September 24, 2009 United Nations Model
Years ago, student governments held what they called Model U.N. Day. Students would take on the position of a country and argue as if in the General Assembly. Amazing things happened. Minds were opened. An Irish delegate would argue with the British delegate and demand release of all IRA prisoners while the British delegate would demand an end to violence as a necessary step to negotiations over prisoner release. Students had to think before speaking. The world seemed smaller--almost manageable. We couldn't wait to take over the real U.N.
The idea behind Model U.N. was obvious--if students looked at problems through other eyes, they are more likely to agree on solutions. It helped me as a student, and continues to help me today, better understand problems in the world. Is water the coming issue? Will we have "water wars" or will the U.N. step in with a peaceful alternative? Must we suffer religious wars or can tolerance coming through listening overcome prejudice?
Our Model U.N. program showed me that one must listen to other perspectives if peace is to replace war. So when I saw a picture of the real U.N. in action yesterday, with the president of Iran speaking to a nearly empty chamber, I asked if students would have walked out or would they have listened, and I'm sure it would be the latter. Listening to speaker doesn't mean support for the speaker. Walking out might embolden the speaker.
Greg Palast: A Fighting Bob Fest star entertained and informed at the Kickoff and at the Fest. You will enjoy watching his speech posted here. Then order his DVD.
Climate Change: Is it possible that the Bush administration was in denial right to the end? Yup. A startling report from the government of Vietnam will haunt you. "Vietnam Finds Itself Vulnerable if Sea Rises" is the headline. And the sea is rising. "Worst case--more than 17 million people...if the levels rise by 3 feet" would find their land submerged.
Everyone, it seems, is slowly awakening to the crisis, but not fast enough. It may be too late, but let's agree it is not too late--the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate.
The model UN days were no more than a classroom exercise to get students to think and interact using the information they had at hand and what they might do. No matter which country they would represent, the approach was always based on an American student using American perceptions, insights and experience. The real UN represents groups of people diversified in language, culture, economies, history, attitudes, beliefs, suspicions, etc. There is no way any American student can embody what a downtrodden, developing people may bring to the table or the fears and suspicions an oppressed people may feel toward a superpower. We might be able to think we can solve problems from an American viewpoint. It would seem the challenge to resolving problems and conflicts is to do so from the experiences of others.
To understand a man/woman, you've got to walk a mile in his/her shoes, whether they fit or not.
-Franz Fripplfrappl | Stoughton, WI | September 24, 2009
"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" -Old Irish saying