sweet faces of ‘the enemy’ twisted, distorted, bloodied, some with neatly trimmed beards and mustaches, looked familiar as well. An incongruous, outstretched, dead arm, pictured from different angles, seemed to be reaching out to cling to life. Bodies inside a Mosque seemed especially shocking; is nothing sacred? That twice-pictured Bougainvillea bush might have been shading a youngster stretched out to rest, except that he had his guts blown out and was lying in pools of his own blood. What is it all about? In none of the pictures was there a single weapon! What ever did this government think it was going to accomplish with this savaging of so-called ‘insurgents’. The infant with his right leg missing made me gasp. Another photo showed a child with bloodied face and missing eye, held in his mother’s arms. I had by then, scrolled down to the bottom of this tragic heart-breaking blog and came upon the little box that invited viewers to send the site to their friends. Yes! Yes! Yes! He should witness these pictures! I poured my grief and anger out in the tiny space allotted for a message and wondered if his aides ever actually deliver to him the truth intended for his eyes. Something made me hesitate for a moment to do a copy-and-paste into Notepad. Then I clicked on the SEND button. Later, I went back to check. Here’s what I had written to him when I forwarded the blog site to GeorgeBush@Whitehouse.gov:
To George Bush, Your decisions that have brought about this needless slaughter pictured here will haunt you and our country forever. You stand shamed before the grieving family of humankind. Search your heart. Do you feel no remorse? What can you do now to halt this horrible mistake? What can you do now to make amends to the survivors? Think about this. The responsibility is yours. This message is from a US Patriot who had always preached love and forgiveness, but who is now livid with rage at this inexcusable vengeful evil that you have caused our beautiful country to unleash upon the world.
Beth K. Lamont, Humanist Chaplain, NGO Representative for the American Humanist Association at the United Nations.
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under General Comments
HOW CAN WE EXPLAIN BUSH’S RISE TO POWER?
In the 40s, righteous and incredulous citizens of this country were newly aghast at the Nazi atrocities! I remember wincing with shame and being overcome with grief upon seeing pictures of emaciated victims who had survived the concentration camps and the bodies of those who had not, all jumbled together in pits, tossed like garbage. I was just a little kid but the nightmare tales echoed in my head and those ghastly pictures penetrated my dreams. I remember practicing being dead. If I could hold my breath long enough to appear dead after they threw me into the pit, they would not shoot me again, and I might survive. I learned to hold very still and to hold my breath a very long time. Living that horror in my imagination was so vivid to me that my tears would sometimes betray me and I feared that I’d be noticed. Empathy still lives in me.
We kept saying “How could the Germans not have known?” These atrocities were committed in their name, for the glory of Germany! How could decent, loving family people allow such hideous acts to be perpetrated in their world? Surely they knew what was going on? Why didn’t they rise up in the streets in protest? Perhaps it was the authoritarian discipline? You know, conditioned from childhood to obey the Father, the Schoolmaster; none of this liberal, permissive stuff. At the Nuremberg Trials we learned how well they obeyed orders. They did what they were told to do. They were patriotic Germans. They were good Germans.
I had quite reasonable German Great Grandparents
They were Charlie Keehner, the village blacksmith in the Gold-Rush days of Roseville, California, and Louisa Oceana (born on the ship coming over to this country) Zeh, who made delicious strudel. Both of them were honest, caring people, revealing no inkling that they might ever have descended from any monstrous hordes of barbarians that in ancient times had savaged whole civilizations.
I had learned a little nursery song in German about a cuckoo bird that was doing just fine until “Ahn cahm ein burser yeager, und shoost de ahma cuckoo, tote! Zim-zala, dim-zala, zim-zala, do-zalza, day.” The murderous implications of this jaunty little song did not even penetrate my five-year old head. I simply delighted in being able to remember all the strange words and being proud to sing it. Only years later did I give pause to the implications of the wanton cruelty I had been singing about: imagine! A hunter shooting a harmless little songbird! Maybe, after all,……those damn Germans?
And now, just think about it! We are those Germans!
Hideous, horrible atrocities are being perpetrated in the name of the citizens of the United States and what are we doing? We are going about our business as usual, as though nothing in our lives has changed. TV reports are conveyed in matter-of-fact style, hardly different from reporting the scores of the World Series. We hear about insurgents and pockets of resistance as though our military forces in Iraq were nobly protecting the Iraqi people from harm. What hogwash! I am so angry about what is being done in our name! Cartoonist Walt Kelly was right when he had wise little Pogo tell the other Swamp People that he had seen the enemy and it was US!
We are not rising up in the streets, raising a ruckus, disrupting traffic, risking arrest, storming the White House, the Pentagon, the TV stations, the radio stations, the newspapers, demanding that the insanity stop and that the truth be told! Where is the outrage? Where is the courage that we expected of the Germans? We thought that they should defy orders and together that they should thwart the military might. We didn’t understand that they, as we, each act as individuals, each being impacted in a separate way, in a community of mixed allegiances. And with each dissenter who defies the authority or the prevailing myth, and dares to speak up, being singly ostracized, or ridiculed, and what ever comes next: prosecuted, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, eliminated?
We Need Courageous, Dynamic, Ethical Leadership to Rally the People!
There can be no mass resistance, or mass movement, when we are being picked off one by one. Each of us needs to be reinforced by agreement from those around us; corroboration of ones’ convictions is necessary. Are we simply herd animals? Like sheep? Like Lemmings, maybe? There need to be strong voices, bold leadership, rousing the people, making an impact, capturing the imagination of others, inspiring agreement, in order to reach a critical mass, to gain power enough to make changes.
