Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Humanitarianism in Africa

Thoughts on Returning from a conference at University of California Irvine: Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa

The following points touch on what I’m thinking now but are in no way a summary of what was actually presented at the conference, where numerous viewpoints and opinions were expressed. I believe you can get copies of the actual papers from the Center for Global Peace and Conflict in a few months. More than anything I became cautioned to be conscious of my actions and how they affect others, and to be conscious of my motives and of my expectations.

1. Story is Powerful. Stories create definitions, meanings. What does it mean to be human? What are “Human Rights”? What do caring, assistance, aide, mean to us and to The Other? Who “owns” children- parents, the state- who defines children’s rights? Can we really see The Other or can we only see our story of them? We shouldn’t assume our definitions are the same as The Other’s and that our memories or meanings are the same. As I use it here, “The Other” could be anyone across the table from us, or across the world.

2. Image is Powerful. Will we continue to see The Other’s age, gender, and race? What assumptions do I make on these fault lines? Am I really blind in any of these areas? Do attributes that we can "see" dominante because they are easier than digging beneath the surface to get to know an individual?

3. Duality of interest can create danger. Dualities of interest can exist on many fronts: Government Interests vs. Individual Human Rights, Religious Conformity vs. Individual Human Rights, Corporate Profits vs. Human Rights, Economics vs. Human Rights, NGO Sustainability vs. Community Self-sustainability, World Bank Business Principals vs. Human Rights Agendas, The Press Release Sound Bite vs. Real Time to make an Impact, Measurable Return on Investment vs. Immeasurable Needs, and the Collective vs. the Individual. Much lack of progress and outright harm seems to be tied to these dual agendas. Our own agendas are sometimes hidden, even from ourselves, and need to be examined carefully before we take action that will impact others.

4. Solutions for Africa are solutions for everywhere. Victims are everywhere and so are perpetrators and rescuers. The focus of NGOs and Foreign Aide is usually on the victims, but don’t we also need to focus on rehabilitation and education of the perpetrators? Approaching a perpetrator with force and use of International Law may be critical to stop the victimization, but what then? For example, how do child soldiers or violent gang members go on from there? How does a country go on without a leader? How does a victim reclaim power without becoming the next perpetrator? How do we break the eye-for-an-eye cycle of violence before an umanageable majority end up in prison?

5. It takes cooperation and resources from every player to progress human rights. The State, the individual, the NGOs, foreign aide, academics, religious organizations, international leaders, and community leaders all have to contribute.

6. None of these thoughts is meant to imply anyone should give up. It is critical each and every one of us realizes and hones our unique skills, then finds the world’s greatest need for those skills. Answering the call to follow our passion will hopefully empower others to do the same.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fundamental Human Rights

I honor of International Human Rights Day, I am re-posting my list of Seven Fundamental Human Rights

If these are actualized, I believe peace, love, education, and health will naturally follow for all.

My List of Seven Fundamental Human Rights

Right to worship as you see fit
Freedom from Hate Crimes
Protection from Unprovoked Violence
Meaningful Productive Work
A Nurturing Environment (nutritious food, clean air & water, and shelter)
A Voice in your Community

This is my opinion. I encourage you to make your own list and not to grapple with other’s lists too much. This helped me clarify my values and affects how I vote and donate money. It focuses my time as I follow international affairs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How to Survive Waking Up from the American Dream

It's an important time to remember that you are not your job, you are not your credit rating, and you are not your balance sheet. None of these things can give a person genuine peace of mind or joy. Only things that cannot be taken away from you by any outside force, things like your values and your love for your family and friends, can be relied on regarless of whether times are good or bad.

Here is a process that I use to center myself, regarless of my external situation.

1. Touch base with what’s really important to you- get grounded in your values.

2. Evaluate your skills & strengths- get grounded in what you have to offer.

3. Review weaknesses & fears. How are you getting in your own way?

4. Take a good hard look at relationships- express gratitude to family & friends.

5. Identify your priorities based on your values, positive traits, & relationships.

6. Save and direct your energy to your top priorities first.

7. Tackle your fears and weaknesses. Make your relationships right, become willing to do what it takes to apply yourself to your priorities.

8. Hone your skills, stay focused on what you have to offer.

9. Create value, use skills & strengths to help your family, friends, and community.

10. R & R to replenish your energy!

Friday, June 13, 2008

What is "Home"?

What constitutes “home”? As my daughter travels to the refugee camps on the Chad/Darfur border, I hear repeated over and over how strong the desire is to be at home. It’s got me thinking about how I define home.

1) The place where I have the freedom to state my opinion without any more fear of reprisal than lively discussion with friends and family is my political home.
2) The place where I come into contact with the divine is my spiritual home.
3) The place where love is waiting for me is my emotional home.
4) The place where laughter and good cheer abounds with others is my social home.
5) The place where I find shelter from the storm is my earthly home.
6) The place I go to use and expand my knowledge is my intellectual home.
7) The place that I have a hand in shaping is my creative home.
8) The place where I invest my resources is my fiscal home.
9) The place that contains my memories is my historical home.
10) The place that connects me to who I am is mine and my responsibility.

I suppose the list could go on and on. Some of us find these things grounded in one place, some of us wander our entire lives and only find a few of them. I’ve found them in a tent on the side of a frozen mountain, swimming in the ocean, in a bungalow on Queen Anne in Seattle, in my daughter’s eyes. I can only hope to give back to these places what they have given me, but I know that’s only a dream, because they have given to me so abundantly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Today's Wish List

My Mom e-mailed me to ask what’s on my wish list today. I decided not to edit my list to try and “look good” or be “politically correct”. It’s better to examine our heart’s desires in raw form. Here’s my answer:

1) An end to Genocide in the hearts, minds, and lives of all humanity
2) A Chinese Calligraphy Teacher
3) Organizational Strategy and Legacy Planning Clients
4) A home overlooking the sea near my daughter (and/or in Morocco?)
5) A flat in London near my friends
6) An end to World War IV - terrorism - both mental and physical
7) That I was slim enough to wear Yves Saint Laurent in mourning

Living as a privileged first world citizen, I have a wish list with a broad range and even real hope that some of these things may come true. A freedom to hope and dream, even for trivial things, that I don’t take lightly.

I notice that what I want is concrete for me, theoretical for others. In my heart I feel Genocide and Terrorism are wrong but maybe, just maybe, I want an end to them because of their current impact on me personally.

And I notice that even if I do serve enough clients to own two homes, would that be justified? And will I feel sorry for myself if none of these things come to fruition? That would be a sad commentary on someone already so comfortable.

I can’t change what I want but maybe I can adjust what I think I must have. Why? So that I become the most loving person I can be, instead of the most wanting person I can be. Wants lead to things like terrorism and genocide. The only desires that seem justified are the ones that create more love, and only our hearts know the difference.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Life Maps

A Life Map is my reminder not to get too hung up on any one aspect of my life, and a reminder that the big picture can ironically bring me back to the precious moment of NOW.

Geographic features of my Life Map:

Emotional Life
Spiritual Life
Social Life
Meditation & Prayer
Art Collection
Book Collection
Jewelry Collection
Reading List
Current Affairs & Politics
My Car
My Blog

Okay WOW my life is rich and full. Overwhelming if I try to think about it all at once. I keep a life map to remind me of how many overlaps and layers there are, how many ways to focus my attention and energy.

I embrace a few areas with goals – no more than five at a time – and attach action items to enrich my experiences in those areas. The timeframe can be a day or a year. Some areas lay fallow or run on automatic for seasons or decades. The goals are a guide, not a rule or a stick.

The point is to love my life no matter what!