We need to learn to think.  Urgently.  Not just as individuals but also as governments and international organisations.  We need to learn to see both our immediate reality while still keeping an eye on where we want to be in the future.

The recent talks in Istanbul between Iran and members of the United Nations Security Council (P5+1) regarding Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities attracted many human rights demonstrators.  These people were advising the UN not to barter away human rights within Iran in an effort to appease the regime and get ‘promises’ regarding the development of nuclear weapons.

These ordinary people were pointing out that the best way to safeguard the rest of the world vis a vis any threat from Iran is to ensure that Iranian society is democratic and safe because then there will be no issue. The ordinary person in Iran has no interest in bombing anyone so the ordinary person in Iran (and everywhere else) needs to have a voice.

This seems like a fairly obvious point but somehow it is the type of principle that has always been missed by governments negotiating to avoid war.  The Spanish Civil War was ignored by the Allies in Europe in the 1930s – in spite of the fact that Germany and Italy both took an active part in supporting Franco.  Everybody hoped it’d go away.  Everybody ignored what was happening to the Spaniards in the belief that it would be confined to Spain.  Everybody told themselves that the ‘hole’ in the boat was far away.

This was then further enhanced by appeasing Hitler in the hope that that would be enough for him and everything would be OK.  The fact that it didn’t work out all that well is a matter of historical record and attested to by over 60 million deaths.

We need to see that if we compromise our principles – as people and as governments – it will never solve anything and will, ultimately, come back and bite us.  Therefore, it is not only nice, ethical and moral to defend the victims of human rights abuses in Iran and elsewhere – it is also the wisest course of action even in terms of our own self-interest.

Listen to their case for yourself –

Could I Do This?

The truth?
I don’t know.
I agree with the sentiments expressed in this short film and admire these people and their courage and their commitment to action and hope and change for the better but I’m not sure I could be as magnanimous if someone took my child.
But I’d really like if I could.
I don’t admire success or fame or accomplishment. I don’t aspire to be like anybody else really – certainly not in regard to what our societies tell me I should want to emulate. But I do aspire to be as open-hearted, as brave and as far-seeing as these people.

Art for Art’s Sake?

Are children the only people who can really partake in art for art’s sake?  Is it important to do this?  Is it a waste of time?

Many of you will have seen these videos already –  but I hadn’t so just in case I thought I’d post them.  I also thought it might be worth asking ourselves exactly what this boy is doing in the first video?  And why? And if there is a link between his work and the work of the artists in the second video?

Just wondering what you might think…

Continue reading

The Fruits of their Labour

I’ve talked about this before (ages ago) but it strikes me as worth talking about again as it is such a good example of how it is always worth doing what you believe to be right, even when everyone is telling you it won’t change anything.

In July, 1984, a 21 year old cashier in an Irish supermarket – Dunnes Stores- refused to handle two Outspan grapefruit at her checkout. She did this because her union had decided to protest against apartheid in South Africa by not handling South African produce.  The cashier’s name was Mary Manning and she was suspended for her actions.  Ten of her colleagues went on strike to protest  against her treatment and so began a strike that lasted almost three years.

Eventually though, the Dunnes Stores workers prevailed and the Irish government agreed to ban the importing of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was dismantled.

Today in Johannesburg, a street is named after Mary Manning and she and her colleagues have been personally commended by Nelson Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki.

As Margaret Mead, the well-known anthropologist said –

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Every single thing that every single one of us does all of the time matters in the overall scheme of things.  There is no such thing as a deed – good or bad –that doesn’t have some effect somewhere.

Scary?  Maybe.

But heartening too when you think about it.

Better Together

The human limbic system is composed of a number of areas of the brain – such as the hippocampus and amygdala – which are involved in complex realities such as emotion, behaviour, long term memory and interestingly (to me at least) our sense of smell.

This system is an open-loop system – which simply means it is dependent on factors outside itself for regulation.  There has been extensive research done to confirm what everybody already knows – namely that we are deeply affected by other people when it comes to our emotional well-being and stability.

According to Daniel Goleman, author of books like Emotional Intelligence and The New Leaders, this effect is so profound that it registers physiologically as well as emotionally. He says that even patients in intensive care facilities find the presence of another person so comforting that it perceptibly lowers their blood pressure.

“The open-loop design of the limbic system means that other people can change our very physiology – and so, our emotions.” (1)

Time and again, researchers have found that emotions spread through groups, this ‘spread’ can happen non-verbally as well as verbally, and this appears to be the case simply because of the open-loop design.  It seems that we function together whether we like it or not, even when we don’t consciously choose to do so.  It also seems that we need each other – for better or worse – in order to regulate ourselves, internally, as well as manage the world, externally.

The only way we can live, it seems, is to live together.

So – how might we manage that a bit better?


