Tag Archives: Humanity

Global Community, Global Responsibility (Part 2)

The international community has a responsibility to end state-condoned atrocities in other countries. (Source: Middle-East-Info.org)

This is part 2 of a multi-part post on international responsibility. Part 1 can be found here.

The answer to this question is an unfortunately simple one: Because no one stopped it.

The international community is understandably hesitant to become involved in foreign conflicts and complications. Becoming tangled in another country’s conflict can be costly and often pointless, as the United States has seen in recent years in Afghanistan and, to a certain extent, Iraq. Sorting out other countries’ issues is difficult work.

But other nations must sometimes become involved in a country’s private affairs, even if it’s not very advantageous for the intervening country. I would consider these “private affairs” to be any act of atrocity that is committed, condoned, or simply overlooked by the ruling government. US Vice President Joe Biden had this to say about the actions of Moammar Qaddafi in Libya: “When a State engages in atrocity, it forfeits its sovereignty.”

Sovereignty is a very important concept in international relations. Simply put, it’s the quality of having supreme authority over an area of land and its inhabitants. But a state must earn this authority by being a responsible caretaker and lawmaker for its people. And when a state does not perform this duty, other nations may have to step in to force the issue.

Let me rephrase that: The international community may have to step in (yes, I know I’ve said the words “international community” far too many times!). Just as it is crucial for a country to be personally responsible to have a part on the international stage, it’s important that all countries are collectively responsible for keeping the world a safe place. I ought to say though, that I’m not endorsing a kind of world police, at least not one run by any one country (least not the United States). But perhaps we do need a world interventionary force, to prevent atrocities from being committed.

This force would be multilateral and international, so as not to skew power in any country’s direction too far. It would need to be much quicker to act than organizations like NATO or the UN though, and would probably work best when independent of these organizations. Unfortunately, the United Nations simply represents too many conflicting interests, and takes far too long to come to decisions; it took nearly a million deaths before the UN did anything in Rwanda, and by then it was too late. So perhaps willing and able parties of the international community should form a more fast-acting organization, to quickly strike against state-committed or -sponsored violence.

In fact, NATO did a fairly good job of this recently, in its response to the violence of Qaddafi against his own people in Libya. Even then though, it took far too long for the UN and NATO to step in, and there’s still more that should be done, such as the placement of peacekeeping troops or delivery of additional medical supplies.

If there were to be an independent, international coalition specifically set up to counteract state atrocities, mass violence could be stopped much sooner and more effectively. Assuming that specific guidelines were set in place, and all participating nations agreed on which actions constitute atrocity, this peacekeeping force might have the power to stop many humanitarian crises. The key to this would be fast, decisive action against state atrocities; dictators tend to commit these violences on their own people after the international community does nothing to stop earlier offenses.

Looks like this post is going on to a third part! Check back soon for part 3!

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Filed under Human Rights, International Focus, Politics & Power

Global Community, Global Responsibility (Part 1)

The international community is continually becoming more tightly-knit, but that comes with a great deal of responsibility. (Source: icicp.blogspot.com/www.icicp.org)

Our world is growing increasingly global and interconnected. Countless alliances, agreements, treaties, and organizations bind together countries and peoples all around the planet. Many companies are turning abroad to emerging markets to expand their business. It’s now almost commonplace for a student to spend months or even years studying abroad.

The degree to which the many diverse groups of people around the world are connected is astounding. We’ve managed to cross many lingual, social, religious, and cultural barriers as the world continues to become more globalized, or as Thomas Friedman might say, flat.

Globalization brings with it a plethora of advantages and advances that not only offer more opportunity to those in emerging countries but give us a chance to understand each other more. Perhaps more importantly, it has allowed many countries around the world to move past dangerous nationalism and allowed international cooperation where it hasn’t existed before.

I’m majoring in International Studies at my university, so I believe that an examination of these changes is critical, not only for gaining a better understanding of the politics and economics of the world, but for understanding the people of it. And though I’m nowhere near graduation or a full knowledge of international relations, I feel that I’m beginning to realize something about our trend towards the global.

As nations continue to draw more connections to one another, they become beholden to an increasingly high standard of responsibility and accountability. As a nation moves outside of itself and reaches out or is reached out to by other parts of the world, its standards must be carefully examined. The more involved a country is on the international stage, the higher its national credibility must be. Once a nation becomes globally active, it can no longer make decisions based entirely on its own needs and desires, nor can it expect to avoid all international scrutiny.

