Ritual Killings to End

The 2 or 3 readers of this personal journal may know that Cynthia and I produced a documentary film called Drawn From Water. The film explores a little-known practice called mingi — the ritualistic killing of children by S. Ethiopian tribes, and the efforts to rescue mingi children and ultimately stop the practice altogether. Today, I’m elated to announce that the elders of the Kara tribe have voted to permanently end the practice of mingi. This decision was mostly the result of the tireless work of Lale Labuko, a Kara tribe member, who plays a central role in the film. Lale is one of very few Kara to receive a university education. He returned to the tribe four years ago to help end mingi killing. Below are the translated statements of the Kara elders, explaining their reasoning for ending this century’s old tribal practice (from the Omo Child website). But this is just one step. At least two other S. Ethiopian tribes still practice mingi, such as the 45,000+ Hamer tribe members. The number of Ethiopian children (aged infant to 5) killed each year could still be in the thousands. Please help by going to the Drawn From Water page and making a donation or buying the film. 100% of donations go directly to on-the-ground efforts to end mingi. Other organizations working to end mingi include Omo Child and GTLI. … Elder Mero Dobo: This organization brought a good help for Kara land. We have seen a good development since this organization established. But before that everybody was assumed that Lale brought curse to the Kara land. However, we haven’t seen any curse both to the family and to the land. As I know so; far for the past four years nothing happen to the Kara land and family as well. But, last summer we discovered that Omo Child foundation became blessing for Kara land and we were astonished by John Rowe help which fed many families. As Kara elder last summer was unique, learning moment and an unseen blessing in our lifetime. Likewise, now we have a lot of rain in our land than before. Therefore, I am personal I say this organization brought blessing for Kara land. Now we have a grass for our cattle and everywhere is green. Thus, Omo Child/ Lale: we accepted and we agree with your plan to stop mingi and to change the culture next month. Therefore, we are ready to change the culture and it is mostly right all your advise Lale, for  

Power of the Crowd

Humanity wastes 550,000 hours a day typing in the annoying Captcha (200,000,000 Captchas per day * 10s per instance). Luis Von Ahn, inventor of the Captcha, explains why this is a good thing. And if you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor quality of Google Translation, please take 16 minutes and watch his brilliant TED Talk on Massive-Scale Online Collaboration. While you’re hearing about the historically unprecedented power of 100 million people working towards a common goal, be dreaming up your own ways of helping the planet while using your  

The MAE Foundation

Gathering up those things which shape our thoughts We pack as though a journey to forever is stretching out ahead Saints go naked Prophets look back wistfully Choking vapours drive life out of corners And rivers graciously receive our poisons Like trusting children Patient figures stand and wait Gazing down at rusting rails To unknown places with no names – Ralph Steadman 1997 (from Plague and the Moonflowers) My talented friend Richard recently told me of a new philanthropic work to help Burmese genocide refugees (150,000+). The work employs music and musical instruments to enhance opportunity for creativity and hope into lives that survive on $20 per month. Richard has seen how music can positively change individuals and communities oppressed with struggle and little hope. Fittingly, the name of this new work is The MAE Foundation (Music Alters Everything). Richard’s vision includes the mobilization of the music industry (composers, producers, musicians, etc.) to become involved in this important work. I browsed some YouTube videos on Burmese genocide to put in this post, but literally broke down after a couple minutes. The inhumanity is unspeakable. I encourage you to browse over to Richard’s site (in beta), and do what you can to  

Ivory Coast

Jan 2011: My cousin left Ivory Coast in late December and was home with her folks for Christmas. The standoff continues in country, hundreds of people have been killed, and it’s not looking good. 8 Dec: e-mail from cousin.. “Today the Ambassador told us to prepare for the worst, and talk to our local staff about the possibility that expats will be evacuated… it’s quite dramatic.” 6 Dec: updated news HERE. Does not look promising. 4 Dec: My cousin e-mailed today from Abidjan City in the Ivory Coast, Africa. She is country director for a large U.S. government relief program in Cote d’Ivoire. The country held their first free /democratic elections in many years this week. She was part of the massive multi-national election observer team. She had earlier outlined for me some details of their roles as observers. All Cote d’Ivoire polling places (including the key northern and central provinces) were staffed with official multi-national observers who counted and cross-counted every vote on-site, and who then physically accompanied the paper votes as they were transferred from polling places to the capital of Abidjan. The observers remained present while central voting authorities re-counted all votes and tallied results. I won’t get into the story that followed, but in essence the highly popular challenger (Ouattara) won by a decisive margin (55% – 45%). However, the incumbent administration delayed announcing the results for three days, claiming “vote rigging” and fraud in the northern districts. Yesterday, Cote d’Ivoire’s  “Constitutional Council” (under control of the current government) declared 400,000 northern votes “invalid” and awarded the election to the incumbent (Gbagbo), who was sworn in just hours ago. My cousin is quite worried about what will follow in Abidjan. Some are predicting widespread civil unrest throughout the country, and perhaps all-out civil war. International reaction has been swift and decisively united: the incumbent must step down and allow the legally elected president to assume power, as reported moments ago by the BBC: “Mr. Obama said Independent Electoral Commission, credible and accredited observers and the United Nations have all confirmed this result and attested to its credibility.” He congratulated Mr. Ouattara and said the international community would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions”. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – the former colonial power in Ivory Coast – told Mr. Gbagbo to “respect the will of the people, abstain from any action that might provoke violence” and to help establish peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called on Mr Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”. The chairman of regional bloc Ecowas, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said all parties should “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission”. The head of the UN mission in Ivory Coast also said it regarded Mr Ouattara as the winner, while the African Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the developments. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said the IMF would only work with an Ivory Coast government recognised by the UN. “The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s image,” he said. Is it just me, or do these people have that look that says “I know what I’m doing is totally wrong, but I don’t want to lose my  

