terça-feira, janeiro 24, 2006

Changing the World: One at a Time

Jonathan Chaplin, in his article “Letting Justice and Peace Embrace,” says, “Issues of justice transcend what individual citizens or organizations can deal with.” So when it comes to justice in times of conflict or adversity, who does take responsibility? Is a resolution going to come as a result of state government action, of world government action, of organization or from the average individual? Who is responsible for change and how does change happen? The time for change in the world is now and “work for peace is accomplished not by contemplators but by people of action, builders and workers willing to get their hands dirty. (Elias Chacour)” The time for change is now, but who are the people of action?
The first statement made in times of change is that of planning. There are several aspects to planned change, but all include the “conscious utilization and application of knowledge as an instrument or tool for modifying patterns and institutions of practice. (Bennis 33)” Education is key in combatting injustice. One must know how to process the issues and then how to act upon them. For change to occur, the parties involved must know and take an effort to familiarize themselves with the situation and the opposite party. It takes an active education and then an active response. “Peace needs no contemplators,” says a character in Hotel Rwanda, “it needs actors, people who are willing to get their hands dirty, to get up and do something. The same is true for justice.”
The fortold aspects of change are arranged in three different categories. The first is a very Western approach and some call it the “empirical-rational strategies.” This plan assumes that men are rational and wil “follow their rational self-interest once this is revealed to them.” (Bennis 34) Examples of this can be shown in the general view of the United Nations. While this may not be the exact definition of its function, the UN does theoretically have an element of appeal beyond political means that it often attempts to utilize. In its existence, it does indeed allow the movement of many bodies of aid to the hungry and needy, appealing and supporting the stand of Non-Governental Organizations (NGOs) and allowing them times of speech. The key, I believe, in allowing NGOs their place in the UN is that their information “receives grater acceptance by the public and the media, and wider use within the UN system. (Tessitore 201)” These aspects are an asset to global cooperation and understanding on a humanitarian level as opposed (at some points) to the political level which sometimes attempts a greater power. “It is instructive to realize that time and again it was the nongovernmental sector that provided the key strategic, technical, and organizational leadership for developing human rights norms and procedures. (Tessitore 201)”
In a review of the past fifty years, I believe it is important for Christians to not and take to heart the participation of the church in the creation of the Commision on Human Rights, which was initiated by a partnership of the American Jewish Committee and the Federal Council of the Church of Christ. This charter has since branched into several humanitarian committees within the UN, which have also supported several NGOs which have continued to provide relief for desperate times and people. (Tessitore 200-203) There have, however, been failures within the UN which perhaps come from a variety of levels. These are, perhaps speculations to situations which are in the past, however, they point to some other responsibility beyond the control of even a world council. The first failure was, in fact, that which provoked the necessity and movement towards an official stance from the UN on humanitarian issues. There has indeed been a failure of treaties which have been geared towards protection of minorities, but have failed in this “world stoked by hatred and dehumanization. (Tessitore 201)” The other issues have much to deal with the participation of the participants of the UN, those being the governments which make up the majority of the council, which leads to the second aspect of change.
