This week on the Hero Report podcast, we’re joined by Elizabeth Svoboda, author of What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness. They discuss the heroism of volunteer firefighters in Australia and protesters in Ukraine.
Tell us what you think about this episode, discuss these issues with us on Twitter (Matt Langdon / Ari Kohen), and join us every week on Google+ for our live broadcast (where you can chat with us while we’re on the air and contribute to the conversation).
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Palestinian Nabil Basharat has worked for years for Israeli-owned SodaStream, where he has risen up to shift manager in its West Bank factory.
He supports his wife and six children on an income he says is quite high by both Palestinian and Israeli standards. Though he’d like to see Palestinians get their own state someday, he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of his career.
“They need to understand what the factory gives the Palestinian workers and there are a lot of factories in this area doing the same thing,” says Basharat, 40, who lives in a village near Ramallah.
The “they” he alludes to are the European and American groups pushing a boycott of Israeli products to get Israel to relinquish claims to the West Bank ….
On a visit to the factory, USA TODAY found that the movement’s allegations were not on the minds of many of the plant’s 1,300 workers, of which 500 are Palestinian and 450 are Arab Israelis and 350 Jewish Israelis.
Israeli Arab Zafid Abu Aballah, 28, has been a machine operator at the factory for four years.
"I have an Israeli passport, if the firm closed I could find another job, but Palestinians would not be able to, there are no jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank.
"This is political, just political but the people here just want to work and live, they don’t have an interest in the politics between Palestine and Israel."
Aballah says he make $2,000 a month, significantly more than the Palestinian Authority minimum wage of $377.
And … scene.
Well, here’s a disturbing trend I didn’t know about until this morning:
The so-called “quenelle” signal, popularized by notoriously anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, allows these youngsters to openly flout the strict anti-hate speech laws in some parts of Europe.
Apparently, posting photos of oneself doing the “quenelle” is popular for Europeans teens, athletes, and even politicians.
In related news, today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where members of my family were murdered in 1944 and where the young man above is saluting their murderers.
Duck of Minerva, a group blog filled to the brim with some of my favorite political scientists, is hosting its second annual Online Achievements in International Studies Awards and it seems that, like last year, I’ve been nominated in the Best Blog (Individual) category.
This is quite an honor and I’d be further honored if you’ll all decide to vote for me. One catch: You have to register to vote by email.
Even though the other nominees are surely more deserving of this award, I’m hoping that my audience — and the power of thousands of Tumblr users who generally seem to like to vote for things and can share this message far and wide! — will register to vote and overwhelm those more worthy bloggers to steal the prize for me!
This is what I get if I win:
You know, if half the people who read this actually register and vote for me, I’m a lock. So, please, help me out!
I really want to be knowledgeable about current events, especially world news, but I feel like I have to know so much background to really understand what's going on and make an informed opinion. Is wikipedia a good resource for this or are there better ones?Anonymous
My recommendation for anyone with an interest in global affairs is to start with a few newspapers, specifically ones with good international reporting. That will give you the basic news.
When you want to get some depth on a given situation or a particular country, then you can turn to Wikipedia for the basics. But you should regard Wikipedia as a first pass, rather than as the conclusion of your journey.
As an example, take the unfolding situation in the Central African Republic. You might see the CAR in the news, then search Wikipedia for the basics, and then go to the experts for analysis. Human Rights Watch has a lot of detail on the situation, as does Amnesty International. And, of course, don’t forget to see what the experts have said. If you want more information, or information on a specific topic, you can also find a lot of good reporting on the CAR online; there’s this piece by my friend Hayes Brown, for example, about Samantha Power and the U.S.’s involvement in the crisis.
Finally, find reporters — international or not — whose work you trust and follow them on Twitter. They’ll keep you updated, not only the issues that originally brought them to your attention but on whatever’s developing.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is 65 years old today!
Celebrate by taking action: Send a letter or two or ten on behalf of prisoners of conscience as part of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights Campaign! Sample letters are available to make it ridiculously easy for you and your friends to promote and defend human rights.
Happy Human Rights Day!
I’ve been seeing a fair amount of criticism of Nelson Mandela over the past few days. Some of it is just the expected contrarian reaction to all the overwhelmingly positive obituaries and remembrances. Some of it is just the inanity we ought to expect from the inane.
But some of it is misguided in a way that demands a response.
What I have in mind is the brand of criticism, like the above cartoon, that says, “I’m going to explain something about South Africa that all the apologists for Mandela don’t know: South Africa wasn’t fixed by Mandela.”
Now it might be the case that these critics honestly want to inform us that South Africa isn’t exactly the “Rainbow Nation” of Mandela’s and Tutu’s vision because they think we don’t know this. Or they want to educate us on persistent economic inequalities because they’re pretty sure they’re the only ones who’ve spent any time thinking about South Africa. Or maybe they believe that only those former politicians who solve every problem or fulfill every promise ought to be lionized. Or they themselves don’t understand or accept that Mandela’s release and the subsequent political changes in South Africa were owed to compromise rather than outright victory. Or they could think that heroism means never making compromises or bad choices.
