When China and Russia failed to endorse the United Nations’ sanctions against Zimbabwe, it reminded me of the blind eye that used to be turned against the violations Irish mothers and children experienced in homes and institutions. China’s and Russia’s rationalisation was that what was happening in Zimbabwe did not affect international relationships! Rationalisation is a subconscious Freudian defence mechanism that attempts to make what is irrational, rational. Have we not yet come to a realisation that when any one person’s – not to mind millions of Zimbabweans – presence is violated that it puts the rest of us at risk. There is an old African saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I believe it is more accurate to say that ‘it takes a world to raise a child and, indeed, ‘it takes a world to ensure the valuing of each human being.’ Whatever the conscious or subconscious reasons for China and Russia ‘looking the other way’, it is vital that we as a nation, as a people and as individuals, do not subscribe to such international acts of neglect.
We all remember the power of the Dunnes Stores workers who acted on their opposition to apartheid and refused to handle goods from South Africa. If our government refuses to act, then as a collective of individuals, we can make our voices heard on regimes that are not fulfilling their responsibilities towards the world of people and on a government in Zimbabwe that has plunged the country into social and economic chaos. We can sanction those three countries – Zimbabwe, China and Russia – who have failed in their responsibilities to uphold human rights and human dignity.
The purpose of a sanction is not to punish; the purpose of a sanction is to provide sanctuary to those whose presence and rights have been violated. Who of us would now trust China and Russia or Zimbabwe to uphold our rights to physical, sexual, emotional, behavioural, intellectual, social, creative and spiritual safety? The nature of a sanction is to take an action for self that will send a clear message that as a people and as an individual we do not reinforce violations of human rights within and outside the borders of any country.
Another wise saying brings the truth home regarding China’s and Russia’s decisions against humanity – ‘when good men do nothing, evil thrives or, even more accurately, when governments of countries, particularly their leaders, do nothing, evil thrives. This ‘doing nothing; has repeated itself so often in history - Germany, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Tibet, Burma – to mention but a few. There is a serious need to create a shift in consciousness – that all human life is equal and sacred. No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created the problem. However, for such a consciousness-raising to happen, it needs to be lived by those of us who are protesting against its absence. Actions always speak louder than words and in the words of one of the most inspiring leaders of the last century Mahatma Gandhi – ‘if you want to see change, be the change you want.’
Krishnamurti, the Indian sage raised by the British, believed very much in the responsibility of each individual to understand the world we live in and not be waiting for others to take responsibility for themselves and to take radical action where needed: he says ‘if you can bring a radically different point of view to your daily existence, no matter how small the world you live in, you may eventually affect the world at large!’
What then can each of us do as individuals in the face of the powerlessness of the United Nations where there is not a rallying cry of ‘one for all and all for one.’ Each of us needs to find a way to sanction the offending countries in a dignifying but, nevertheless, definite manner. Each person needs to practise what he or she believes and, through their actions, create the possibility of a consciousness raising.
From my own place of protest, I intend to not watch the Olympic Games, not travel to China, Russia or Zimbabwe, not purchase imports from China or Russia and will contribute financially to those organisations that are committed to global consciousness raising on the dignity, uniqueness and worthiness of each human being.
Tony Humphreys, Psychologist, Author, International Speaker and Director of the new NUI H.Dip in Relationship Studies (NFQ Level 8), to be run in UCC and All Hallows College, Dublin. Details from Margaret, 021 – 4642394.