The second aspect is the “application of power in some form, political or otherwise.” This is primarily dealing with law and administrative power and their abilities and attempts to evoke change through the leadership roles enforced. (Bennis 34) Some of the difficulties in applying this method towards change is that “the use of political institutions to effect changes arises from an overestimation by change agents of the capability of political action to effect change in practice.” Adding to that is the idea that whatever may be passed by the government to change some things that have become norms within the culture must also be accepted into practice by the people who carry it out. The effectiveness of the government is based solely of the effectiveness of the next aspect of change—the re-education of those who are in relation and take responsibility and acceptance of the said policy or law. (Bennis 54)
This also, however, heavily relates to the role of government in the humanitarian issues of the UN. States in its membership have not worked to benefit the system, which is evidenced in “an increasing reluctance to grant asylum…” and “failure to negotiate safe passage. (Tessitore 204)” For the interests of the government, the humanitarian aspects of the UN have been downplayed and NGOs are found to be occassionally fighting for their speaking opportunities within the General Assembly.(Tessitore 200)
One of the most rigid and obvious stains facing this failure towards action has been the conflict in Rwanda and the conflict which now continues in Darfur in Sudan. During this period of 100 days, mass genocide occurred in a form that the world had vowed never again to allow when the Hutus murdered almost one million Tutsis until they were stopped by a Tutsi rebel force. As seen in the move Hotel Rwanda, the UN pulled out, found to be unsupported and unheeded by the governments worldwide, and Tutsis were left to die while the Western world turned their heads aside. In an article released by the Telegraph Group, Hotel Rwanda writer Terri George was quoted in saying that the lack of UN intervention in Rwanda was “one of the greatest collective shames of the rest of the world. …It comes down to racism. An African life is not worth what a European or American life is worth. (These were neighbors)”
Critics look to the words and actions of the government and its officials and see non-action and unwillingness to act. These states, und the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. …Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of this personality is possible.”
Current situations in Africa point to corrupt governments who continue to hoard supposed relief money and efforts, which stunt the growth of the individuals, but which also makes the growth in Africa appear rapid and continuous. According to News Statesman, “If Africa could take 1 per cent more in world trade, it would earn roughly $70bn more annually: that’s three times what it now receives in aid. … In other words, te best intentions will not be enough if western politicians won’t make enemies on Africa’s behalf and persuade their electorates to make sacrifices.”
The individual of the Western world is also criticized for his ignorance. The last aspect, and the one that will be most focused on in this paper, is referred to as “normative-re-educative.” This includes the rationality of men, but is primarily focused on sociocultural norms, which come from the attitudes and values of individuals. The goal of change in this area requires a change in the social norms of a culture and the commitment of individuals to form new ones. (Bennis 34) This aspect of change does not diminish man’s rational capabilities except to say that this intelligence is not as much individual as it is social, which is apparent when one looks at the taboos of a culture. Meanings and accepted traits are communicated through culture and there is a social aspect to individual intelligence. However, there is also a personal level that is internalized and that exhibits evidence of personal habits and values and feelings. The idea behind normative-re-educative change is that the idea must appeal to both the social and personal levels of both the society and the individuals within it. (Bennis 43)
In recognizing groups, there must also be a recognization of the individual within these groups seeing “the person as the basic unit of social organization. …Persons,” Chin and Benne say, “are capable of creative, life-affirming, self- and other-regarding and respecting responses, choices, and actions, if conditions which thwart these kinds of responses are removed and other supporting conditions developed.” The key to the movement of a community is an interaction between the organization (whether it be political, religious or otherwise) and the individual motivating each other into actition and functioning together. (Bennis 48)
America, for example, has the power, the potential, and the constitution which allows and challenges many to move throughout the world in aid. In the formation of the humanitarian branch of the UN, it was said that Americans put the pressure on—each individual to persuade the movement of humans to better humanity. “I said that the voice of America was speaking in theis room as it had never spoken before in any international gathering,” said Fredrick Nolde of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ; “that that voice was saying to the American delegation: ‘If you make a fight for these human rights proposals and win, there will be glory for all. If you make a fight for it and lose, we will back you up to the limit. If you fail to make a fight for it, you will have lost the support of American opinion—and justly lost it. In that event, you will never get the Charter ratified. (Tessitore 202)”
What has happened to that America that the country now relies on domestic matters disregarding international relations altogether? If change is initiated by knowledge, then I would go as far to say that the American public is ignorant of the international field. In a country that pledges to fight for humanity and diversity, why do her occupants forget Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “ Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration. No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of te country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
“The U.S. government,” Chaplin says, “urged on by its citizens—will need to think less in terms of protecting its own national interests, still less of guaranteeing security against any possible future threat, and more of humbly accepting leadership in the challenge to promote multifaceted, global public justice.” Is this practical—something that can be asked of a government run by so many individuals? Perhaps not. Perhaps the whole idea of government relies on a sense of selfishness for one’s own.
