~ Lord Bryon, 1788 – 1824, English poet and satirist
As you may or may not know, at this time there is an international conference taking place in New York City to address the issue of global arms control. This is the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CoD), and in typical Conservative fashion, Canada is boycotting it because North Korea is allowed to lead. Think I am just being cruel because I voted for a different political party? I wish that was the truth. Really, I do. But alas, no; this was in one of the national newspapers today.
Canada will push for reforms to the UN’s disarmament agency, believing its problems go deeper than a rotating presidency that allows international pariah North Korea to serve as its chair, John Baird says.
The Harper government has decided to boycott the United Nations Conference on Disarmament for a month because it’s North Korea’s turn to take the helm. (Boycotting N. Korean term, John Baird vows to seek reform of UN arms panel)
Yes, my dear readers, Canada has once again decided to boycott a United Nations event because other countries were allowed involvement. Yes, again. In order to keep my personal bias as limitted as possible while establishing the background of the situation, here is another quote from the same article (link provided at bottom).
The Harper government has in the past occasionally chosen to make very public statements with boycotts at the UN, like walking out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the General Assembly in 2009 or staying away from the UN-sponsored world conference on racism, which Ottawa called anti-semitic. (Boycotting N. Korean term, John Baird vows to seek reform of UN arms panel)
Now, I do wonder, what the politicians who currently hold the majority – and therefore real power – in Canada plan to do about this issue. Arms control is a serious matter and needs to be addressed on the global scale, with as many participants as possible. I am fully aware of the limitations of international politics and implementing any form of policy or change, but still! How can anything be changed if those who can, refuse? Yesterday I was asked to explain why I have a personal interest in human rights and humanitarian causes. My issue was not thinking of why, rather, I was challenged with explaining it properly and somewhat professionally. Quite simply, the answer is “because I can.”
As I have said multiple times before, both of my parents grew up in very different worlds from what I have known. My father was born and raised in post-WWII Poland, under the Communist regime. His father, my dzadiek and one of my heroes, was born in 1910 and suffered far more than my father did and than I can even begin to imagine. During WWI, his family was forced to move to Russia and live as refugees. They lost everything. Between the end of the war and the beginning of the next, my dzadiek grew up, became a teacher, married and started a family. My uncle was born in 1939, mere months before WWII started. As is considered a well-known historical fact, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and began WWII. In 1941, the Nazis went through and arrested teachers, educators, political activists – anyone who could pose a threat to them and their regime. This was the AB Movement, and like many others, my dzadiek was arrested and spent the rest of the war in the camps. After that, there was the Communist regime, put in place by the Soviets. Compared to many other places, Poland was not so bad. But compared to what I know, it was terrible. That is the time of my father’s childhood, youth, and adulthood. To say it influenced him greatly is still putting it far too mildly.
My mother, also an adult immigrant to North America, was born in 1962 and raised during the Cultural Revolution and in Communist China. Yes, China is still Communist – but not like it was then. Because her father was in the air force, she grew up on various military bases all over China, frequently without one or both of her parents around. This may have been the 1960, but it was commonplace. She cannot stand it when anyone watches a Western film in the house, no matter where she is, because of the gunshots. My father and I both enjoy the old Clint Eastwood films, but my mother cannot handle it. She grew up with gunshots and violence being commonplace. The environment she and her younger brother knew was so bad that my cousins were never told any of it.
So what does my family’s history have to do with arms control and Canada boycotting a UN conference? Perhaps to others, not very much; but to me, everything. Growing up, my parents used to always remind me of how good my life was and tell me stories about their childhoods; if I refused to eat something, I was lectured for being spoiled because when they were that age food was not guaranteed. From all that, I developed a deep understanding and appreciation for what it means to be free. In the West, “freedom” is just a term that is used liberally and loosely; few people really stop to think about what it truly means.
Freedom means being able to wake up in the morning. It means waking up not being in fear of one’s life, or the life of those one cares about. It means being able to walk down the street not wondering if there are people with guns or weapons around you, and certainly not seeing that anywhere. Freedom is knowing your human rights are a reality and something you can take for granted and count on in your life.
At the age of eight, I wanted to join the military when I grew up. For me, it was just a dream, a potential career aspiration that would have to wait at least ten years before it could see any form of development. In the West, that is a given. Weapons need to be controlled; children should never be allowed near them. But is that the case everywhere? No, not at all. There are places where children are the soldiers; places where weapons are everywhere and even the triggers are not controlled. When the media reports the death of foreign soldiers, do you really know what that means?
Arms control is just a part of this whole issue. Violence everywhere is inextricably linked to people’s ability to access the necessary tools. Full arms control will not stop all violence, but it certainly will make a huge difference. This is why I think it is necessary. This is why a lot of people think it is necessary.
It is the number of bodies, and not the number of words, that truly matter.
What duty, then, do “developed” nations have? Like me, their duty is to help those who need it, in any and every way possible. I never wonder why my life is so good; rather, I aim to use all this to help those who do not have as good a life. When I used to volunteer at the Homewood supervising the eating disorder patients, the nurses would always thank me very enthusiastically for coming in; I never could understand why. To me, I was just doing my duty as a person and helping others. As nice as it is to be thanked, I didn’t see it as anything special. Canada attending the CoD is nothing special, and certainly the nation’s duty. So walking out on it, boycotting UN events, is dodging responsibility.
Canada, like all other nations, need to understand their role in the global community. Instead of boycotting conferences and events, claiming it is “seeking to try to reform the group so it can be more successful in fulfilling its main mandate” it needs to step up and do something! Imagine, if you will, a group of children in the same situation but instead of weapons perhaps they are arguing over the trade of sweets. Walking away from the table means you no longer care to be involved – at all. It will not incite any changes, and likely will negate your reputation and lower your ability to influence any future discussions, even if they impact you directly. So what is Canada saying here, by boycotting? Quite simply, that we are a nation that does not care about arms control.
As promised, here is the article that sparked this post.
In the words of better men than me …
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.
~ Edmund Burke, 1729 – 1797, British statesman and philosopher
The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
~ Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955, German-born American physicist
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” But conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 – 1968, American minister and civil rights leader
He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
~ Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519, Italian draftsman, artist, architect, and engineer who epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal