Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beyond Dogma Castronomics communism and contexts of crumbling democracies RIP Fidel Castro

Viva Cuba! Long Live the Revolution! The Revolution is Dead! Viva La Revolution! La Revolution Esta Muerta!
Cuban Leader Fidel Castro closes his eyes to not just a chapter but an encyclopaedic volume of global politics; just as the world's greatest, and lesser, democracies are forced to confront their own successes and failures, in an environment where people are not just signaling but demanding the need for a new kind of revolution - one that will see more equitable distribution and more sustainable use of the world's resources.
Castro leaves many to mourn, and to celebrate him; many who have felt the burden of oppressive political and economic policies; others who have admired his individualism and acumen.
With centres already crumbling and the walls of capitalism threatening to collapse from its own unsustainable excesses, just as communism experienced less than two decades earlier, the world seems poised for reconfiguration of its dogma and ideologies.
In what sounded like his epitaph - in the week he was celebrating his entry into the Biblical three scores and ten - Castro in this encounter twenty years ago in Trinidad and Tobago, painted a picture of a world in chaos because of the domination of a unipolar world order that is unbalanced, and that has thrown the world into disarray.
"Some things I have done in life have been done rationally...and some things have been driven by my dreams…and for all of mankind," he said, a giant who stood by his beliefs commandeering awe even from those who disagreed with him, among political leaders whose political will to stand up against global forces that threaten to immobilise small states seem virtually non-existent.
"It is said in the Bible that everything new started in chaos," Castro had quipped when he was delivering a ribtickling address to a luncheon of businessfolks during his visit to Trinidad and Tobago for the inauguration of the Association Caribbean of States in 1995. That from the man who is listed among eight historic figures excommunicated from the Catholic Church, among them Joan of Arc and Martin Luther, would you believe, as well as Queen Elizabeth I for her role in establishing the Church of England viewed as rival to the Catholic Church; Napoleon who invaded Rome; Kings Henry VIII and Henry IV; and closer home President of Argentina, Juan Peron. Castro has on occasions condemned the Bible for what he saw as its perpetration of oppression and oppression of human dignities and rights of which he has himself been accused, yet leads the only Communist country not distanced from the Holy See and has amicably met three Pope's, receiving two of them in his country: Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and the more recent visit of Pope Francis in 2015. He met Pope John Paul II when he called on the Vatican in 1996, and on several other occasions. It only serves to underscore the complexity of the character of this figure that is yet to be thoroughly distilled.
Garnished with humour, wrinkled cheeks and twinkling eye, Castro had dished out generous helpings of jives and jabs to the ACS attendant businessmen, politicians, the media, and in his quote from the Bible, the church - all of which have been among his strongest opponents.
Yet here they were all at a capitalist function lapping up his joviality as his companion dog Nix was, having been given prideful entry into the closed event.
Turning the tables, Fidel delivered what Trinis call picong like a master artist, the subjects seemingly largely unaware that they are the butt of the jokes.
Widely accused of human rights violations and restrictions of basic human rights and freedoms, he signalled his mood from his dramatic late entrance, jokingly threatening to report to the UN Human Rights Commission the assault on his eyes by the sudden spurt of flashing media camera lights
The man who would chastise US President Barrack Obama on his 2015 visit to Cuba, even as the world looked on in wonder at the US relaxing its 60-year old sanctions to Cuba, had fair share of pokes for his host, the business community, contrasting business and politics: 'the State does good and bad business, while real businessmen always do good business... politicians and dreamers and businessmen are rationalists; we want impossible things to happen while businessmen want to do possible things."
There might be a foresight there too, for the President-elect of the USA, Donald Trump and the US and international community looking on with trepidation at what may be yet to come.
With more than a hint of satire at the so-called rationality of business practices that have plunged the world into chaos, the self deprecating Castro said: "That is why when politicians become businessmen they fail; while when businessmen become politicians, very often they are successful ... Perhaps I am making a caricature of politicians and of myself."

