I’m back. I’ve returned from the 2012 RESULTS international conference (going on at the same time as the AIDS conference! Maybe this deserves a part 2) trying to keep that rejuvenating optimism it radiated. A conference, you say? Snoozefest right? Trust me when I tell you it was a total whirlwind, from the tiny Delta planes and numerous airports to the standing ovations and upbeat energy. For me, the biggest highlight was meeting people of all ages passionate about doing good. Most of the time, when I talk about human rights, I feel like I’m being treated like one of those people who go around on bikes spreading the Gospel. Oh, yeah, sure, I think what our government did in Guantanamo was wrong too…I’m just going to go get some more chips and dip. Or I’ll hear variations of “bleeding heart”, “tree-hugger”, and concern about my real-world bread winning skills when really, the person just doesn’t know how to respond. Don’t you love that about people? Fear of the other, even in a person you know and love, drives them to defensiveness (or, offensiveness?). In the freezing ballrooms of the Doubletree Crystal City in Virgina, however, I was urged not to give up the “moral case” for advocating for the end of the injustices of poverty, to not apologize for declaring that the kind of inequality in our world is unacceptable, and learn as much as possible about how to share my views effectively. If there’s one thing that I learned, it’s that no matter what kind of money-making skills we have, if we keep ignoring the problems of the world around us, we’re going to be in big trouble. Examples?
It’s no secret that “large groups of desperate people are a threat to our national security”, as Marianne Williamson, bestselling author, puts it.
We, along with several other nations, are losing GDP by not investing in educational initiatives.
“Every generation faced the challenges of decency and poverty, but no generation held the fate of the planet and environment on their hands,” says Jeff Sachs, renowned economist, talking about us (aka the youth of today).
For once, I’m going to offer some positivity. First, you should know I probably experienced the most colorful (figuratively) diversity of our Congress-more on that later, possibly…but more importantly, there were some encouraging statistics in the midst of all the mind-blowing negative ones that are supposed to fire you up about injustice. In the last forty years, poverty has been cut in half. Another speaker talked about a village in Bangladesh that he visited where women had gone from staying inside tending to their poor families to working and owning businesses. And, contrary to my hard line stance that people usually find off-putting, I can make the world of human rights relatable! If I write an op-ed relating with a hook that talks about Glee but leads into the issue of…well, something important that’s not bullying, people just might read it. And, everybody has a sixth degree connection to Kevin Bacon, because he’s everywhere. That’s the most important lesson, of course. Well, also that you have more connections than you might think, and they can help you save the world. If only it was that easy, but it’s a start.
In the words of Jeff Sachs: “Your homework assignment is to end poverty. You have 25 years, and it’s open book. Oh and you can work in groups.”