As in the Nazi era another giant juggernaut is sweeping without conscience across the landscape, crushing fragile innocent human beings who just happen to be in the way of its path, as it pursues its power-mad, mindless military evil onslaught.
At the new Nuremberg Trials, we may stand shamefaced before the world and plead that we were patriotic obedient Americans. We practiced democracy (maybe we haven’t got it right yet, but we did practice). We lined up faithfully to vote. We protected the unborn and insisted on extending equal rights to only the most deserving. We were fearless in our fight against evil and terrorism.
YES, WE ARE GOOD AMERICANS!
Fri 12 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Elusive UN Millennium Development Goals
UN Millennium Development Goals Taunted by Illusory Goalposts
He mentioned mosquito netting at least ten times; this seemed to encapsulate the stark simplicity and basic needs of impoverished peoples. “Why should these children even be getting Malaria?,” asked Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University Professor, in charge of developing strategies to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, one of which is not to eradicate poverty, but merely to cut hunger in half by 2015.
He was speaking to those gathered in the Chamber for Economic and Social Development at the United Nations, to which non-Governmental Organization Representatives were also invited. We, the NGOs of all nations that lobby for various issues, constitute what is now called “civil society.” I always laugh at this new designation and wonder if that differentiates us from “uncivil society?”
There’s No Quick Fix For These Complex Problems
Dr. Sachs described the uselessness of even talking about access to world markets to promote the economies of the poorest nations when women, and he emphasized women, carry burdens of water and firewood on their heads for endless kilometers. Trucks! That’s it, you might think. They need trucks. But wait a minute…there are no roads. On and on, he described the near hopelessness of getting anything done quickly. What do you do about nitrogen-depleted, arid, rainfall-irrigated soil? How to grow crops to take into town to sell, when you can’t grow enough food to feed your own family?
Thinking and planning has to constantly back-track to bring the whole picture into focus. So, will some fertilizer company donate tons of nitrogen to the cause? And if they do, how far will it go? Even that would be just a drop in the bucket! There’s no quick fix. If we are to really help people begin to make it up to the starting gate in this race, there must be total, and I mean total, commitment! Where do we start? And, here’s an even thornier question: how do we pay for it?
Malaria takes a gigantic toll, as does AIDS and Tuberculosis. All of these are preventable diseases, and mostly treatable, as well, with prompt and adequate intervention, such as: availability of medicine, better nutrition, less-crowded living conditions, efforts to keep children in school, sex education, condoms, empowerment of Women, creating jobs as an alternative to prostitution, and as Dr. Sachs points out, just simply providing mosquito netting. This could even protect 3 or 4 children under a single fifty-cent net! Which manufacturer can afford to step up to the plate and donate many millions of mosquito nets? Or who will buy them and contribute them to the cause? How will they be distributed? Is this doable? Would this be effective? This is just the kind of humanitarian thing that I’d like to see UN Peaceworkers doing.
Children die of preventable childhood diseases. Immunization can be administered if children are lucky enough to live in or near a city, in a country that supports clinics, that has refrigeration for keeping the vaccine, etc., etc. So access to life-saving intervention is totally capricious. How to get the five-cents worth of simple oral hydration salt solution into a child with diarrhea that will keep her or him from dying? Basic sanitation is impossible without water, but even for drinking, just clean, uncontaminated water is a remote and tantalizing commodity.
Please Talk About the Connection Between Power and Poverty?
I’m sitting there taking a few notes and grieving about the inequity and precariousness of world poverty conditions, but the other half of my head keeps screaming: Fallujah! Fallujah! Today the US military is over there attacking Iraq, bombing suspected pockets of potential terrorists, bursting-in doors, terrifying the occupants, killing innocent people, families, children, calling them insurgents. How can we be sitting here in a civilized setting discussing how to make life better for half the people in the world, when the US is on a rampage of aggression, making life a literal hell for a large swath of the other half? Why isn’t Dr. Sachs making the connection between power and poverty? Military spending is counterproductive to the best interests of people of every country. I want to raise my hand and ask him to talk about the Lula tax. War and instruments of war should pay a penalty.
This is total, total, insanity! We are wasting lives! Literally, wasting, wasting, wasting lives! Ours and theirs! Those Iraqis who are humiliated by an occupying military power can be expected to want to defend their honor and their homeland. I know deep in my heart what I would do, and I’m a peace person from way back and an old lady besides, but I can tell you that if New York City were invaded and occupied, I’d not try to run or cower in the basement, I’d stand my ground to defend my territory. I don’t have a weapon, and I don’t believe in killing, but there are some things that I would die for. I’ve rehearsed such a scene in my mind. I wonder if ethically, I’d be a freedom fighter or a terrorist, but to hold off an advancing enemy, I’d get on my rooftop and drop on them the heaviest things that I could get my hands on, for as long as I could, until they took me out!
We Should Be Building Hospitals, Not Bombing Them!
I’m sitting there in the meeting with a headache, listening to horror stories about the unmet needs of people in developing countries, and fuming about the insanity and the waste of US taxpayer resources and waste of people power. I’m thinking about all of our kids who just wanted an education. We’re wasting their lives. Those who were doing their patriotic duty by joining the National Guard are having their careers and businesses ruined and wasted, when they’re required to stay in the service and on active duty, and for what??? We’re over there wasting lives and the good will and reputation that the US might have had in the eyes of the Iraqi people and in the eyes of the rest of the world. We might have gone over there and helped to build hospitals, not bomb them! We might have gone there to bring food. Our kids in uniform would love that role, and they’d have been seen as friends. But all of this is wasted!
