Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The normalization of evil?

The father of the late WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl, who was brutally murdered in Pakistan seven years ago wrote a very emotional and moving piece in the WSJ today:

No one can imagine what it must be like for this father - to have lost a dear and valiant son in a ghastly, barbaric death. Though the article was written, I believe, as an appeal to not condone terrorism in any form, the article jumps to the raging dispute between Israel and Hamas, and ignores the problem for what it is: a religious, yes, but geopolitical conflict about a piece of land, and the history of oppression, occupation and "resistance".

"When we ask ourselves what it is about the American psyche that enables genocidal organizations like Hamas -- the charter of which would offend every neuron in our brains -- to become tolerated in public discourse, we should take a hard look at our universities and the way they are currently being manipulated by terrorist sympathizers."

If anything, the American psyche is now programmed to not only not tolerate genocide, but on the contrary, be extremely phobic and aware of terrorism and the threats that it represents. There can be no condoning the manic killings of either one or a hundred innocent people anywhere in the world, for any cause, no matter how noble.

And that's exactly the point. Evil isn't just them. It is also us.

Whether the aggressors are a group of guerilla suicide bombers or the mightiest military in the world does not matter. The sooner the United States realizes that as a self-declared champion of freedom in the world, it cannot automatically be allowed to attack targets inside Iraq or Afghanistan at will; nor can it stand and look the other way when Israel enters Gaza to attack the Hamas governed Palestine territory, when not six months ago, there was an uproar over the Russian incursions into Georgia after it attacked South Ossettia.

War begets war. The rise of radical Islamic terrorism has certainly been a direct consequence of the gigantic failures of the United States' foreign policy over several decades. If there has to be any chance of a lasting peace in the areas of conflict, particularly in the Middle-East, it has to come from diplomacy and an understanding into the causes and history of the conflict. And within that context, certainly universities have a central role to play as enablers of dialogue and discussion, setting up a thought framework that can address the issue from a fair, balanced and holistic perspective, and far from the battleground.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The bitter legacy of war

As this photoessay shows, the terrible legacy of a war can live on long after the last gunshot is heard.

Manuel Navarro Forcada’s essay “Vietnam 21st century: On the track of Agent Orange” investigates the horrific persisting effects of the dioxin-contaminated herbicide used by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Although Agent Orange was officially deployed to defoliate the tropical foliage of the region in order to render visible those beneath, dioxin exposure to humans has proven extremely harmful, if not lethal. By visiting hospitals, schools, and orphanages in Vietnam and documenting the many birth defects and malformations of children born in the thirty-year aftermath of the Vietnam War, Forcada’s photographs serve as solemn reminders of the atrocities of war. They are also a plea to rouse waning global interest in the war-torn legacy of Vietnam.

FiftyCrows is a social change photography venture that funds the work of emerging photojournalists. No matter who you are, and where you have been, these photos show you so many snapshots of life from around the world that you are bound to see the world in a different light afterwards.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Golden Rule

I discovered this nice graphic illustrating the unity of all faiths. In the simple words of the many versions of the Golden Rule, we can see how there is a common thread woven across all the religions, in their original, uncorrupted way of the truth.

If more people could embrace the fundamental unity of faiths, rather than argue over theological differences, the world would be such a better place. But many people do not seem to realize that the actual practice of religion is not as important as how we lead our lives. In fact, the true test of our religious practice is whether we lead our lives in agreement with our beliefs in love, compassion and forgiveness - the principle of loving kindness. When we extend this philosophy to nations, the ultimate judgment of nations is based on whether we feed the poor, clothe the naked and comfort the sick.

Image Credit: Scarboro Missions