B and I went to hear Lt. General Romeo Dallaire speak the other night at Ashbury College. Titled “The New Leadership – A Humanistic Approach”, Dallaire spoke for an hour on leadership, changes in the way armed conflict is conducted today, and Canada’s role on the international stage.
Deeply affected by his ill-fated experience as the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1993 and 1994, one of the central themes of Dallaire’s speech was the need for society to begin looking at preventing armed conflict on humanitarian grounds. For too long, countries have only intervened when areas of strategic importance are at risk. Getting involved just to save lives has not been a priority, resulting in unspeakable pain and suffering millions of innocent people.
As I was listening to him talk, I began feeling guilty about my own lack of global awareness. I haven’t given the situation in Darfur a single thought in years, and have spent much more time reading about Britney’s breakdown than learning more about the humanitarian crises in Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Haiti. It’s cliché to blame the mainstream media, which ignores global hotspots in favour of vapid stories on starlets and their DUI’s, but it’s deeper than that. The world is a scary place, and I’d rather live in my happy little bubble, troubled only by thoughts of patchy spots on my lawn and gas hitting $1.20 a litre.
These thoughts came back to me as I watched Horton Hears a Who with the family on Saturday afternoon. The refrain of “A person’s a person, no matter how small” is essentially Dallaire’s core message. I was particularly moved by the movie’s final few minutes, as all the Whos in Whoville shout “We Are Here!” in a desperate attempt to get the larger world to notice them before it’s too late. It’s a powerful image that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past few days.
So, in terms of next steps, I’ve come up with a short list of items:
• Convince world leaders to direct economic and humanitarian resources based on need rather than political motivations;
• Mediate conflicts between cultures and establish guidelines for respectful communication and interaction;
• Encourage mainstream media to devote time and money for coverage of real issues;
There are probably a few more I could add, but I figure that’s a good start. Now, any volunteers?