Why doesn’t Dr Sachs talk about the inequitable consumption of the world’s resources? I’m listening intently. This would seem to be a natural segue to speak to us of the extra dangers to the Earth’s most vulnerable people: exploitation and pollution, threats to our environment, expansion of the desert, the scarcity of fresh water, the threatened extinction of species, death of the rain forest, death of marine mammals and fish, ruining of the oceans, greenhouse gases, hole in the ozone, climate change, inundation of island states, soil erosion, flooding, even mud slides that take out whole communities. My head hurts. My heart hurts. Danger! Ruin! Waste!
My family will attest to the fact that I’m a real fanatic about waste. I can’t stand waste! I recycle! I take green garbage to the country for a decent burial! I wash and reuse ziplock plastic bags, for god’s sake! I can’t stand the idea of some people having nothing and others having everything and then, adding insult to injury, wantonly wasting it! Even worse, using up all of Earth’s common resources that should be shared, leaving nothing but debt and ruin for our children. This Earth is our home and I feel just as defensive about it being occupied by the enemy, as I feel about defending New York City! I cannot stand the idea of money being wasted on armaments and killing machines! I cannot stand the thought of wasting precious lives! I’m sitting there in the EcoSoc Chamber at the UN with hundreds of concerned people around me listening to the stories of the world’s disadvantaged and my head is pounding with fury about poverty and hunger and the waste of war. Why is Dr. Sachs not making the connection?
The Millennium Development Goals and the Lula Tax on Armaments
Then I heard him say it! He was describing the imbalance in our priorities. He was saying that the Millennium Development Goals wouldn’t fly…it was like an airplane with one heavy wing and one light wing or something like that, and that US military spending was 80 times as much as that which was spent for foreign aid. I kept saying almost aloud, talk about the Lula Tax. Talk about the Lula Tax. He didn’t. There was a question and answer period, during which many, to my mind, almost irrelevant questions were brought up. The phrase ignoring-the-elephant-in-the-room…kept hammering at me. Everyone with whom we shared that elaborate UN chamber knew that a war was raging in Fallujah, and come to think of it, dozens of other places in the world as well, and no one, not one person, made the connection between the lives and resources wasted by military aggression and the cruel hunger and poverty that wages its own deadly war on the people of this Earth.
Although I was waving my hand frantically, I didn’t get called on. I just couldn’t keep the tears from brimming over with the emotion and frustration. At the close of the presentation I approached Dr. Jeffrey Sachs to ask him about the Lula Tax, suggested by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of Brazil, requiring that all manufacture, sales, transfers and purchases of armaments pay a tax that would collect into the fund to eradicate hunger and poverty. He answered in a somewhat subdued tone, looked directly into my eyes, and simply said that the Lula Tax is not a very popular idea around here. We parted with a firm handshake and wished each other good luck! We need it. We have work to do.
~ ~ ~
For additional information about the Millennium Development Goals, please see the following Web pages:
Mon 8 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Election Deception 2004
The events since Tuesday are earth-shaking and unbelievable. The election is a horror story unmatched in fiction. Not only has the American voting public been betrayed AGAIN, the Democrats have been DOUBLY betrayed! How gentlemanly of you, John Kerry, to step aside! No one will ever accuse you of being confrontational. That politeness is important in the Senate, isn’t it? The gentleman from Massachusetts!
I had recoiled at the Republican smear tactics during the campaign, accusing you of flip-flopping! I am repulsed in general by such simplistic, ad hominem distortions of truth. So, I was quick to champion your right to change your mind about important things. And specifically, the wisdom of adjusting a decision to fit new circumstances is always preferable to rigid adherence to dogmatic views; after all, this is what learning is all about.
Well, now, I reserve that right for myself. I tried very hard to honor your integrity, integrity, integrity, wanting to believe that you had the best interests of the people at heart; now I no longer honor your wisdom and sincerity. I am angry! You promised that our votes COUNTED and that every vote would BE counted! You lied!
When you decided that yielding the presidency almost within a few hours of the first announced tallying, no doubt, wishing not to be accused of being a “sore-loser,” you betrayed all of us who counted on YOU to be our standard bearer! Thousands of us…not just yourself…maybe millions of us, invested time…you have no idea how much time, and hope for our country, hope for our future, fighting for you! Fighting for us! You appeared to be the more trustworthy person. During the ordeal with Al Gore, faulty reasoning, about ending the uncertainty by not counting all the ballots cast by the American voters, prevailed. This is the antithesis of Democracy! It boggles my mind! You didn’t have the perseverance to fight for us! You bailed out.
All of your Macho posturing to no avail! So, you are brave enough to take on terrorists (and kill them, for shame!) but when it comes to facing up to King George, and the manipulating Republican machine, and the possibility of long, drawn-out, recounts, challenges, lawsuits, whatever it would take…you turn out to be a wimp, after all! We deserve better than to be treated so disrespectfully. I’m angry at the Democratic leadership also! They gave you bad advice. I will never again vote for a Democratic candidate. WE NEED A PEOPLE’S PARTY!
