12.29.11 Save One Life, Save The World

In the past two weeks, regime violence in Syria has increased, but so has reporting of abuses from internal observers, like the Arab League and human rights organizations – many of whom have posted videos to You Tube or other video sharing sites on the internet.

It is estimated by political activists that more than 6,000 protestors have died as a result of the political unrest in Syria. Increasingly, division seems to be occurring along sectarian lines as opposing sects compete for local control.

Meanwhile, in the vacuum left by vacating US forces in Iraq, Iran is pressing allegiance with Iraq, its former and long time adversary, at the same time it threatens the US with closure of the Straight of Hormuz, a key oil export shipping channel in the region. Purportedly, the threat has arisen in response to Iranian protests against the looming imposition of US sanctions. All this assures that unrest will continue in the region.

Even as US forces prepare to recalibrate their presence in Afghanistan, ten years of progress made by women in that country are under threat of loss due to a resurgence of extremely violent oppression there. As reported today by CNN, it is has been estimated by experts that over 80 percent of women in Afghanistan are routinely abused physically, sexually or psychologically, often by the families they are married into. Under the former and more visible Taliban regimen, women were essentially forced under house arrest, clocked behind blackened windows, ostracized from social, economic and political life – made slaves within their families and homes.

But it isn’t only women who have suffered under such oppression. As National Geographic has reported, small boys forced into military service are dressed as women and paraded in front of older men in evening encampments, then auctioned to the highest bidder and raped. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has long labored to arrest such human rights abuses in the region, but they persist.

One must ask why? What causes these issues to persist despite distant outrage at such acts, even as similar cruel and perverse actions occur in our own country and elsewhere in the world?

Many point to political policy, and indeed one can trace instability to policy, particularly as it acts in a capacity to incentivize instability.

Policy can contribute to political, economic and educational inequities, all of which help increase division in society. In fact, under Taliban rule, women in Afghanistanwere prohibited from receiving an education or earning income. As members of society, they were valued at “less than zero” according to sources from CNN.

Historians have long recognized women as foundational components of a stable, prosperous society. As familiar cornerstones of peace and accord, they not only serve a utilitarian role in home-life logistics; but, under favorable political, educational and economic conditions, they can comfort, nurture, educate, support and lend a pervasive sense of stability beginning within a family unit, and extending to networks of communities and regions, particularly as they assume leadership roles in business, education, social services and politics.

Beyond policy, however, cultural affinity is a very strong force in shaping a just and sound society. And, sometimes, what is overtly promoted is contradictory to what is practiced. Where policy supports injustice, or where a lack of enforcement allows it, a vacuum will emerge inviting of those who would seek to take full advantage within it. Unfortunately when this occurs en-mass and persists, it can generate a sense of cultural acceptance which only furthers and deepens the problem.

Cultural affinity can be so great a contributor to recurring unrest, even as liberties and opportunities crumble around one, a sense of belonging and familiarity can confound efforts to change. Even as lives are lost… whether one life or a thousand lives, those struggling to survive within such a system often feel beholden to it despite grave risks to themselves and their families.

One life lost is immeasurable in its positive potential and the vacuum it leaves in society. What might that one life have achieved? What might that life have contributed, which might have productively changed the course of history?

What happens when we fail to value life, honor life and we begin to sacrifice life?

We allow destructive forces of self-interest to obliterate our capacity for benevolence and productivity and we descend to the bottom, where we are compelled to linger eras on.

In this episode, I am interviewing Sonia Pressman Fuentes, who fled Nazi Germany in 1934 with her family for the refuge of the United States. Spared the horror of the Holocaust, Sonia went on to college then law school, then federal service and on to co-found the National Organization for Women where she dedicated her professional and personal life to issues plaguing women and minorities.

Honored by so many for doing so much, her personal legacy of positive social change would take pages and pages to fill. Her story illustrates not only what it can mean to live under threat of oppression and death, but what it means to act in favor of hope and change – what it can mean to the world, when just one life is given the opportunity to live on.

Relevant Links

Lisa Bracken’s field guide: “You And What Army: How to Neutralize Conflict and Negotiate Justice for the Totally Outgunned, Inwardly Timid, Burnt Out or Socially Defunct” www.youandwhatarmybook.com

Sonia Pressman Fuentes: http://www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes

“Eat First—You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738806358/philosophyresour

Article about Sonia’s recent trip to Eurpoe will be published by Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine in March/April 2012 http://www.vcn.bc.ca/outlook/

National Organization for Women (which Sonia co-founded)  http://www.now.org

Women for Women International https://give.womenforwomen.org/donate/index.htm?wfw=donatesrch

Sonia’s Interview on In-depth Perception


Other episodes of In-Depth perception by host, Lisa Bracken