Yet many members of the international community are not living up to the standards that they should be expected to adhere to if they want to receive recognition from other countries. In a way, these governments – such as those of North Korea, Rwanda and Serbia in the 1990s, Sudan, and Libya, as well as countless others – want to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak. They want or wanted to have a presence on the international level (and have that), but are or were unwilling to live up to the standards that such nations must hold.

The nations I listed above have had in the past or currently have grievous human rights violations staining their records. But in each of these circumstances, the international community either spent weeks, months, or years deliberating about what to do, or is still doing nothing. Why is this? Why were 800,000 Tutsi people killed in Rwanda before anyone put a stop to the violence? Why was Slobodan Milošević allowed to stay in power in Serbia after massacres of Bosnian Muslims, when 3 weeks of NATO bombing stopped him later? Why are people still being killed in Darfur?

I’ve decided to split this post into multiple parts, as it seems likely to become rather lengthy, and I haven’t published in some time. Check back soon for part 2!

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Filed under Human Rights, International Focus, Politics & Power

Why We Should All Read News

Get reading!

This post’s title is, I’ll admit, a bit on the direct side, and doesn’t leave much of the content of it up to the imagination. So I’m going to be cutting to the chase much faster with this post than I often do, because it’s an issue that I think is a very important one.

As the doors to discovery in our world begin to open wider and wider, we have more and more opportunities to stay informed and up-to-date on what’s happening in the world. Through incredible advances in technology, we’re able to stay informed about events almost as soon as they happen, and even watch events as they happen.

So there’s a lot of opportunity and availability out there! But why should we take advantage of it?

First, at least in my opinion, the news is both very interesting and very informative. Incredible and important things happen every day, and many of them will have an impact on our lives, whether that’s in a direct or a more tangential way. This is especially true in a financial sense, as events on the other side of the world, such as the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan or the conflict in Libya, can have a hefty impact on our lives and livelihoods.

But keeping up to date on current events and news goes far beyond simple self-interest! Every person on this planet is a human being, which means that each and every one of us 6.7 billion homo sapiens has experienced or will likely experience the emotions, joys, and sufferings of life. Of course, few want to endure great suffering or hardship in their lives, but the fact remains that none of us are really able to avoid this. Indeed, these experiences are an integral part of our humanity. But as human beings, we also have the opportunity, if I can use that word, to share our human stories of great joy and great suffering and grow more connected, not only to those immediately around us, but to all people all across the world.

I think of the news as a way to do this, to connect with people around the world, even thought they may not know about it. By keeping up on current events, we can make a part of someone else’s life a part of our own, and by doing that we can become more passionate about the world we live in and the people who live in it! Some of the world issues that are the most important to me, such as water shortage, were revealed to me by some news source, and that helped me to become more engaged with the world.

People have countless justifications for not being informed about the world and what’s happening in it. Maybe they’re too busy, they can’t afford to subscribe to a newspaper, magazine, or online source, or they just feel they have better things to do. But, as I mentioned before, it’s incredibly easy to stay up-to-date nowadays. It literally takes seconds to visit CNN’s website or drop by the NYT site for the latest headlines.

I’m not just writing this as a plug for news sources. I really do think that staying informed about world events, to the best of your abilities, is a very important way of showing care and empathy for other people. It’s one thing to say that you’re praying for the people of Japan; it’s another thing entirely to show that care by involving yourself in their pain and understanding what you might be able to do to help. It may hurt to bring yourself so close to such tragedies that you could just as easily avoid, but I firmly believe that all people should do everything they can to sympathize with and understand each other. Reading the news is a great way to do that.

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How Do We Survive?

Cooperation: It keeps us alive.

The title of this post may seem a touch strange, or even ridiculous. You may have already answered this question mentally: “Well stupid, we breathe, we eat, we drink, we reproduce.” And on some level, this is exactly how we survive.

I would ask you to imagine yourself completely alone in a desert, with no bottled water, no prepackaged food, and nothing but your wits to keep you alive. I promise you wouldn’t make it very long.

Alternatively, if you favor moister climes, picture yourself in a jungle. There’s food and water all around, but there’s the constant threat of wild animals, contaminated water, poisonous spiders, disease, and aggressive chimpanzees (see the “Aggression” section of the article I’m linking to). So chances are you wouldn’t make it long there alone either! Besides just these risks, we are under constant threat from environmental disasters, infrastructural failures (bursting dams, etc.), and freak accidents. Every day, someone’s life is tragically ended by a seemingly meaningless and random event.