But here’s the thing: It’s possible to know a whole bunch about South Africa, including all the problems that weren’t fixed by Mandela and even the problems that have arisen in the decades since his release from prison, and still conclude that he was a towering moral figure on the world stage; that he almost certainly meant more to South Africans, black and white, than anyone else ever will; that things might have gone terribly wrong for South Africa if Mandela hadn’t rejected vengeance when he walked out of prison or hadn’t chosen to step down from power after one term in office; that it’s distinctly impressive to see him embraced today by many of those same people who once rejected him as a radical, given how little he moderated his radicalism; and that (along with Desmond Tutu) his vision of justice was responsible for a popularization of the whole concept of restorative justice on a global scale.
It’s easy to criticize, especially if you’ve just spent a few hours on Wikipedia and learned something about Mandela or South Africa that you didn’t know last week, but if someone like Mandela doesn’t made the cut of impressive political figures for you, I submit that it might be your standards, not our opinion of Mandela, that needs to be reevaluated.
What follows is a guest blog post written by my friend and colleague David P. Forsythe, the Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professor of Political Science (Emeritus) at the University of Nebraska. He is the author of more than 100 books and articles in the field of international relations, most recently The Politics of Prisoner Abuse: The United States and Enemy Prisoners After 9/11. Forsythe is widely regarded as having been among the first to help establish the study of human rights and humanitarian affairs in the discipline of political science.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 4th of July. It would have been eminently symbolic if Nelson Mandela had died December 10th, International Human Rights Day. No single person better personified the notion of human rights in modern times than Mandela, who passed from this life on December 5 at the amazing age of 95. Despite 27 years of prison which included stretches of hard labor, his body proved as strong and vibrant as his mind. Both were devoted to fighting South Africa’s version of racial segregation.
Mandela’s incarceration was entirely legal under the laws of white minority government in that nation. But the idea of human rights rests on the argument that there is a universal set of personal rights which are fundamental for securing a life with dignity, whatever this or that national law might say. After all, the Nazis had laws too.
How then are we to know what those universal rights are? We could rely on philosophers, whether they believed in natural law or not. A practical answer is that all the states of the world meet and negotiate a set of fundamental personal rights. This is what happened on December 10th in 1948 when the UN General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without dissenting vote (but with 8 abstentions). Human rights treaties followed to convert diplomatic agreement into law.
Universal human rights do not implement themselves. People like Mandela have to take up the challenge of securing implementation. This he did first through peaceful protest and legal argument, then later through support of armed action when the white authorities increased repression. From jail he continued to lead the opposition to apartheid in the name of the rights of all regardless of color and other superficial distinctions like gender or economic status.
Those South Africans with vested interests in the status quo resisted for a long time with brutal determination. Such elites always do, because human rights are not given. They are wrestled from below in a political process. The white minority South African elite yielded not to superior moral and legal logic, but because they finally recognized that given the pressures they faced, their own self-interests could only be protected in rainbow democracy. All-race elections occurred there in 1994, and a free Mandela voted for the first time in his life.
Americans now praise Mandela, from President Obama to Tiger Woods. But U.S. foreign policy was slow to decisively oppose apartheid in South Africa. Nebraska acted earlier, applying economic pressure through the Unicam as Senator Ernie Chambers led the fight to deny state pension fund investments to companies profiting from racial discrimination in South Africa.
Commentators now sermonize about how South Africans should keep alive Mandela’s memory and his determined but politically shrewd commitment to universal human rights. Americans might do the same as we continue to debate immigration reform, health care reform, and other perplexing questions such as what to do about violation of human rights in Syria. Universal human rights might indeed prove important in shaping national developments. Mandela (and Jefferson) believed in that possibility.
Use the internet with caution today, friends, since a whole bunch of people are bothered that Nelson Mandela said X or didn’t say Y, believed in X rather than Y, or didn’t do X because he focused on Y.
If you’re thinking about criticizing Mandela for not believing what you believe, you might ask yourself how well you’d fit into the shoes he wore. And after you’ve spent some time thinking that through, go listen to these speeches.
Nelson Mandela has died at age 95. The world has lost one of its great heroes.
Here’s a short snippet about Mandela’s uniqueness from an article I published a couple of years ago on the role played by forgiveness and reconciliation in restorative justice:
Perhaps the most recognizable contemporary example of unilateral forgiveness is Nelson Mandela, who seems to harbor no resentment toward those who imprisoned him on Robben Island for 27 years. Govier (2002, p. 71) argues that
When Mandela reached out to his former enemies and did whatever he could to assure them that they would suffer no evil at his hands, he did not do this in response to acknowledgement and expressions of remorse on the part of white leaders. Nor was he responding to a community that had apologized for the wrongs of the past and indicated a commitment to deep and widespread moral transformation.
It is undoubtedly because Mandela had so much about which he could have been justifiably angry that his forgiveness has inspired so many in South Africa and around the world. The unilateral forgiveness that he offered to white South Africans was not seen by anyone as a sign of weakness or willingness to forget the past, but instead has gained him nearly universal admiration for his ‘openness, acceptance, and lack of bitterness’ (Govier 2002, p. 71). Indeed, Mandela’s decision to spend New Year’s Eve 2000 on Robben Island signified both his remembering of apartheid and his triumph over the conditions that system imposed on him and all black South Africans. Govier (2002, p. 61) rightly argues that ‘What is at issue in forgiveness is not whether suffering and wrongdoing are remembered, but how they are remembered.’
Govier, T., 2002. Forgiveness and revenge. London: Routledge.