Bush “Spending His Political Capital”
At the time of this Blog entry, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is issuing warnings that the further invasion of Fallujah will be disastrous and counter-productive, and more disruptive of Iraqi security and the lives of Iraqi civilians than the present siege situation. United States Ground Forces are amassed, after heavy bombing for three days, ready for assault, possibly to level the city, expecting heavy hand-to-hand guerilla warfare.
This is as egregious and immoral and unjustified an attack, on flimsy pretexts, as Hitler’s invasion of Poland. This unethical United States Leadership marks a new low in World history that will indeed “live in infamy!”
Ethical Leadership Is Needed
These thoughtful Humanistic statements have been presented by ethical World Leaders. The following declarations and addresses denote the kind of World Leadership we need. The expression “Family Values” was used in a much distorted and illogical way during the campaign for the November, 2004 election in the US. The plan described below to tax the sale of arms to help eradicate poverty and hunger is in the truest sense the meaning of “Family Values.” Valuing the right to life of children who are already born!
Taxes, Weapons, and Hunger
In January, 2004, in a joint declaration made in Geneva, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of Brazil and President Jacques Chirac of France suggested a tax on arms sales and certain international financial transactions to fund a global drive against hunger and poverty. An estimated 840 million people live in hunger and 1.1 billion people struggle to survive on less than one dollar a day, according to the United Nations.
Targets, called the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs, as they’ve been dubbed, have been set for the year 2015. This includes a target to cut in half the number of people on this Earth who are undernourished. But these goals are still in jeopardy because of sparse funding from governments. There has been alarm that many poor countries would not meet the targets “unless they receive substantial external resources and support.”
The Presidents planned to set up a group of experts which would explore possible new sources of financing to tackle poverty. “We considered it vital to forge a truly global partnership in order to mobilize political will and financial support, engage governments, the UN system and the financial institutions, re-orient development priorities and policies,” the declaration stated. Any new resources would be channeled to “a special fund to combat hunger and poverty,” it added.
The move was welcomed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who urged the international community to refocus on development issues and to “prevent the world from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle”.
~ ~ ~
This is a Proclamation by President Fidel Castro, on the occasion of a protest on May 28, 2004 by the Cuban People, against US tyrannical treatment of Cuba.
Mr. George W. Bush: The million Cubans who are gathered here today to march past your Interests Section is just a small part of a valiant and heroic people who would like to be here with us, if it were physically possible.
We have not gathered in a hostile gesture to the American people whose ethics, rooted in the time when the first pilgrims emigrated to this hemisphere, are well known to us. Neither do we wish to upset the officials, employees and guards of this mission, who are given all the safety and guarantees that a civilized and educated people such as ours can offer while they serve their terms. This is an outraged protest and a denunciation of the brutal, ruthless and cruel measures against our country that your country has just adopted.
We know beforehand what you believe or want to make others believe about those who are marching here. In your opinion they are oppressed masses who yearn for liberty and who have been forced onto the streets by the Cuban government. You completely ignore that no force in the world could drag a dignified, proud people, which has withstood 45 years of hostility, blockade and aggression from the most powerful nation on earth, on to the streets like a flock of animals each one with rope around their neck.
A statesman, or whoever claims to be one, should know that down through history really humane ideas of justice have been shown to be much more powerful than force; force leaves in its wake only dusty, contemptible ruins; humane ideas leave a luminous trail that no one will ever be able to extinguish. Every era has had its own ideas, both good and bad ones, and they have accumulated. But the worst, most sinister and uncertain ideas belong in this era in which we live in a barbarous, uncivilized, globalized world.
In the world that you seek to impose on us today there is not the slightest notion of ethics, credibility, standards of justice, humanitarian feelings, nor of the elementary principles of solidarity and generosity. Everything that is written about human rights in your world, and in the world of your allies who share in plundering the world, is an enormous lie. Billions of human beings live in infrahuman conditions starving, without enough food, medicine, clothes, shoes or shelter and without even a minimum amount of knowledge or enough information to understand their tragedy and that of the world in which they live.
Surely nobody has told you about the tens of millions of children, adolescents, youths, mothers, middle or elderly people who die every year but that could have been saved in this “idyllic Eden of dreams” which is Earth, nor have they told you at what rate the natural conditions for life are being destroyed and that the hydrocarbons which took the world 300 million years to create are being squandered in a century and a half, with devastating effects.
You have only to ask your assistants for precise data on the tens of thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, bombers, smart long range missiles, battleships and aircraft carriers, conventional and non-conventional weapons in your arsenals which are enough to wipe out all life of the planet.
Neither you nor anyone else would ever be able to sleep again. Neither would your allies, who are trying to emulate your military build-up. If your allies low responsibility coefficient, political talent, inequality between their respective states and their infinitesimal inclination to reflect in the time they have left between protocols, meetings and advisors, are taken into account, those who have the destiny of the world in their hands can harbor few hopes when, half puzzled half indifferent, they gaze upon the real madhouse that world politics has become.
The purpose of these words is not to offend nor insult you: but since you have set out to intimidate, to terrorize this country and eventually to destroy its socio-economic system and independence, and if necessary its very physical existence, I consider it my elemental duty to remind you of a few home truths.
You have neither the morality nor the right, none whatsoever, to speak of freedom, democracy and human rights when you hold enough power to destroy humanity and are attempting to install a world tyranny, side-stepping and destroying the United Nations Organization, violating the human rights of any and every country, waging wars of conquest to take over world markets and resources and installing decadent and anachronistic political and social systems which are leading the human race into the abyss.