Looking at life this way, my titular question becomes a lot more valid. Humans really have no special survival mechanisms, at least none that can save us from drought, storms, famine, or semi-trucks. So how is it that we’ve been so successful? How did our distant ancestors ever make it in such a hostile world?

I was recently listening to a podcast, Planet Money (which I would say is one of the highest quality podcasts out there today). Episode #248 (find it on iTunes!) is about the great economist Adam Smith and his political and economic philosophies, and in the podcast, a guest on the show brings up an interesting point about Smith’s philosophy: We as humans are weak and vulnerable, and we survive only by cooperation. He believed that the exchange of goods, services, and most strikingly, ideas is what allows to survive in this harsh world.

Now, this philosophy really took hold with me for one reason or another. The idea that exchange is what allows us to survive is strange at first, but also extremely compelling. As we humans progress through life, we learn more things about the world around us, and the more we know, the better prepared we are to deal with the problems we encounter throughout life. When you get right down to it, the only reason that humans have been so successful is that we’ve been better able to work with each other to advance common interests, and we’ve been better at communicating with each other.

I would say those are the two keys to human survival: Cooperation and communication. By cooperating with each other, we as humans have been able to build huge civilizations, make incredible technological discoveries and advances, and build vastly better lives (on average) than we had even 1,000 years ago! For such a young race (humans probably diverged from neanderthals about 500,000 years ago, while modern shark species date from 100 million years ago), we as humans have done extraordinarily well. While we still tear each other apart in war and can carry out horrifying acts of cruelty against each other, we’re nonetheless able to work together more than any other species, and it’s allowed us to put together everything from mud huts to space shuttles.

Our communicational abilities help a lot too. While other animal species certainly communicate, by hormones, verbal sounds, physical features, and a host of other methods, no other species on the planet can top the human ability to communicate and discuss complex ideas. Unlike any other animals (at least as far as we know!), humans are able to comprehend and construct economic systems, political structures, and, some would say, religious outlooks. We possess a whole parallel world of ideas and principles that no other species on our planet can claim.

And indeed, it’s this that keeps us alive. By working together, humanity has been able to accomplish more than any other force on this earth, excepting the forces of the Earth itself. While it’s true that we sometimes overuse and abuse this power, it’s what has allowed us to stay alive. Without our complex network of social, economic, and technological connections, we lose so much ability to thrive. I may write more on this later, and whether it’s a good or a bad way to be, but for now I’m content to marvel at this. I think it’s incredible how the complex world we’ve built around us, our governments, our countries, our economies, even our dinner table chats, have made us the dominant species on this planet.

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Seeking the Spiritual: Nature and the Divine

Could our spiritual being be connected to nature?

Ever since the dawn of man, humanity has had a deep connection with the land, or at least it has been meant to. Our land has been used for growing our food, providing us with water and animals, building our homes and habitats, and supporting most of life as we know it. Humanity depends on the rest of nature for almost everything we do.

But I think that nature has much more than a utilitarian connection to us. So often, we as humans view the rest of the environment as a kind of resource to be used and exploited as we see fit. Many people fail to see that we as humans are a part of nature, not above it, and that we’re very much dependent on it for almost all of our most basic needs. So in some sense, humanity is deeply rooted and connected to the world around us.

But I would say this extends far beyond a simple physical dependency on the land. Humankind has a spiritual connection to the world as well, in ways I can’t claim I’m even close to completely understanding. The religion I grew up in, Protestant Christianity, has never had much interest (or concern) for nature, being careful to keep it in a subservient role so as not to “idolize” creation. I was always taught that creation cannot and should not be revered above its creator, and to elevate nature too high would put me in the heresy danger zone. And, although I’m still young, I’ve begun to see more and more how limited I had allowed my spirituality to become, especially in this area.

Until recently, I would never let myself think of the natural world as something I could be spiritually connected to. While I’ve always known I’m in some way part of nature, for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as above and apart from the natural world. But now, I’ve begun to realize just how important and meaningful nature is for me, especially in a spiritual sense. There are few times when I feel more connected to my spirituality, the world around me, and even my fellow man than when I’m in a beautiful, natural place.

What I really want to stress in this post is this: the connection between man and nature is not specific to any religion, creed, or belief system. It is a spiritual, divine connection between human beings and the world they live in. If all people, all across the world, could agree to live in a way that honored this connection, then we could be responsible inhabitants of this shared Earth.

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Filed under Environment & Nature, Seeking the Spiritual