However, there is yet an institution not mentioned is the church. This is an institution without excuse, with a background supporting selflessness and service. Films throughout the years have portrayed missionaries who, when governments pulled out or attacked, have stayed with their people to the end. Illustrations such as The Mission, Tears of the Sun, and modern-day examples of the two women imprisoned in Afghanistan for their faith demonstrates the potential of Christianity were it to do its mission full-force. The church has the man-power and motivating force to move people throughout the world. However, again, “Man must participate in his own re-education if he is to be re-educated at all. (Bennis 43)” How does this happen? How can a single individual make an impact? Look at Gandhi, Elias Chacour, and Martin Luther King. These are people from all different stages of emergency, conflict and problem solving and they took a stand against it—the individuals are the mobilizing force on issues.
An article summarizing some of the teachings of Elias Chacour is a terrific demonstration of the role of a Christian and that role is one of responsibility saying, “What happens to my brother is my own responsibility,” and that every man was made in the image of God. This responsibility can be seen evidenced in the students of Chacour when they donated blood to Israelis who were victims of suicide bombings and encouragement was found in the ideas that “Palestinaian blood is flowing in Jewish veins,” exclaims Chacour. Chacour reminds Christians that thought their voices will not be loud, they must be true and must plant peace in the next generation. He was told by a high ranking Israeli official after some of his work that, “we need Christians to be a bridge between Jewish and Muslim worlds.” It’s a dangerous role, but one that perhaps only Christians can fill in showing Christ’s teachings and exemplifying the “most basic premise—that peace cannot be achieved without justice, and justice is impossible without compassion.”
Www.Savedarfur.com is a site emphasizing taking action to prevent the situations such as those which occurred in Rwanda—situations which are occurring currently around the world. Actions can take form in collecting signatures pressuring representatives to respond to the situation, demonstrations, donating money to relief efforts, fasting as a fundraiser (saving the money that would be spent on meals and donating it to the cause),holding a fundraiser or benefit, inviting experts to group sessions (such as some that have already been on ONU’s campus), meeting as a delegation with members of Congress, organize a video presentation with brochures to spread the word, post flyers, push local councils and communities to call upon UN and US action, and educate, educate, educate.
Keep in mind that ignorance is, indeed, bliss. Some of the best breeding grounds for injustice are those to which the world turns a blind eye. And some of the most effective motivators to action include educating one’s self and others about the events happening or that have happened in the world. Can an individual live in true peace once he or she has experienced the injustices around the world and recognized and owned a part in responsibility for it? “The real problem,” Chacour says, “is that Western theology starts with man as the center of all things and tries to force God into some scheme that we can understand.” If Western theology is going to accept such responsibility upon man, then it is evident there should be more responsibility taken for change.
“God demand[s] that [we] demonstrate His own character to the whole world,” says Chacour, “that [we] show forth the face of God in every action from the way [we] conduct [our] government down to the use of fair weights and measures in the marketplace. (Chacour)” If America’s goal is diversity, if true Christianity is our goal, if God’s will is what we seek, and if humanity is whom the UN serves, then it’s about time that each would demonstrate that which they are so fond of saying. Let’s put words behind actions, governments behind policies, action behind memberships and in uniting something can truly happen. Change can indeed occur, but until the world begins to truly care, nothing will change. And the world cannot begin to care if the people in it do not begin to care. In the words of Elias Chacour, the change begins because of “chang[ed] hearts, not simply institutions.”
However, change does not occur when individuals close their eyes and their hearts. In te movie Beyond Borders, Nick (the main male character) talks about the dynamics of change and what happens when one takes upon himself the responsibility for change. “That’s us right,” he asks? “We drown [the cold]. Kill it. Numb it, anything not to feel. You know, when I was a doctor in London, no one ever said ‘medahani.’ They don’t thank you like they thank you here. ‘Cause here they feel everything, straight from God. There’s no drugs, no painkillers. It’s the weirdest, purest thing—suffering. And when you’ve seen that kind of courage in a life… in a child… How could you ever want to do anything but just hold him in your arms.”

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