There are other reasons why you cannot mention the word democracy: among these is the fact that everyone knows you became president of the United States through fraud. You cannot speak of freedom because you cannot conceive of a world other than one ruled by fear of the lethal weapons which your inexpert hands might rain down on humanity. You cannot speak of the environment because you are completely ignorant of the fact that the human race is in danger of disappearing.
You label a tyranny the economic and political system that has guided the Cuban people to higher levels of literacy, knowledge and culture than those in the most developed countries in the world. The same that has reduced infant mortality to a rate lower than that of the United States and whose population is provided with all healthcare and education services and with other extremely important social and human services free of charge.
Listening to you talk of human rights in Cuba has a hollow, absurd ring. This, Mr. Bush, is one of the few countries in this hemisphere where not once in 45 years has there been a single case of torture, a single death squad, a single extrajudicial execution or a single ruler who has become a millionaire through having held power.
You lack the moral authority to speak of Cuba, a dignified country which has withstood 45 years of a brutal blockade, economic war and terrorist attacks which have cost thousands of lives and ten of billions of dollars in economic losses. You are attacking Cuba for petty, political reasons, trying to obtain electoral support from a shrinking group of renegades and mercenaries who have no ethical principles whatsoever. You lack the moral right to speak of terrorism because you are surrounded by a bunch of murderers who have caused the death of thousands of Cubans through terrorist methods.
You do not hide your contempt for human life, because you have not hesitated to order the extrajudicial death of a secret, unknown number of people in various parts of the world. You have no right whatsoever, except for that of brute force, to intervene in Cuba’s affairs and, whenever the fancy takes you, to proclaim the transition from one system to another and to take measures to make this happen. This people can be exterminated -it’s as well you know this- or wiped off the face of the earth but it cannot be subjugated nor put once again into the humiliating position of a United States neo-colony.
Cuba fights on the side of life in the world; you fight on the side of death. Whereas you kill countless people with your indiscriminate, pre-emptive surprise attacks, Cuba saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, mothers, old and sick people all over the world. The only thing you know about Cuba are the lies that spill forth from the ravenous mouths of the corrupt and insatiable mob of former Batista supporters and their descendents who are experts in electoral fraud and capable of electing President of the United States someone who did not obtain enough votes to claim victory.
Human beings are not aware of nor can they be aware of freedom in a regime of inequality like the one you represent. No one is born equal in the United States. In the black and Latin ghettos and on the reservations for the natives who once inhabited that land but were exterminated, there is no other equality but that of being poor and excluded.
Our people, educated in solidarity and internationalism, do not hate the American people nor do they want to see young white, black, Native Americans, mestizo or Latin soldiers from that country die, young people driven by unemployment to enlist in the military to be sent to any corner of the world in traitorous, pre-emptive attacks or in wars of conquest.
The unbelievable torture applied to prisoners in Iraq has rendered the world speechless. I do not seek to offend you with these words, as I have already said. My only hope is that in your leisure time one of your assistants would bring these truths to your notice, even though they may not be completely pleasing to you.
Since you have decided that the die is cast, I have the pleasure of saying farewell like the Roman gladiators who were about to fight in the arena: Hail Cesar, those who are about to die salute you! My only regret is that I would not even see your face because in that case you would be thousands of miles away while I shall be in the frontline to die fighting in defense of my homeland.
In the name of the Cuban people, Fidel Castro Ruz.
~ ~ ~
This is a Humanist address sent from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the United Nations on the occasion of the General Debate of the 59th Session of the General Assembly in New York, September 2004.
Through Foreign Minister Jean Ping, of Gabon, I greet the representatives of all peoples gathered here today. I fraternally salute Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been guiding the work of the United Nations with wisdom and devotion.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the second time I address this universal assembly on behalf of Brazil. I have a life-long commitment to those silenced by inequality, hunger and hopelessness. To them, in the powerful words of Franz Fanon, the colonial past has bestowed a common legacy: “If you so desire, take it: the freedom to starve to death”.
Today, we are 191 Nation-States. In the past, 125 of us were subjected to the oppression of a few powers, which originally occupied less than 2% of the globe. The end of colonialism confirmed, in the political arena, the right of peoples to self-determination. This Assembly is the highest expression of an international order based on the independence of nations.
Political transformation, however, has not been transposed to the economic and social fields. And history shows this will not happen spontaneously. In 1820, the per capita income of the richest nation in the world was five times greater than that of the poorest one. Today, this disparity reaches 80 to 1. The former subjects have become perpetual debtors in the international economic system. Protectionist barriers and other obstacles to balanced trade, aggravated by the concentration of investments, knowledge and technology, have followed colonial domination.
A powerful and all-encompassing invisible cogwheel runs the system from afar. It often revokes democratic decisions, shrivels the sovereignty of States, and imposes itself to elected governments. It demands that legitimate national development projects be renounced. The perverse logic of draining the needy to irrigate the bountiful still stands.
In the past decades, an ill-inclusive and asymmetric globalization has deepened the devastating legacy of poverty and social regression, which now bursts into the agenda of the 21st Century. Today, in 54 countries the per capita income is lower than what it was ten years ago. In 34 countries, life expectancy has decreased. In 14, a greater number of children starve to death.
In Africa, where colonialism resisted until the twilight of the twentieth century, 200 million people are caught in an existence marked by hunger, disease and neglect, to which the world has become oblivious, numbed by the routine of the distant suffering of others. Lack of basic sanitation has killed more children in the past decade than all military conflicts since the end of World War II.
