Thursday, September 14, 2006

Can one man really make a difference?

Can one man really make a difference? In the end will all the hard work be worth it, or will it just be another failed attempt to give back people their lives and their dignity? Francis Kabina has dedicated his life to trying to give back people their lives in Sierra Leone, as a UN volunteer.
He uses a intense two week program to train community leaders, trying to give them the ability to put their communities back together. This all seems like a great thing giving back and helping people who in most cases can't help them selves but will these community leaders ever be able to fix such a war torn country?
If these intense training programs that Francis is using to rebuild Sierra Leone never show up on the international stage, and don't fix the problems that these people have will all his work be for nothing? What dictates a success is it one child who can now sleep at night with out nightmares or is it an entire community living peacefully together in harmony?

"The Couple Who Fought Genocide"

A recent Washington Post article talks about the Sharps -- a husband and wife -- who risked their life during Nazis Germany to save Jews.
If you compare this article with that of the gunman in Montreal who shot several victims in Dawson College -- how can you explain human nature -- especially in relationship to what we have been reading about evil, the evolution of evil, and the roots of evil?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fitness Cost for a Suicide Bomber

As stated in Arthur Miller's The Evolution of Evil, "Killing may inflict more momentous fitness costs on a victim than any other single act". Of course no one reading this blog would know for certain whether or not being murdered is a pleasant experience since we're all quite alive but most of us can guess that it is not a positive thing. From an evolutionary point of view, murder prevents the victim from reproducing and therefore cannot pass on his/her genes. In addition, the survival of the victim's family is threatened since the victim can no longer provide for them.A murder can also be categorized as more or less 'allowable' if the costs inflicted are equal to the benefits received, such as killing someone in self-defense. Then there is the other end of the spectrum, inflicting great costs for small gains, better known as an evil act.

In the case of a suicide bomber/jihadist, the individual is both perpetrator and victim. The murder and the murdered...

If killing inflicts the greatest fitness cost upon a person, then why are people flocking to become suicide bombers in places such as Israel and Iraq? Why are these people willing to pay a such a great cost- their life- in exchange for such a small gain? Is destroying 'the other' more valuable than one's own life?

Rwandan Genocide: Who's guilty, who's just complicite?

Great post by Ozymandias:
Thanks for bringing that article to our attention -- I want to bring another to our attention:
"One Conviction, One Acquittal in Rwandan Genocide (NYT, 09/13/06)
Lt. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi was found guilty of the crime of genocide, whereas the fromer Rwandan Mayor Jean Mpambara was acquited.
Should the mayor have been found guilty given that he must have known what was going on, but didn't do anything?

Segregated prayer?

An all-male committee of Saudi clerics recently pushed to ban women from praying at the Kaaba - part of the Haj pilgrimage - due to overcrowding. They backtracked on the proposition however, and actually expanded two areas for women's prayer. While the segregation of prayer sites seems ridiculously sexist to most Westerners, does the fact that they have bowed (slightly) to pressure by women activists reveal a growing sense of gender equality in Saudi Arabia?
It seems a small step to me, but a step in the right direction. Obviously, the culture is still offensively sexist, but perhaps this aversive reaction to the clerics will spark further efforts to treat women as equals in all facets of life, not just religion. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Perils of Obedience?

Pretty much all of us like to tell ourselves that "it couldn't happen to me". We all like to imagine that we wouldn't have went along with the Nazis or, for a less extreme and more germane example, we wouldn't have shocked someone just because a guy in a lab coat said so. That was forty years ago, right? We're modern and educated, that wouldn't have fooled us.

Well, maybe not. Here's a very good and very disturbing article in the link above: (it'll take 10-20 minutes to read). Granted, the individual in question targeted people who were trained to be submissive to authority and wouldn't question him. Still, it's sickening that in this day, people can still be so easily taken in by this.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Only 3 weeks to "Save" Darfur?!

One of today's NYT's editorial reads: "Three Weeks to Save Darfur".
Oh really? Wow...a timetable? What a concept. Darfur will not be saved because there is no international will to save it. There is a lot of talk, but not much action. To boot, the African Union peacekeeping forces are set to leave Darfur at the end of this month. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has made it clear that he will not allow UN peacekeeping forces into his country.
So where does that leave the people of Darfur? Probably with more of the same as in the picture above. (this picture was taken by a colleague of mine who was working with the UN in Sudan during the summer months -- the picture shows a village in Darfur shortly after a Janjaweed attack)...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Child Brides in Afghanistan

A high proportion of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the legal age, according to reports from the Ministry
of Women's Affairs and NGOs. As many as 57 percent involve young women under 16 years of age, some of them as young as nine. More often, than not these young girls are married to middle-aged men who have had wives in the past and may even have children from previous marriages.

I did some independent research and found that according to Afghanistan's new constitution, the minimum age of marriage
for females is 16 and for males 18. However, in rural and even some urban areas the tradition of marrying off daughters while young in order to receive money remains common among the poor.

Are these young girls then seen as a commodity that can be sold off? How desperately poor would her parents be that they need to marry her off in order to be able to provide for themselves?