I’m looking forward to speaking on three panels at the St Petersburg Conference on World Affairs February 12-15. I’ll be covering some of my favorite topics: Education in Africa (Sub-Sahara Africa Panel on Thursday), the UN (especially the place of UN Women on Friday’s UN Panel), and a look at Violence Against Women (Wednesday).
If you’re in the area, do sign up! These sessions, and many more, are all free and open to the public.
The 2019 St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs is a 3-1/2 Day event with over 30 Panel Discussions held at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Speakers and panelists include distinguished diplomats, military, media, and academic experts discussing critical international issues of the day at each annual conference.
Believe it or not, Chris Hedges wrote this in 2011, when our current political climate was nowhere on the horizon.
When you think about education and what it should do, contemplate this afresh:
The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves….
“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”
As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.
“Gender Rights as Human Rights: Where are We in 2016?”
Gender Rights as Human Rights – both locally and globally – was the topic of a panel discussion October 26 at the University of South Florida Sarasota- Manatee. Five panelists shared their experiences and expertise regarding women’s issues in our own local communities and in villages as far away as India and Africa. The Gulf Coast Chapter co-sponsored this event.
Scott Osborne, Esq., President of the UN Women/USNC, Gulf Coast Chapter, discussed women in India and how cultural influences can be at odds with the country’s democratic governmental and legal structure.
Osborne joined panel members Jody L. McBrien, Associate Professor at USFSM; Leen al-Fatafta, a student at New College; Phillip Wagner, Professor USFSM; and Noelle Polk Clark, Advocacy Director, UN Association, Tampa Bay Chapter.
Prof. McBrien told stories of how women with whom she works in rural Africa are making real gains by focusing on health, education and economic opportunities in their communities.
Leen al-Fatafta shared her story of being an Arab Feminist, an internal compass she was raised with and has carried with her in her travels and studies. She talked about the place of feminism throughout the history of Islam.
Prof. Wagner said the current political climate opens the door to discussion and awareness about gender equity issues. Even though many men may not be complicit in gender discrimination, he invited them to move beyond awareness and become active in being part of the solutions.
Noelle Polk Clark shared local statistics about discrimination and violence against women. She also shared how CEDAW could be an integral piece in the move toward gender equity. She encouraged attendees to press their local representatives to adopt local CEDAW ordinances. (CEDAW is the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women)