Love cannot spring from cruelty. Peace will never rise from poverty and hunger. The hatred and senselessness that spread throughout the world feed on despair, on the absolute lack of hope for many peoples. This year alone, more than 1,700 people have died as a consequence of terrorist attacks around the world; in Madrid, Baghdad, Jakarta. Those are tragedies that must be added to so many others: in India, in the Middle East, in the United States, and, more recently, the barbaric slaughter of children in Beslan. Mankind is losing the fight for peace.
Only the enlightened values of Humanism, applied with clarity of mind and determination, will be able to counter barbarism. The situation imposes on peoples and leaders of the world, a new sense of collective and individual responsibility. If peace is our goal, it is our task to build it. I firmly believe that the process launched will heighten the level of the fight against world poverty. As we advance in this new alliance, we shall have better means to attain the Millennium Development Goals, especially with regard to the eradication of hunger.
It was in this same spirit of contributing to the reduction of poverty that Brazil, India and South Africa established, last year, the IBSA Fund for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation. Our first project will be implemented in Guinea Bissau. HIV/AIDS and its nefarious connection to hunger and poverty, is also a priority. Our International Cooperation Program with other developing countries in combating HIV/AIDS is now operational in six countries, and will soon be extended to another three.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am fully aware of the serious security problems that pose a threat to international stability. There seems to be no perspective for improvement in the critical situation in the Middle East. In this and in other conflicts, the international community cannot allow violence – whether sponsored by States or other actors – to prevail over democratic dialogue. The Palestinian people are still far from achieving the self-determination they are entitled to. The profound causes of our insecurity are complex. The necessary fight against terrorism cannot be conceived strictly in military terms. We must develop strategies that encompass both solidarity and firmness, while strictly respecting International law.
On this basis, Brazil and other Latin-American countries have responded to the call of the United Nations and engaged in the stabilization efforts in Haiti. If we seek new paradigms in international relations, we cannot shirk from addressing the concrete situations that emerge. The promotion of equitable development is crucial to addressing the centuries-old causes of Haitian instability.
In spite of its grave social and economic problems, a culture of peace prevails in our region. Our continent is undergoing a period of democratic coming of age, with increasing involvement of a vibrant civil society. We have learned that development and social justice must be sought with determination and openness to dialogue. Instability bouts in our region have been dealt with in strict respect of institutions.
Whenever requested, and within its means and capabilities, Brazil has given its contribution to help friendly countries overcome crises that have threatened their constitutional order and stability. We do not stand for interference in domestic affairs, but neither can we condone omission and indifference in face of situations that affect our neighbors. Brazil is committed to the establishment of a politically stable, prosperous and united South America, on the basis of strengthening MERCOSUL and of its strategic relationship with Argentina. Thanks to decisive initiatives in structural, economic, commercial, social and cultural integration, the possibility of a Community of South-American States is no longer a distant dream.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Brazil is at work in multilateral negotiations with a view to reaching just and equitable agreements. At the last meeting of the World Trade Organization, we took a fundamental step towards the elimination of abusive restrictions that hamper developing countries. Coordination among countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America in the G-20 was decisive for keeping the Doha Round on the right track of trade liberalization with social justice. A successful Doha Round could take more than 500 million people out of poverty. It is essential to carry on building a new world economic and commercial geography which, while maintaining the vital ties to developed countries, allows for the establishment of solid bridges among the countries of the South, which have remained isolated from one another for too long.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Brazil is committed to the success of the International Climate Change Regime. We are developing renewable sources of energy. That is why we shall continue to actively strive for the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. South America contains around 50% of world biodiversity. We stand for combating biopiracy as well as for the negotiation of an international regime for sharing the benefits derived from the utilization of genetic resources and traditional knowledge.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I reiterate what I stated from this very rostrum last year: only an international order based on multilateralism can promote peace and the sustainable development of nations. It must be based on a constructive dialogue among different cultures and world visions. No organ is better suited than the UN for ensuring the world’s convergence towards common goals.
The Security Council is the only source of legitimate action in the field of international peace and security. But its composition must reflect today’s reality – not perpetuate the post-World War II era. Reform proposals that simply dress the current structure in new clothes and do not provide for an increase in the number of permanent members are manifestly insufficient. The difficulties inherent to any reform process must not make us lose sight of its urgency.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
There will be neither security nor stability in the world until a more just and democratic order is established. The community of nations must give a clear and urgent response to this challenge. We can find such a response in the wise words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace”. Thank you.
~ ~ ~
Tue 2 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under GeneralComments Off on Message to John Kerry
On Election Eve: Here’s what I’ve written to the man whom I believe will be our new President. I’ve asked for him and those who work with him to take the world-wide Peace Movement very seriously, and to consider that the US is one nation in the family of nations. Considering, as well, that if we are ever to provide respected world leadership, we must make respectful, ethical decisions, after realistically evaluating the consequences of these decisions.
Dear John Kerry, Theresa Heinz Kerry, Supporting Friends and Folks who advise the Kerry Campaign,
We appreciate all your hard work and your difficult task of appealing to the varied spectrum of the American voting public, but we beg of you to not abandon the Peaceniks who were first inspired by you many years ago.
