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Are There Adults In The Room?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 24, 2022 14:43

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Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Committee that finalized the text, including the words: "Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, ..." But somehow squabbling like schoolchildren seems to be preferable to calm deliberation and free elections.

Emerging from the Second World War that had rocked the foundations of civilization and that had seen the unleashing of humanity-eradicating nuclear forces, the "Peoples of These United Nations" drafted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopting it on 10 December 1948. It was their earnest desire that humanity should no longer seek recourse to violence as a means to resolve political problems.  

Violence is a harsh instrument, prone to unforeseen complications. The French Aristocracy who thought a rebellion by the peasantry and middle class would enable them to claw back powers usurped by the Sun King unleashed a reign of terror that consumed its own leaders and children and left France weakened, at the mercy of its enemies. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand triggered a war that destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and everything the Black Hand conspirators could have hoped for. 

The Black Death five hundred years ago lowered life expectancy in Europe dramatically. The Hundred Years' War, the Italian and Spanish Wars, the Crusades brought about few of the desired outcomes, but endless misery and poverty. 

On the foundation of the Renaissance was built a European and global political system locked in a struggle between monarchies and control on the one hand and democracies, free trade and free politics on the other. This struggle came to a head with the Second World War which, we should remember, was triggered by Hitler's invasions on the pretext that the German-speaking peoples in Poland and the Sudetenland had to be protected. To end this madness, the "peoples of these United Nations" came together to set up an international system that would make such a conflict impossible. 

Now, close on seventy-five years later, this system lies in shreds. The breakup of the Soviet empire has left serious problems, and the Russian population of eastern Ukraine had reason to seek a resolution. That this civil war could not be settled by negotiation and peaceful discussion is a judgment on all concerned. And now the attempt of the Eastern Ukrainian forces to settle their problems with violence has escalated. Russia professed to desire only the liberation of the Donetsk 'republics'. That has now gone far beyond the limits set, and once war is unleashed it is almost impossible to control. 

The economic effects on the global economy, already fragile after the COVID pandemic, will suffer greatly. But worse: If this challenge to the established order is not met by concerted international action China is likely to look seriously at external adventures, not only into Taiwan, but also into India and other enclaves. India's tenuous grasp on Kashmir becomes a moot point. International borders and limits globally will be called into question. Africa has a long history of conflict around colonial borders. The Kenyan Representative to the Security Council spelt out brilliantly the importance of mature and deliberate action.

 

 

Now is the time to reinforce the mature, responsible values that will build our future political system.

 

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 24, 2022 14:43

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Source: Forbes
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