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Post The UN, Human Rights, and the Marshmallow Man; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 09/08/18 3:16 PM

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The UN, Human Rights, and the Marshmallow Man; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 09/08/18 3:16 pm)

Gary Moore writes:

A) In response to Richard Hancock (7 September), I want to hear many more details about the Finus Gilliland Murder Steer, especially as told in Richard's brisk style.

B) Hank Levin's urging that we push the UN to do something on key issues, notably the "self-immolation of countries" like Argentina, not to mention the poster favorites Nicaragua and Venezuela: Here, I'm sure the urgency resonates with all in WAIS, and I like the idea of reposting and publicizing, though it seems one of the strengths of WAIS is that it's a free-form exchange of thoughts for the sake of the thoughts, and not necessarily for their effects.

Moreover, I worked for the UN over a period of two years, first at the big glass building in New York, and then, after a break in Mexico, for a year in the Balkans. And let me be quick to second the many colleagues who would agree that the idea of pushing the UN to do anything would be like prodding the big marshmallow man in Ghost Busters. You would just get your arm covered with marshmallow glue, and then come out on the other side. Many do try. While I was in New York there were demonstrations many days in front of the building by Falun Gong, the puzzling Chinese exercise sect that Beijing has seemed to target, torture and crush in fears that it's the next Boxer Rebellion. I'm not aware that Falun Gong ever got anything out of trying to pressure the UN this way, but they did try.

Also, I've waited for years to tell the story, from inside the big glass building, of the special human rights room. It's a large one, originally designed for long-table conferences, but by the time I was there it had been taken over for a special purpose. Its walls had been lined with shelves, and these shelves, like siege battlements, were bulging all around with boxes, filled with old correspondence, sent to the UN by people around the world who were crying out for remedy of their human rights. It was not just that the UN couldn't do anything about most of these petitions, but, more dismally, the accumulation showed that the whole idea of human rights provided a magnificently effective magnet for the clinically insane--or perhaps more accurately, for the not-quite-worst of the schizophrenia spectrum--because, rather than angrily blaming the usual lightning rods (the CIA, the Pope, the Masons), these particular petitioners, thousands or tens of thousands of them, at least took the more positive step of seeking out a force for good, and, rather than blaming, they simply demanded.

An impressively intelligent UN staffer was assigned to devote most or all of her time to this room, on the policy idea that you couldn't just throw this stuff away, even if it was crazy, because who was to judge? A genuinely promising intellect was thus entirely absorbed into the black hole of keeping people thinking the UN could do something.

JE comments:  Gary, I'm sure you have some thoughts on how to improve the UN.  How about eliminating the automatic veto of the Security Council permanent members?  Most of the permanent members, however, would veto the idea.


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  • Can You "Push" the UN to Action? And What Can WAIS Do? (Henry Levin, USA 09/13/18 8:10 AM)
    I agree with Gary Moore (September 8th) that simply "pushing" the UN to do its job is naïve and unlikely to provide any meaningful response. My suggestion is for WAIS to analyze how it might be possible to set out a strategy that gets the UN to function effectively or even at the margin in these situations.

    Moreover, there are other agencies that if they act in concert, might put pressure on these malfunctioning countries. We have little power beyond our potentially effective ideas for change. At this moment it is not clear that WAIS can even agree upon these or promising directions to search for these.


    JE comments: Yes, WAIS has "informed, healthy disagreement" built into its DNA. Does this paralyze us?


    I have been thinking a lot about Hank Levin's appeals for WAIS to take a more robust role in addressing world problems. Two nations in turmoil come to mind, precisely because we have outspoken and very brave colleagues in each: Venezuela, with José Ignacio Soler, and Turkey, with our tireless correspondent Yusuf Kanli. Yusuf and Nacho both put a human face on nations in crisis. Like all families, WAISers are prone to bicker, but we stick together and look out for our own.  Nacho and Yusuf, we are with you.


    [WAISworld was suffering from memory overload all morning, hence the delay.  My thanks to IT Director Roman Zhovtulya for coming to the rescue.]


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