Common Humanity


Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Roméo Dallaire is a Canadian senator, widely known for being Force Commander of UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission In Rwanda) between 1993 and 1994.  He is also known for his efforts to stop the genocide waged by extremist Hutu Rwandans against their moderate Hutu tribesmen and, more especially against the Tutsis who were the other ethnic group in the Rwandan conflict.

During the genocide, with dwindling troops and no help from outside, most of Roméo Dallaire’s efforts were focused on defending areas where he knew Tutsis were hiding.  In spite of the fact that Dallaire had such limited resources and help, he is credited with directly saving somewhere in the region of 32,000 people of different races.

While Dallaire survived the genocide in Rwanda and many of his associates weren’t as lucky, he makes no secret of his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences and is an outspoken supporter of all efforts to tend to veteran’s mental health.

Now, as well as being a senator, Roméo Dallaire has devoted his life to working for human rights and the prevention of genocide.

Dallaire has written two books – Shake Hands with the Devil – The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2004) and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children (2010), a book about child soliders.

Taming Hearts


“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean– ‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”

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The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Beautiful


We are all convinced that our conception of beauty is natural. We think we like what we like, nobody teaches us what to like, either people are beautiful or they aren’t.

But is that really the case?

P.S. All of these girls look absolutely beautiful to me.

Self


We struggle to become ourselves.

We try to create a ‘self’ that will be acceptable to others.

A self that will fit in.

We try and try and try and try and try and try and try –

to become.

But we already are.

Maybe we could just learn to

be whatever it is that we exquisitely, discretely, uniquely are already?

Instead of forcing.

Bending and fashioning and defining.

Maybe

Delve and develop and radiate.

And shine.

(Photograph by UNICEF)

Two Busloads of People


7 billion is a very big number – much too big for any of us to really connect with.  We understand the numbers in theory but it’s hard to really feel the impact of the imbalances in our world when the figures are so huge.

But what if we could see all of the ‘facts’ about our world on a scale to which we can easily relate?

100 people.

Less than two busloads.

Would that change the impact?

Photograph – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/111031-population-7-billion-earth-world-un-seven/

I Could Say Something But It Would Be Redundant


Getting Over It


The year spreads out ahead and it’s clean now.

The slate scrubbed with shame and judgement.

We need mirrors not slates.

To reflect the past

into the present

into the future.

Blank slates make lousy maps. (1)

If we were less afraid to make mistakes would we do more and learn more and understand more?  Would we benefit from what we do – for better or worse – and learn not to value ourselves and others using shaky standards of success and failure as our measure?

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. ~Mahatma Gandhi

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Learning to Live Together


Reciprocity – the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit – is widely recognised as an important feature of successful co-operation but how does reciprocity between ordinary people actually work?

Mary hits Joan.  Joan is angry so she hits Mary back – repaying her in kind.

An eye for an eye.

Tit for tat.

Revenge.

Justice.

Positive and negative, it’s a if there is a hidden balance that must constantly be maintained.  Impulses like revenge solve nothing of course but this striving for reciprocity appears to be deeply rooted within us. It’s naturally occurring and is neither good nor bad in itself – only in its application.

If we look at our instincts as tools to help us survive and develop, rather than tie ourselves up in knots either suppressing or exalting these naturally occurring impulses, then maybe it might be easier to use them properly.

Instincts are simultaneously wonderful and problematic – like any tool. Even a humble hammer is all about application – it is enormously useful and – literally – constructive, if you want to hang a picture or build a cabinet or a wall but in other circumstances it can also be used to destroy or kill.

The solution is not to get rid of hammers but make sure we use them properly.  Just like our instincts.

Imagination


To see things in the seed, that is genius. Lao-Tzu

Peace on Earth – War Children


Emmanuel Jal was born in Southern Sudan c. 1980. By the time he was seven, his father had left to fight with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and his mother had been murdered by government soldiers.

After that he was recruited by the SPLA and trained as a soldier.  For five years he fought with the army, but as the fighting became unbearable Jal and some of the other children ran away.

They wandered for three months, many of them dying on the journey until they reached the town of Waat.  Emma McCune, a British aid worker who was married to a senior SPLA commandant, insisted that at 11, Jal was too young to be a soldier and adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya. There Emmanuel went to school and even though McCune died in a road accident, her friends continued to help him.

Jal began singing to ease the pain of what he had experienced, he also began to work at raising money for street children in Kenya and his first single, “All We Need is Jesus” was a hit in Kenya and received airplay in the UK.

Jal tries to unite young people through his music – he believes that music can help overcome ethnic and religious divisions.  His first album – Gua – is a mix of Arabic, English, Swahili, Dinka and Nuer.  The title – Gua – is a symbol of the unity for which he is striving as it means ‘good’ in Nuer and ‘power’ in Sudanese Arabic.

His second album, Ceasefire, is a collaboration with the well known Sudanese Muslim musician Abd El Gadir Salim.  The collaboration between Jal and Salim demonstrates their vision of unity.  On the album they emphasize their musical differences as a symbol of co-existence.

Jal dedicates his life to the wellbeing of children, believing that music is a vehicle for uplifting the spirit and surviving tragedy.  The commonest theme of his songs is the campaign for peace – particularly in his native Sudan – and his condemnation of using children as soldiers.

A documentary about Emmanuel Jal called War Child was made in 2008 by C. Karim Chrobog. It made its international debut at the Berlin Film Festival and its North American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the Cadillac Audience Award. An autobiography under the same name was released in 2009.

Jal’s charity, Gua Africa, builds schools and tries to help children and Sudanese war survivors.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in relative peace should never underestimate the suffering caused by war or give up working to eliminate it.