(1) Daniel Goleman, The New Leaders, p. 4

The Power of Unity

This is an amazing talk.

If you are short of time watch the last three minutes – from 15.00 onwards – as there is a beautiful potted version of the entire talk at the end of the presentation.

If you have 18 minutes, watch it all.

It’s worth it.

Alo read a very interesting piece on this very presentation, over at CreativeConflictWisdom’s Blog –

Let’s Dance

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.  – Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s easy to believe in war and injustice

in greed and corruption

in hatred and prejudice and violence.

It’s harder to believe in equity and justice and unity and peace.

But once upon a time…

Slavery was the norm – nobody thought it unreasonable that one human being own another.

Everybody believed women were inferior to men.

White people were genuinely thought to be superior to everyone else.

Appendicitis was usually a death sentence…

The thought of human beings flying was ludicrous and nobody had ever dreamed people all over the world could communicate almost instantaneously…

All change happens because at the very, very start someone believes it is possible.

We see what we believe so if we believe something is possible then we will search and search until we find the way to make it a reality – for better or worse.

So – while peace, love, understanding, equity, and justice might not be that easy to envisage, the first step in attaining any of those things is to believe they are attainable.  Strain your ears until you hear the music and then – dance…


Dynamic Love

Duke University Literary Theorist, Michael Hardt has some very interesting things to say about how we might learn to live together.

In the TVO talk below (it’s not short but it is worth it) he suggests ways to look at the world that might change how we approach our problems.

Firstly, he describes what he calls the multitude.  This, includes everyone – all shapes, sizes, beliefs – all singularities (i.e. people and groups each with distinctive individuality)  working together or, as Michael Hardt very succinctly puts it –

 Multitude = singularity plus cooperation.

He then goes on to suggest that this multitude will operate best if it uses love as its operational mode.

But not just any old love.  Not love exclusively tied up in couple and family relationships, or driven by needs or appetites, or embedded in gain for the lover.  This love is much more than any of those.

This is a love that includes those closest – and furthest – from us.  It isn’t restricted to our partners or children or parents or siblings or neighbours or friends or race or nationality.  This love is a love we extend to everyone.

This love is a love that is both personal and political.

It is a love that is based on differences.  Rather than a love that tries to merge all parts into an homogeneous oneness, this love is an affirmation of singularity.

The passion of this love is not something that happens to us but something we use to power our actions.

Michael Hardt’s hypothesis is that love is the force that animates the multitude – brings it to life.

Vive l’amour.

Out of the Mouths of Babes…

In January 2010, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a group of children aged between 8 and 23 who live in the slums in Nairobi, Kenya, produced a song to raise funds and give hope to their counterparts in Haiti.

Here is the song – the lyrics are printed below the video and are well worth a read.  Enjoy!

children of Haiti
together as one
lets unite, lets make a song
doesn’t matter where you’re from
clap for your life and sing along

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

there’s no limit to how far we can go
a long journey starts with one step
i cant go wrong if i do my best
Doesn’t matter how far you’re from
even beautiful roses grow in the slum
lets share the struggle
lift our heads above the rubble
no more heart aches, no room for doubt
well make it through the earthquakes floods and droughts
no matter how long it takes
lets move now no time to waste

Hard work pays so lets use our talents
more peace in the streets no more violence
we can move mountains
we can fly
and if we don’t give up we will survive
and make the difference


peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

The pain will go, the wounds will heal
its not a dream its very real
i know we will overcome
what is done is done
so let it be
from the smallest seed can grow the biggest tree
and the ones to make that change are you and me
wash the dust from your eyes to see images of love
caring, sharing and joy
its a must we get food, clothing and shelter for every girl and boy
lets play lets grow/lets play lets grow


peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

Want to breath in a world where the air is clean
anything is possible if we work as a team
because it takes a village to raise a child
don’t let the hard times take away your smile
coz your a shinning star just believe i you’re self

there comes a time when we all need help
there’s no shame in that
lets play our part
after the tears comes laughter
no need to fear lets open up a new chapter
A better way to live life

so we can build stronger foundations
we can find hope even in the worst situation
if we stay strong
must hold on
even when you’ve lost you’re family and home
their people who care you’re not alone/ you’re not alone


peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

better education and health care
the right information so we can all be aware
and be better prepared
so keep your head up/keep your head up/ keep your head up


peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

peace love unity power

is the key that we need in life la la la la life

clap clap clap clap for your life

message to the world
please don’t forget them
for now and in the future
don’t let them down
help them out
to build a new life

© Wafalme


The Roots of Rights

On December 10th, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Nowadays, when we think of human rights, what exactly do we think?

Do we think that human rights are nothing to do with us?

That human rights are best left to activists?



Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UN Commission that wrote the UDHR, had a very different vision of human rights –

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Butterfly effects for human rights?