The Prayer of the Children

I was at an audio show yesterday in Denver. In one of the endless demonstration rooms, a gear manufacturer was playing a song I had heard years ago, and forgotten how moving it was. I’m supposed to be there critiquing audio products and instead I’m sitting on their couch, weeping. Just a moment ago, I found the song with a video. This is hard for me to watch all the way through. The theme is religious, but the call is universal. Anyone touched by this poem cannot help but make the world a better place, regardless of their belief or tribe. Alas, human separation and alienation resulting from tribal and religious belief is part of the  

Create Something Beautiful

“Give me one wild word, and I promise I will follow. The word the Sea rolled back to me was “mosaic.” I began to see through acts of witnessing, that the extermination of a species and the extermination of a people are predicated on the same impulses: prejudice, cruelty, ignorance and arrogance, all circling around issues of power and justice. The world is broken. We are broken, whether it is through our distractive, fragmented lives or war. Taking that which is broken and creating something whole is an act of healing and restoration. Call it reconstruction. Mosaic: an art form, a form of integration. Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find. It is more than the act of assemblage, it is the act of daring contemplation that leads us to action. To bear witness is not a passive act. To be present with a piece of art, with a prairie community, with a Rwandan mother who is telling you a story of what happened to her children during the war, is to be moved to a different point of view. Empathy is the word that comes to mind. Through acts of witnessing our consciousness shifts and as a result, we can choose to act differently. Pete Seeger says, “Participation is the key to rescuing the human race.” I believe him. I certainly do not have any recipe for engagement, I can only share three things that have made a difference for me. Trust your heart, follow your passion and share it with others. Become biologically literate — learn the names of the plants, birds, and animals where you live, extending your notion of community to include all life. Become part of that community with all the rights and responsibilities that it offers, both human and wild. We can improvise. We can create without a map. And we don’t have to live in isolation. The gift of an attentive life is the ability to recognize patterns, and find our way towards a unity built on empathy. Empathy becomes the path that leads us from the margins to the center of concern. The pattern is the thing. The beauty made belongs to everyone. Finding beauty in a broken world becomes more than the art of assemblage. It is the work of daring contemplation that inspires action. Create something beautiful.” – Terry Tempest  

Hope I Don’t Die

My friend Nick sent me a powerful video essay on the Western ethos of war. Incredibly moving four-minutes. Hard to watch this film and not be changed. (You can view the film on its homepage here.) The line was continually blurred between perpetrator and victim, between hero and villain. In time, the labels that heretofore defined my perceptions of the world became meaningless. You see what you want to see. You see it the way you want to see it. You see what you can bear to see. – Peter van Agtmael The structure of the current global economy is not designed for equitable, plodding growth; it’s designed to reward opportunistic, risk-seeking innovators. Were one to construct an investment portfolio of illicit businesses, it would no doubt outperform Wall Street. – Nils  

The Perception of Worth / The Consumption of Memory

Mentioned in my last post, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 TED Talk was among my favorites. In the context of behavioral economics, Kahneman takes us immediately to the heart of what it means to be human – to question and probe the very nature of self and memory and experience, ultimately revealing ‘economics’ in the larger picture of relationship, value/worth, and our questionable notions of perceived reality. Is the consumption of memory the consumption of reality? Considering spirituality, do we place more value in experiencing or remembering, and how do we define the differences? Are well-being and happiness synonymous? Are there really two selves at work here? You will find yourself challenged and asking questions you’ve probably never considered after viewing this must-watch TED Talk. ADDED: After you view the video, don’t miss this surprisingly thoughtful article from Norman Lear in today’s Washington Post religion section: “the ‘What’s it all about?’ question is the best conversation going. Just plain folks, unfortunately, can’t get into it, because the rabbis, the priests, the ministers, mullahs and the reverends — the professionals — have a corner on the subject… And so, the sectarian rivalry and sanctimonious bickering about moral superiority and spiritual infallibility that occurs among the professionals often assumes a greater importance than the religious experience