Week 4 – Holocaust and other genocides (Holocaust Memorial Day)

Today -the 27th of January- is a Holocaust Memorial Day, which is why I decided for ‘Holocaust and other genocides’ to be my topic of the week.

What I have discovered

Genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people from a particular nation, race, culture or religion. It was only in 1948 (three years after the end of the holocaust) that international laws against committing genocide were created.
Yet genocide has not been eradicated, and I read not only about the holocaust but also more recent cases of genocide, e.g in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur (through the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – http://hmd.org.uk/).

My reading also led me to read about conflict materials in the Congo; where armed groups terrorise and violently abuse communities while they compete for access to minerals needed to make almost all electronics – http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/initiatives/conflict-minerals.

Action

I discovered a not for profit organisation called ‘World Without Genocide’. Their mission is to

protect innocent people around the world; prevent genocide by combating racism and prejudice; advocate for the prosecution of perpetrators; and remember those whose lives and cultures have been destroyed by violence.

http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/about-us

They run education programmes and offer educational materials to those sharing their vision of a future without genocide and violence against innocent people.

My action for this week was to make a donation to World Without Genocide. Also, I found information about which companies avoid using conflict materials (http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/advocacy/conflict-free-campus-initiative). I was sad to learn several of our electronic possessions were made by companies who fare poorly on the ‘conflict-free supply chain’ scale but have made a commitment to seek out conflict-free options in the future.

Week 3 – Overfishing

For last week’s topic (ingrained racism & micro aggression) I wrote an article which resulted in quite a bit of attention from the New Zealand media. Interviews and responding to messages has taken a considerable amount of time and suddenly I found myself near the end of week 3 without having even decided which topic to explore. So I asked my partner to ‘quickly tell me a topic’ and he picked overfishing.

While worrying to me, I felt this topic did not affect me directly (I am a vegetarian and even though my partner eats fish occasionally, I am the one who buys it and makes sure it is ‘sustainably sourced’). But then I reflected that this does not mean it is not important I understand the issue. We studied overfishing during my degree (about 5 years ago) and I remember being shocked at what I learnt. For this week’s challenge I decided to make sure my information was up-to-date.

What I have discovered

Most scientific studies indicate the world’s supply of seafood will run out but around 2050, and already more than 70% of the world’s fish species have been fully exploited or depleted. This shocks me. Furthermore, it is still possible to purchase fish that are threatened on a local or international scale.

I read about different fishing techniques that lend themselves to overfishing (bottom trawling, and other unselective practices that result in large quantities of bycatch and discard), as well as more sustainable approaches that help protect marine ecosystems. There is a lot people can do, including decreasing the demand for fish by eating less, and by making informed purchasing decision (national guides available here: http://overfishing.org/pages/guide_to_good_fish.php?w=pages)

Action

I made sure I am aware of the types of fish to avoid purchasing here in New Zealand. I also signed petitions to end overfishing created by the Ocean Conservancy and Greenpeace, and made a donation to the UK Marine Conservation Society (http://www.mcsuk.org/).

Week 2 – Ingrained racism and microaggression

I picked this topic because I notice language and behaviours in society that I feel are racially discriminating, prejudiced and offensive, but seem to often goes unnoticed by others (or else I get told ‘it’s a joke and I should not take things so seriously). I suppose I am referring specifically to my recent experiences in New Zealand, though I have also noticed it in other countries I have visited or lived in, and can (sadly) imagine it to be present in many/most other societies around the world.

What I have discovered

I read different links and articles that came up when Googling ‘microaggression’ and ‘ingrained racism’. I had heard of the term microaggression before but have learnt more about the forms it can take. The term encompasses unintended discrimination towards any marginalised group in society, and while it may be unintentional (perhaps through thoughtlessness or ignorance), the effect is the same as intentional racism in that it perpetuates societal marginalisation of the receiver.

As for ingrained racism, I read of two different kinds: personal and political/institutional. In New Zealand, I see both present in our society; perhaps most obviously towards Maori people, but to people from other ethnicities as well (including Pakeha/white people).

Reading through the materials I found helped me better understand the theories and conceptualisation of microaggressions and ingrained racism. Overall, it has made me believe it is an issue worthy of consideration, and something worth fighting against (rather than it being me just ‘making a big deal about nothing’, as I have been told on occasion).

Action

Earlier this week, the topic of racism came up with my friends (as it often does). One of my friends asked me about why I find certain language offensive if it does not concern my race, and we then got in to a deeper discussion about societal prejudices and marginalisation. It was she that suggested I use ‘ingrained racism’ as my awareness topic this week, as she said I had helped her understand a concept she had never even considered before.

My other action for this topic is that I am going to send a short article to a local newspaper about racial separation in our community, drawing on my experiences since moving here.

