June 29, 2006

Acceptable inequities or violations?

In a world so economically disparate as ours, how can basic human rights be equitable. What would be termed a violation in one nation may be more than acceptable in another. To give an example: a 15 year old in China may be stuffing toys in a 10 x 15 room along with ten other boys, and be thankful for it since it provides a square meal for his family that would otherwise starve. A 16 year old in Ukraine may decide to be a part of the flesh trade as a way out of her impoverished and hopeless situation. In either of the two cases the apparent victim does not perceive himself as one. In fact he is simply exercising his/her natural instinct of survival at all costs. That the cost appears high to a person or persons of stable and flourishing economies in developed nations, is no surprise. However, what is surprising is that it is these persons in developed nations and flourishing economies that have the upper hand in determining the rubric for what entails a human right violation. The UN Human Rights Commission sits various countries that have defined powers, but it is the western nations that hold the vote primarily as member nations, others like Iran are but mere observers. The current controversy surrounding Mortazavi's inclusion in the Iranian Delegation to the UN Human Rights Conference has raised red flags in most of the rich western nations including the USA; understandably so, given his much publicized wrongdoings, especially the one involving a Canadian photo journalist. However, it is not so clear to me how and why Mortazavi can be prevented from attending the conference. Afterall he is one of many appointed by his country to represent it at the conference. Furthermore, isn't it true that the viability of any proposition is only strengthened when the proposition is fairly debated with ample representation on either side. So then if a Mortazavi does in fact accompany the Iranian delegation (even if only as part of the audience) the Human Rights conference stands to gain more credence.

Defining Human Rights on a world wide basis is no easy job. The UN Human Rights Commission, obviously cognizant of that, tries to get a balanced representation from nations around the world, only some of who are members while others are observers. But mere representation will not suffice, because countries deemed in violation of Human Rights are now unlikely to become members or even observers of the Commission, as explained in the previous link. Given this scenario, what are the chances that a North Korea will get a fair hearing on its apparent Human Right violation issue in the upcoming session...

June 21, 2006

Could I referee this one?

In the midst of all the euphoria of the Soccer World Cup, the news about the gruesome killing of the two twenty year old American soldiers in Iraq dampened my spirit in a big way. What made it worse was that when I read this bone chilling news in the NY Times, on that very page, there was a news item about three other US soldiers being charged for the murder and ill-treatment of Iraqi soldiers in Guantanamo Bay. Is this fair play?

The juxtaposing of these two news items captured the dilemma that raged within me. Is human right violation to be condoned? Certainly not, and thus I disprove what happened to Iraqi prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. On the same note, are barbaric atrocities to be meekly accepted and ignored? I would hope not! The guilty need to be taken to task at the earliest and they should be held accountable for their actions. So in fact if a fellow soldier from the contingent to which the two dead marines belonged, were to take measures to punish the wrongdoers, he’d be justified… or would he?

I’m not sure how I should react. Rationally, an eye for an eye would do more damage and bring endless suffering. However, at this point my rational self is practically non existent, and understandably so. I am mad about the way in which the two soldiers were killed, and at this moment, if compatriots of those killed were to do something reactionary, like what happened in Haditha, I wouldn’t hesitate to condone their actions. But that may change with passage of time; as the heat dies down and my rational self reasserts itself.

It's the heated insanity of the moment that often makes even the calmest of people take strange and extreme action; a result of the raging anger within, that seeks vent after a barbaric crime is committed against ones own. Do these extreme actions warrant a red card? Could the Haditha killings be regarded as an extreme action taken under extreme emotional duress? Would anyone want to referee that?

June 09, 2006

'My Invented Country'

Memory and nostalgia can create beauty unimagined and unlived, and Isabel Allende’s novel ‘My Invented Country’ does that and more. She takes you into her throes of reminiscence and creates picturesque landscapes and vivid characters woven together in a memorable journey into her Chilean past.

The novel is a memoir of Isabel who is sharing her nostalgia about Chile, her homeland, and creating her very own Chile, her ‘invented country’, in her own mind; one that she left so many years ago to escape the atrocities of the Pinochet regime. The exposition is direct yet haunting and sets the reader on a voyage he cannot want out of. He comes out of it wondering about his own invented country; whether he has one and if it shares any commonalities with Isabel’s. The wondering doesn’t stop at that personal level. The reader, especially one who is an immigrant, wonders whether every immigrant carries an invented country in his heart, and if he does, then in fact, there are so many of us who carry this beautiful burden. Why do we all carry it? Why is it beautiful that we hold it so dear, and never want to part with it? Yet, why is it a burden that relegates itself to the mind? Does this burden, this invented country, ever disappear, get replaced, or suffer ruin? Why are the memories of a lost home so tantalizing? Is it because as exiles or immigrants we never really find our promised land, or even if we do, it always falls short of the home we left behind.

‘My Invented Country’ is a delightful read that satiates the senses through some colorful and frisky language. Its reminiscing tone soothes, yet, once you close the book, there's a spring of turbulent introspection let loose within the mind of the reader.