Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Durban II and the Blame Game

When SARS broke out in Canada, many were warned about blaming the Chinese when it was logical to question why China did very little to respond to the outbreak. Granted, blame was unfairly placed on some who could not have possibly have had anything to do with the outbreak and the failure to contain it but there were also lukewarm rebukes to those who could very well have dealt with the matter at hand. No one wanted to appear "racist".

Enter Durban II, the UN conference on racism. Canada boycotted the conference, as did the US, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Israel. Many believed (and justly so, it turns out) that the conference was not at all about dealing with bigotry and xenophobia but about placing the blame on Israel for strife real or imagined. Pierre Poilievre, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, has written an article about Canada's vindication on boycotting the conference. He applauds Canada for acting alone. We did act alone. We boycotted the conference first. We cut off aid to Hamas. We proved, even for a short time, that doing the morally courageous thing can be isolating. Saints have been there, even at the advent of death, and that, while socially being an outcast, has its rewards in the afterlife with One who had been where they stood.

But what of the Blame Game? How are the problems of bigotry resolved by placing blame squarely at the feet of one group?

I feel that no matter how hard we try, we will never completely resolve the major problems society faces. Each effort is a social, cultural, political and even spiritual task. We can only do better each time. Did we advance by not acting when Hutus killed Tutsis? Did anyone say anything when the former Soviet Union Russified countries it then controlled? How are we advancing if we allow paternal racism to function in our relations with aboriginal people in Canada? Does anyone point out the racism in the Islamic world? The word for a black person in Arabic is "abd", which also means "slave". Indeed, the slave trade in Africa still thrives. Slavery also thrives in Islamic states and households around the world. Black Darfurians are victims of the Arab-backed janjaweed. Indeed, ethnic murder is not a strange occurrence in the Islamic world. Muslim Pakistan has been oppressing and murdering Muslim (and other) Bengalis for years. Why, then, does Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blame Israel for racism (unfortunately, he is not the only one)?

I submit that it is easier to blame others than objectively examining an issue and coming to terms with the faults and failing inherent in one's self. Hardly a profound realisation, I admit, but it's simple. Poverty and ignorance kill more people than perceived injustices. They are only a couple of reasons for failed states and injustices. Did racism allow two toddlers to freeze to death or did a father fail to protect his children? Is racism to blame for Palestinians living in poverty, or is it a refusal to embrace peace? Ahmadinejad can blame Israel or "zionism" or whatever bug-bear he wishes but at the end of the day, his is the country where a woman can be stoned to death for standing near a man. Do we possess the fortitude and the knowledge to stand up and point out something, however unpleasant it may be?

Why would anyone be a part of a conference that can't recognise a problem when it sees it?

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