Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peace Lies Outside the Box

    Yesterday I had the great honor to be able to attend a presentation by Carl Wilkens.  Wilkens was one of 10 non Rwandans to remain in Rwanda throughout the genocide that occurred there.  His story is one of incredible inspiration.  To risk ones life when the threat is literally in your face goes completely against human instincts.  The courage and service he showed truly are remarkable.  However, what amazed me most about his story was the way in which he was able to help save Rwandans.  Wilkens  literally worked with the killers in order to save the victims.  He asked the Hutu mayor of Kigali who has been found guilty of the murder of thousands of people, to allow him to move the kids in an orphanage he had been aiding; and it worked.  He was allowed to move them and in doing so likely saved their lives. 
    I bring this up, not just because it is inspirational, but also because his method of working with the “enemy”  is a method whose use is being debated over today in regards to groups like Hamas.  Hamas is an organization that has committed terrorists acts and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people.  However, they are also a political party in the Gaza Strip.  Currently most countries refuse to talk to Hamas regarding peace in Israel, because they are a terrorist organization.  However, Wilkens’ talks have made me question whether discussion with them may in fact save lives.  I am not necessarily suggesting that the US or Israeli government due so, as I completely understand how doing so would undermine the loss of life of thousands, and I can not honestly say that I believe an organization who has committed such acts will be true to its word.  Having said this, the Hutu mayor of Kigali, did stay true to his word and in taking a chance and asking him Wilkins was able to save many lives.  I do believe there can be peace for Israel, and though I am hesitant to even suggest a discussion with a terrorist group I have realized due to Mr. Wilkens presentation that a discussion with them does have the possibility of saving lives.  Wilkens also made the point that people tend to be more trustworthy when people instill their trust in them.  Maybe, if the Israeli government were to engage in a discussion with them and an agreement was made, Hamas would follow through.  I understand that I am being very optimistic here, but fighting and suspicion are not a solution, and current talks without Hamas are likely to never culminate in a permanent peace.  So, if Wilkens’ tactic worked once whose to say it won’t work again.  The world is running out of options to deal with situations like this, maybe it’s time we think outside the box.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Cost of a Right

    The Dictionary defines a right as “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.”  But, to must of the people I know a right is an excuse.  They’ll say when talking to a teacher “I get to say that because I have a right to free speech,” or when talking to a parent they will imply that their parents “can’t control them,” because they have rights.  The use of the term to those whose basic rights are all fulfilled is unimportant.  However,  unfortunately in our world many people do not have basic rights, and how we define those rights determines their access to them.
    Yesterday was Blog Action Day, the topic was water.  The human body is about 70% water.  We need it to lubricate the digestive system, to make up our blood, to remove wastes, to regulate body temperature, and more; yet not everyone considers it a right.  Water, isn’t a substance that we can consume optionally.  It is a necessity, without it we perish.  To say not everyone has a right to it is to say that it is up to us to decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die.  That simply isn’t something human beings should be able to decide.  The ability to have clean water is definitely a basic right, unfortunately clean fresh water is not located in all parts of the world.  Eight hundred and eighty four billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.  So the question is how to get it to them.
    There was an article in Newsweek this week discussing the new market for water.  The article questioned the right of private businesses to control the access of the public to water, but also discussed how the creation of a water market has the ability to aid in solving the water crisis.  I am a person without much faith in the morality of many businesses.  The goal of most businesses is to make money, which is understandable.  However,  to an unfortunately large number of businesses making money has become more than a goal, it has turned into an all encompassing profession of its own.  This has occurred even in some of the most important and supposedly public serving businesses, like the food industry.  Water, however, is not an asset that the world can afford to have handled in a “how much can I make selling this” kind of way, nor can the public afford to have it’s quality compromised in an effort to sell more of it.
    We need clean, safe, easily accessible water and we need it every day.  What scares me even more than the idea of a water business, is what will happen if we don’t find some way to solve this water crisis.  We have seen in the past the violence that occurs when there are food shortages.  People are willing to kill for a bag of rice, and a human can go for much longer without food than they can without water.
    I wish I had some perfect cure all answer to this situation.  But truth be told I don’t believe anyone does.  The one thing I do know is that whatever solutions there might be, they will come at a cost.  I guess the question is really not what can we do to get everyone clean safe water, but what are we willing to pay to ensure everyone’s basic rights?

To find out more about the water crisis visit:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's OK to push Play

    School has only been in session for about two months and I have already found myself encountering something that to be completely honest, I feel like often controls my life.  Fear.  I go through my classes and constantly find myself overwhelmed with fear.  It is not a deep fear, my life is not in jeopardy, my family and friends are safe, I have enough to eat, I have a roof and a bed.  I am not scared for my personal being, rather I am scared of failure.  I go from class to class, day through day, worrying about the next test, the next quiz, the last homework assignment, if I am good enough at what I do, if I do enough.  Though I do not know this, I think it is fair to assume that this fear isn’t just my own.  Many high school students can probably relate. We are driven to succeed by our fear of failure.  Stories about the global economy, the competition for jobs, the brilliant kids working twice as hard as us in Japan, all reinforce the idea that to succeed in this world you must be the best at what you do, and you must do everything.  It creates an atmosphere in which, for most normal kids, staying up until midnight or later is not optional, but completely necessary.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to have a life, be involved, standout, do well in school, and sleep.  What seems to get left behind in this rush to the top is the real desire to learn that is supposed to drive us through our educational experiences in the first place. Kids in impoverished areas of the world may walk hours to school, many do not have the most basic of school supplies and have to make huge sacrifices in order to attend school, but they come if they can because all they want is to learn.  Yet, many of us with all the opportunities in the world, attending schools that most people could only dream of, get out of bed in the morning wishing they could fast forward through the week. 
    The world is not going to slow down.  As much as I would like to say that in the future desire will be the motivator behind education; I know that is not true.  If anything the world will speed up, and more and more will be expected of young adults.  I am only pointing out that occasionally we as students need to step back and really ask ourselves why we are at school.  We may rediscover that school can actually be fun.