Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Respect Your Elders

As the world celebrates the birthday of Nelson Mandela, an announcement was made. Mr. Mandela is celebrating his 89th birthday and instead of quietly sinking into the west, he and a few of his elder friends are joining together to create a “council of elders”. The Elders as they will be called will consist of elder statespersons who will try to use their leadership, prestige, and notoriety to resolve some of the world’s most difficult problems. While many observers and naysayers will see this as an opportunity to grandstand and grind some political axes, I think it may set precedence for future responses to conflicts and global intransigence.

JOHANNESBURG, July 17 — Melding serious statesmanship and a dose of audacity, the former South African president, Nelson R. Mandela, and a clutch of world-famous figures plan to announce on Wednesday a private alliance to launch diplomatic assaults on the globe’s most intractable problems.

The alliance, to be unveiled during events marking Mr. Mandela’s 89th birthday, is to be called the Elders. Among others, it includes the retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu; former President Jimmy Carter; the former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan; and the human-rights activist and former Irish president Mary Robinson.

The remaining announced members of the group are Graça Machel, Mr. Mandela’s wife and a noted Mozambican human-rights activist; Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in extending loans to impoverished borrowers; Ela Bhatt, a women’s trade union leader in India; and Li Zhaoxing, who was China’s foreign minister until this year. [1]

Initially, I believe that this group will be ignored by the current world leaders, many of whom have the misguided belief that they are above international law and that their national interest supersedes the interest of anyone else’s on the planet. Provided that the group uses even handed approaches to conflicts and issues regardless of the participants, I think over time they may gain a groundswell of influence through public opinion. This of course will be their only weapon against the nationalist fervor that will result in their stances on many issues.

I think that given time and serious consideration this group could go a long way in reuniting a world that has been fractured recently by a misguided few. Of course that would require the majority of Americans to give up their empire ambitions and learn to respect and live in the world as a global citizen. This will require a lot of work, because whether they like to admit it or not many Americans like being the biggest kid on the block. What good is being the biggest kid if you can’t enjoy an occasional butt kicking of some smaller kid?

In order to truly be effective the impartiality of the panel must be unimpeachable. There are many conservatives who despite Iraq have not given up on their designs for world domination. They will look upon any group looking to check their current loose cannon as a attack on the sovereignty of America and will be sure to pull out the old rally around the flag arguments they used so well in the build up to Iraq. Anyone attempting to curb their unchecked power will immediately get lumped in with Osama and handily dismissed.

I think that the elders can give the world a new perspective and help to light the way into a new world of cooperation in solving the problems that affect us all as members in this global club. If they are able to highlight and provide solutions to some of our more intransigent problems they will get well deserved trust and praise.


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