Update: here is the link to the article I published. It made the front page of the NZ news website within 2 hours of publication! I was not expecting that. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/11091816/Why-I-send-my-Pakeha-child-to-Kohanga-Reo

Update 2: the article kind of went viral! The news website it was published on disabled comments as there were so many coming in (hundreds and hundred and hundreds). I have been contacted by two TV stations, 2 radio stations & a magazine for interviews, plus got sent many messages to my Facebook. I never saw any of this coming, but it seems the article really stirred something within New Zealand.

Here is the first radio interview I did: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20164339. I got a call back from the station saying they had an overwhelming amount of feedback, which was almost exclusively positive (which was nice given that the article was met with mixed responses (more positive than negative, but the negative ones were sometimes hurtful. Total strangers came to my defense though, which was amazing).

Week 1 – World Peace

I chose world peace as the topic for the first week of the year as January the first is considered by some to be World Day of Peace. World Peace is something I have always hoped will happen some day, but it has been more a vague concept rather than something I understand on a practical or academic level.

camilla4peace-art

What I have discovered

There are different definitions of peace (e.g. the negative one which is the absence of violence, and the positive one which is a state of co-operation for mutual and equal benefits) and there are different factors to consider when trying to measure ‘peace’.

I read about the Global Peace Index, which is an attempt to measure the relative peacefulness of countries around the world, and that currently there are only 11 countries at the moment that can be considered free from internal or external conflict (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/world-peace-these-are-the-only-11-countries-in-the-world-that-are-actually-free-from-conflict-9669623.html).

The Vision of Humanity website has information and interactive maps surrounding global peace and conflict (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/indexes/global-peace-index).

I haven’t found ‘the answer’ as to why world peace has remained elusive until now, but nor did I find a reason that it could not become reality one day. What I did find was a beautiful essay on the website of the 14th Dalai Lama that explained his understanding of how peace works and how world peace can happen: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/world-peace/a-human-approach-to-peace.

Action

I shared the link from the Independent (the one about the 11 conflict-free countries) on my Facebook page.

I also purchased a peace awareness poster and stickers from the Peace Pledge Union (http://www.ppu.org.uk), which is a pacifist NGO that works to promote peace internationally. My plan is to distribute the stickers throughout the year, and especially around ANZAC Day (the New Zealand and Australian Remembrance Day), when war and its terrible effects are at the forefront of many people’s minds.

2015 Challenge

Hello, my name is Camilla and I have recently started setting myself a personal challenge each year.

Last year my challenge was to do (at least) 100 altruistic/pro-active actions (https://camilla4peace.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/my-idea/ for the main page, or the ‘2014’ category for individual posts) and this year’s seemed to evolve naturally from that.

This year my challenge is to educate myself about a different topic each week, and either raise awareness about the topic to others or else contribute positively towards it.

I am not an experienced blogger; using my blog mainly as a diary to keep track of actions towards my challenges (rather that as a platform for literary masterpieces). However, I do value feedback and ideas, and if there is a cause, issue or topic you’d like me to raise awareness about, please do tell me!

Aroha nui – Camilla x

Topics so far

Week 1 – World Peace

Week 2 – Ingrained racism and microaggression

Week 3 – Overfishing

Week 4 – Holocaust and other genocides (Holocaust Memorial Day)

Week 5 – Cycling (Bike Month)

Week 6 – Epilepsy

Week 7 – Climate change refugees

Week 8 – Bullying (Anti-Bullying Day)

Week 9 – Endangered animals (World Wildlife Day)

Week 10 – Moneyless economies

Week 11 – ‘Lest we forget’

Week 12 – Research for Environmental Education

Week 13 – Autism and employment (Autism Awareness Day)

Week 14 – Criticisms of democracy

Week 15 – Solar roadways

Week 16 – Insulation

Week 17 – Family meals

Week 18 – Living wage

Week 19 – Plastic bags

Week 20 – Appreciation

Week 21 – Chemotherapy

Week 22 – SIDS

Week 23 – ‘Conscious Consumers’

Week 24 – Vegetables

Week 25 – Refugees

Week 26 – Plastic free July

Week 27 – Ewaste

Week 28 – Nature Deficit Disorder

Week 29 – The growth of more economically divided societies

Week 30 – Rainbow Warrior

Week 31 – Stars programme

Week 32 – Fuel efficient wheels

Week 33 – Alternative schooling

Week 34 – Kingitanga (Maori King Movement)

Week 35 – Stigma of mental illness

Week 36 – Engaging young people in education

Week 37 – Domestic violence

Week 38 – Food

Week 39 – Nurture and neglect

Week 40 – Business models

Week 41 – Companionship

Week 42 – Sustainable textiles

Week 43 – Guerilla gardening

Week 44 – Cultural appropriation

Week 45 – Purpose of art

Week 46 – Refugee family reunification

Week 47 – Stevia

Week 48 – Peaceful protest

Week 49 – Euthanasia

Week 50 – Fijian islands and culture

Week 51 – Amy Winehouse

Week 52 – Tibet