We were saddened at your tacit endorsement of Bush’s war. When you say so boldly, “I will Kill terrorists,” knowing that this is meant to convey Macho strength to those who fear the super-hyped threats, you are buying into Bush’s unethical stance. You are merely countering his own flawed leadership, instead of rising above the situation, by taking the moral highground. You can be offering more ethical leadership.
Besides, the distinction between terrorists and those who are defending their homeland is no longer distinct. You can show more wisdom and better long-range leadership. Cerebral not muscular!
Those of us who work with the international community at the United Nations wish that you would flat-out renounce Bush’s lies and boldly disassociate yourself from his flawed decisions. We are counting on you to make better decisions, change the disastrous position of US Foreign Policy, and help to regain the US’s lost respect on the world stage.
Mon 1 Nov 2004
Posted by Beth under General Comments
Comments on the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election Debates
by Beth K. Lamont
October 27, 2004
PERHAPS our Primate relatives handle social/ethical situations just as clumsily, and in as varied a fashion, as we humans do. The worrisome tales of cannibal chimps come to mind, and on the other hand, the news of the nurturing mother gorilla who rescued and cradled the human child. I’d always mused that, considering our human foibles, the apes, if they survive, may do a better job of getting along with each other than we have. We seem likely to succumb to self-inflicted extinction, whereby we blunderingly bomb ourselves into mushroom-shaped oblivion. There is some present Human leadership that seems beguiled by Strangelovian illogic. I fear that Homo Sapiens might be rendered into Homo Interruptus, just another aborted experimental branch of Primates, who like Neanderthal, somehow couldn’t adapt to the prevailing stressful conditions of its time. Nature’s command is unforgiving and remains the same: adapt or die!
OBEDIENCE TO QUESTIONABLE AUTHORITY
So the age-old debates over the nature of Human Nature and whether or not we are hard-wired for aggression, may be rendered moot, and our lovely evolutionary experiment halted right in the ascendancy of its career. And we have, oh, such beautiful brains! The delicate and exquisitely creative thought processes and the inspiring, emotional expressions of the human muse are limitless. What a shame if fear and sheep-like obedience to questionable authority stifles our courage to make changes, and this cowardice snuffs us out! Or perhaps, even worse, and believe me, things could get worse, makes us wish we were dead. The human brain enveloped in barbed-wire is a symbolic image that flashes in my mind.
According to Richard Dawkins, obedience in children, has been a built-in preservative of the human species, as in “Don’t go near the cliff.” It also made us pliant to questionable authority, as in “Don’t ever venture over the mountain,” We’re still vulnerable to childish gullibility, sometimes into adulthood, continuing to believe in fairy tales, blithely accepting silly sound-bites of nonsensical misinformation, or worse, allowing ourselves to be intimidated by power. Perpetuation of the illusion that, in defiance of the laws of nature, some mythical entity will carry specially-selected Humans off, in a rapture, I’ve heard it called, to some safe, never-never land where these superior Humans never, never die, is really a myth that is hampering the Human maturing process.
Leadership that takes adult responsibility for ethical behavior and logical thinking is vital to our survival. What a strange paradox: we recognize that in order to mature, a child must learn the consequences of her/his behavior. Yet, we allow our leaders to jeopardize us with immature, unethical, illogical thinking and actions. It is really a matter of survival! What can we do differently? How can we Humans adapt to the threatening reality of our changing circumstances? Nature’s relentless rule remains the same: adapt or die!
DESCENDENTS OF SURVIVORS
Carl Sagan mused that those ancestors who couldn’t do the instant polynomial calculations about the distance from one tree branch to the next, dropped to the forest floor and were never heard from again! He asserted, even bragged, that we are the descendents of survivors! If there were ever a time for us to get out our calculators and re-estimate the arc of our trajectory, this is it! We’re in trouble! Hatreds rage! Unethical behavior abounds! Insanity and vengeance prevail!
And the question remains unanswered. Are we savage? Are we civilized? And what even do these words mean anymore? In my primitive days, upon feeling threatened or to protect my children, I might have wielded a stick or stone to bash the beans out of my fellow cave-dweller, and today, in my high-tech mode, I can, upon feeling threatened, or when ordered to, with one trigger-finger, destroy the whole cave, or the whole village, along with its inhabitants. Is one of these behaviors primitive? Is one of these behaviors evolved or ethical?
Apparently I am no wiser now than I was then, in discerning distinctions between terrorists and freedom fighters. One, a justified defender of one’s beliefs and one’s homeland, and the other, a torturing, fanatic bent on wreaking revenge and who is sending a fierce message to “the enemy.” And what of inter-generational enmity, seeking vengeance for the real or perceived historical wrongs from centuries past? How to halt the perpetuation of such a cycle of violence? In our thousands of years of evolution, from savage to civilized Human beings, should we not have evolved into wiser beings? Like the kids traveling in the back seat, we might ask plaintively, “Are we there yet?”
LEARNING ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
Lawrence Kohlberg concluded that there are progressive levels of moral development from fear of punishment and anticipation of reward to finely tuned considerations of ethical principles. In the schoolyard we learned some rudiments of ethical behavior: The parental admonition, “make nice and share your ball,” makes sense; it means we all get to play. Ethical observations like not hurting others since we don’t like to be hurt, seem fair and reasonable, even to a child. A sad and shocking vignette plays again and again in my mind’s eye: I once observed a mother’s response to her squabbling daughters, with a “smack-upside-the-head” to the eldest, and a loud and vehement announcement of, “I’ll teach you to hit your little sister!” And so, of course, she did.
