Friday, January 26, 2007

Human Rights Acropobia While Throwing Pebbles in a Backyard Stream

like many of us, i suppose, i prefer saturdays spent in our garden, lingering, watering the trees, finding pebbles for the stream bed or taking a walk up the hill behind our home. it constantly amazes me how 8 or 9 am can so easily b/c 2 pm in such languid times. i'm not sure that i can yet slide into such quiet regularly, but it feels good on the w/end when i don't even have go into an increasingly busy & crowded town from friday night to monday morning...

although last saturday, it was good to cross town to help the national human rights commission (nhrc) with the planned press conference on impunity issues. i'd been encouraging them to bring actual victims of such human rights abuses, be it abduction by the maoists or disappearances by the government or killings, torture or the sad litany of human casualities from the past ten years of conflict. we were fortunate to receive frontpage news the next day w/ headlines on impunity and the government's lack of seriousness to respond to past nhrc recommendations on these cases -- esp. w/ louise arbour, the un high commissioner for human rights here in nepal for a week.

still, you would be shocked to hear all of the subtle and not so subtle politics that goes on iin this human rights' world. sometimes i think it's b/c we aim toward the highest levels of human aspiration, the top of maslow's pyramid of human values, whereas we're still dealing w/ the nature of the human ego with all of its passions, jealousies and self-centeredness. one can get moral acrophobia (fear of human heights...) in this type of lofty, at times rhetorical human rights environment. then, of course, we're dealign w/ some of the lowest forms of human distemper, as well, when our beastly nature overwhelms our self-control and we are able to murder another soul in a fit of anger, revenge or mere ruthlessness. some days, when you see the faces of those who have suffered, and the accusations made, i think i've stepped into the nyc prosecutor's world of crimes and investigations -- leaving my past development world of literacy, public health and micro-loans far behind...

then there are the institutional politics between international and national bodies, not to mention, not far in the background, the influence of the political parties on the main actors in the human rights field in nepal. add the donors with their own agendas and, at times, arrogance, with the wealth that is lavished on western organizations while nepalis who work in places like the nhrc must make do with salaries of $150/month and offces that are barely equipped with heaters or computers or vehicles. sometimes i feel like, even in the human rights field, its the equivalent of working in an inner city school with the handsome, well-endowed prep school in over across town up on the ivy-coated hill. after so many years in save the children, which is part of the well-endowed world, maybe it's a good opportunity to be reminded of the realities of the barriers that we try to avoid seeing in our daily lives.

whoosh! as someone said to me when i started this work last september, 'human rights makes child rights look like kid's play...' ;-)

as many of you know, dear nepal, within this unsteady peace process, remains on the knife's edge. political change continues at a dizzing pace w/o actually creating a sense of greater security or stability. we've been rocked by riots in lahan, siraha, of all places, down in the terai (near the indian border) the past few days w/ young students killed and the madeshi (terai people) liberation groups leading the charge. then a few days ago we had a national transport strike for two days, too, protesting their busses being burnt in siraha & elsewhere due to these demonstrations. more, whoosh!

although the strike is over, so no more long 25 km bike rides from home across the valley to pulchowk and back... the political instability promises to continue. the govt is intent on elections to a constituent assembly in june to write a new constitution (over two years), but one wonders if this is an exercise in collective day-dreaming. the signs are not exactly promising, even as everyone keeps promising that the election will go ahead as stated. with all of the political maneuvering going on in the background, proverbial trenches and media airwaves, it sounds, to say the least, and based on recent nepal experience, mildly optimistic.

to be honest, it's also a bit tedious as this story never seems to find its balance. after a week in cambodia over new years seeing the economic growth & potential there, it's disheartening to see how beloved nepal stays stuck in the present continuous tense, or even rewind, w/o finding a way to fulfill the country's wondrous potential. even eternally optimistic shakun is getting a bit fed-up w/ the situation, as she also gets more invovled in the drama of janjati/ethnic politics, proportional representation and constitutional change.

in that sense, i can appreciate joshua deciding a week ago to apply for the world college program. he is eager for something new for his young life, even it means doing his 11th grade over again in a different, challenging environment. the world college program is based on an IB curriculum which emphasizes community service, created by the founder of the outward bound program, there are some dozen campuses around the world, including italia, wales, singapore and british columbia, which is josh's order of preference. however, admission is exceptionally competitive given the limited places for americans which he understands. still, it'd be absolutely wonderful for him, even as we'd miss him terribly at home if he was accepted.

lastly, there is still english premier league football. the boys command the tv on the w/end nights when their principles play. last w/end it was the league leading manchester united vs a resurgent arsenal. alas, ez was emotionally crushed when thierry henry scored w/ seconds to go against man utd. ezra, literally, sat still for ten minutes, staring away from the tv, then rolled over and slept on the floor of the room. i felt so bad for him, but he wasn't to be comforted, alas. whereas josh seems to have made some emotional separation from liverpool (a girlfriend, methinks, helps...), but ez is in blind young teenage love w/ his redmen from the north country...

xoxox from afar...

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