The newly formed International Criminal Court pondered the dilemma of remaining ethical while punishing perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity. If killing is unethical, then killing killers is also unethical. The Court has opted instead for life-sentences, confiscation of property and restitution for survivors. This is a step in the right direction on the world stage. It envisions a day when, hopefully, age-old immunity to consequences is no longer granted to powerful perpetrators of unethical behavior, and will no longer be tolerated by Humans.
The perplexing perennial problem, however, of how to stop bullies, whether in the schoolyard or on the world stage, is no closer to a solution. Even though victims will always cheer when a bully gets his comeuppance, there’s no denying that a bully’s power itself, is awesome. A prevailing problem is that others wish to associate themselves with it. It attracts those who want a piece of that power. Never mind that an action may be simply a show of force, an adolescent flexing of muscle, totally devoid of any mature ethical principles. Power takes on a life of its own. The phrase Shock and Awe comes to mind. This, alas, is the stuff that empires are made of. One would only hope that humans have evolved beyond this phase.
THE MACHO STANCE
Unfortunately, the image of Man the Mighty Hunter prevails. This muscle-flexing Macho stance may look more like a cowboy these days, but the image is the same. Whether it’s an inarticulate teenager punching out someone who’s “dissed” him, or an elegant chief executive officer dealing a devastating corporate blow with his decision, it’s the same wielding of power. It is man against adversity, whatever the threat may be. The myth of Man the Mighty Hunter, still prevails, and one can find evidence of it even in some anthropological theories that, if it were not for this powerful, action-oriented, manly mind-set, Humans would not have survived.
Well, I beg to differ with the myth! Where the heck was Mrs. Mighty Hunter, meanwhile, while our hero was out doing battle? You know it! She was home taking care of the kids! She was the provider of the nurturance that really sustained the Human species. She was the keeper of the flame, the gatherer of the roots and berries, the tender of the young, the injured, sick and elderly. Without this nurturance, there would have been no ongoing existence, no home-base that needed protecting. Even with nomads there needed to be mobile mothering, or we surely would have become extinct long ago.
And so, what’s new? Today, Mrs. Mighty Hunter is still optimistically giving birth and nurturance to the children, who, if they are even lucky enough to stave off hunger long enough to grow up, may become either the victims or the perpetrators of violence. And this, because we still allow ourselves to be cowed or lured before the display of power. This primitive Macho culture of manly physical response to danger is a behavior that evolved in our Human baby stage. In the childhood of Humankind, we had no answers to our questions, no accumulated wisdom to address our dilemmas, so we did what children do: in the absence of knowledge and experience, we made things up! We had no science, no psychology, so we improvised, and we did the best we could. And for that phase of our evolution, it seemed to work pretty well; in some ways, remarkably well. Humans survived as a species against a lot of odds.
A FOUR-MILLION-YEAR CHILDHOOD?
We can be forgiven for our violent, confused, adolescent growing-up stages, even the need for the authority of vengeful, unseen gods to back us up. You know, the old ploy: “My father can beat up your father!” But what’s our excuse now? Have we yet acquired the wisdom and the will to progress and evolve into the adult behavior that one would expect of an ethical Human species?
Let’s get it straight. I dislike demeaning your gods, Allah, Yahweh, whoever, but if I were going to cite the authority of any supreme being, I’d choose an ETHICAL ONE! Not one who is into vengeance, or who demands an eye for an eye, or sends curses upon humans, or welcomes to its throne, martyrs who have murdered for the cause. No way! If I worshipped any supernatural connection to the universe it would be the one that champions compassion, love, nurturance, respect, equality, equitable treatment, fairness, sharing, forgiveness, and one that would enable and encourage Humans to live rich lives of fulfillment and joy, developing all of their talents and potential, and living out their days unharmed.
I watched in despair as two men, the leader, and the would-be leader, of the most wealthy, powerful, and previously respected Nation on the face of this Earth, speaking in an age of modern miracles, fraught with amazing possibilities for the betterment of Humankind, men who might even have envisioned for us, a future of peaceful and productive existence, who stood before us on television and who proclaimed to all the people of the world, their own belief in god. Apparently, they referred to the same god. What kind of god? A primitive god? They even issued “god-bless-you”s. Incredulously, from the same civilized lips, they both spoke of killing!
So, how does integrity, integrity, integrity, and belief in god translate into ethical or unethical behavior? I might have been comforted somewhat, if instead of promising to kill, there had at least been reference to BRINGING TERRORISTS TO JUSTICE.
There are now 191 nations dealing with world problems, most of which are willing to sacrifice some measure of sovereignty, in order to create a system that can bring equitable justice to the long-suffering human beings on this Planet. I grieve for all of the mothers and the fathers and the beautiful and precious lives, young and old, that are being wasted, wasted, wasted! Damn the unethical gods that condone this! Do you hear me? You believers in this god! Hear the cries of anguish! These precious lives are wasted! Wasted! And for nothing!
What it really boils down to is this: We Humans aspire to an ethical way of life. We have demonstrated this. The Human beings of this world gathered by the millions to say no to war. Our voices were not heard. We have not yet prevailed! Sadly, we are wiser than our lagging leaders. This can only mean one thing!
WE HAVE EVOLVED! WE ARE ETHICAL! WE NEED ETHICAL LEADERSHIP!
(This entry was originally published on the Humanist Society of Metropolitan New York Web site on October 27, 2004 at this URL.)