That was 20 years ago. Over the last five years I was in Cuba twice - as part of the team preparing the UNESCO Caribbean subregional five year action plan for World Heritage  in 2014 that following preparation of the ten-year Regional Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean in Brasilia, and earlier joining experts in Havana for certification in Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Heritage was one of the vehicles to shirk of the economic sanctions Cuba have been successfully driven, and not only in its vintage array of archaic motorcars. It allowed for exploration of many paths to development: heritage tourism, agriculture, research, medicine, cuisine, culture among them, overlooked by those trying to overreach and imitate the economics of the developed world.
Researching the connections between its ancient, colonial and contemporary cultures, I had cause to reflect on the pivotal point Cuba is at now, in not just the regional development imperative but also global politics, economics and society. It is evident across the span of the island as I traced the heritage from Havana, through Vinales to Trinidad, Cienfuegos, the eastern coast of European discovery and the cultural south; its celebrated heritage cities/sites and little known nooks and crannies with its carefully conserved cultural milieu in cuisine, art, agriculture, dance, music, prehistory, architecture for which Cuba boasts nine inscriptions on the World Heritage list.
My post meeting personal note to self, read:
"I said hasta la vista to Cuba last week - new friends, new mother, a new sister and brothers. What would I trade for zero crime, guaranteed minimal standard of health care, education, housing? What freedoms would I be prepared to forego to feel safe to walk the streets; to not look at fellow human beings suspiciously, to breathe in and an enjoy heritage that is hardly yet contaminated...?" I had been welcomed into homes like a sister, treated like a long lost friend by strangers and felt the enormous burden lift off in being able to walk its cities streets without needing to continuously glance over my shoulder. One cannot help but admire what Cuba had achieved in terms of heritage conservation, with structures, laws, institutions and research; but it was struggling to hold in delicate balance the consumerism with the conservation ethic that positions its model of heritage tourism as exemplary in the way it has responded to bolster its domestic economy in the face of global sanctions and embargoes.
Within Cuba there is also considerable unease and impatience for opening of the floodgates of capitalism and loosening up of the limitations of internet access and yet underdeveloped cyber systems - from taxi drivers to homestay hostesses, one senses gnawing and growing dissatisfaction that the grass is greener on the other side which Castro's successor, his brother Raul has had to respond to no doubt with the reluctant nod of Fidel himself. 
And that receives resonance in the cheering sounds of celebrations on the streets of Miami and elsewhere at announcement of Castro’s death. That too is not unfounded. I have friends whose living memory are of the terrors of having to flee Cuba in the disenchantment at the post-revolution directions and have been involved in civil society processes over the last decade and close associates with many as we witnessed, struggled against and condemned violations of human rights and oppressive practices, laws, and regulations.  
I had advised the Caribbean Telecommunications Union at its 25th anniversary symposium to look beyond the general euphoria at consumer potential to other implications of the promised opening up of telecommunications in Cuba, since augmented by the lifting of embargoes and US President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba.
Through that exploration my note to self asked:
“How could Cuba balance what it has managed to preserve; and maintain the resilience it has demonstrated, while acceding to the wishes of its people to embrace the ideals and represented in the systems to which we subscribe?"
With capitalism, communism, socialism and the like fraying at the seams, the death of Fidel Castro counterposed with the election by the US of Donald Trump – seemingly the embodiment of the spirit of the capitalism Castro has resisted all his life – provide that dramatic point of denouement at a fin de siecle that offers the opportunity for failures and successes of political systems to be reassessed, and ultimately guide their revision.
The tally must include an objective look at the bridges that have built across the democratic deficit: benchmarks towards equity and the priorities of governments’ actions in meeting the needs of the people across political, ideological, social, economic or other divides. It is as complex as it is simple and in many ways embodied in Castronomics itself.
Castro's ideology as well as his theology have often been criticised, having even been ex-communicated by the Catholic Church for what is said to be his suppression of Catholicism - interpreted as his atheism, but which he has described as his adherence to secularism.
Tracing the evolutions of religions among other elements of the Caribbean/ Cuba intangible heritage, the wing-clipping of institutions seem to have given flight to the syncretic Santeria practices that evolved from amalgamating beliefs and practices from its diverse peoples, not just dominant institutions.
In life, as in death, perhaps Fidel Castro also made a caricature of the world.
The words of his countryman Ernest Hemmingway in A Farewell to Arms comes to mind:
The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
RIP Fidel Castro, August 13, 1926 to November 25, 2016.

@krisramp @lolleaves @realDonaldTrump @JustinTrudeau @POTUS @UNESCO @UN +Heritage Education Funds Inc. +UNESCO +United Nations +cuba embassy +Best Of Books +Cath

Related Links:
unesco caribbean experts meet to plan world heritage

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A LiTTribute At UNESCO: Celebration of National Literatures

The international flavor of national writings was evident in a ‘’LiTTribute” – literary tribute to writers and poets of the world by members of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris. It saw a world of poets and writers of Greece, Iran, Bangladesh, India, Venezuela, China and Trinidad and Tobago on the gather to read and explore their national literatures. The readings for the Caribbean came from the highly acclaimed LiTTscapes - Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Kris Rampersad, which celebrates the value of writers to society through presentation of more than 100 works of fiction since 1595 to present in descriptive and pictorial snapshots.
Selected passages from LiTTscapes scanned the significance of the writings of not just Trinidad and Tobago's two Nobel Laureates Sir Vidia S Naipaul and Derek Walcott along with other multicultural milieu if awarded writers as Samuel Selvon, Ismith Khan, Earl Lovelace, Michael Anthony, Robert Antoni, Lawrence Scott, Lakshmi Persaud, Shani Mootoo but others less known as Sonny Ladoo. It placed the fiction writings within the social realist traditions that yet resounded poetic sentiments bringing to life the fictional representations of such challenges of island states being addressed by UNESCO that brought tears in the eyes of some of the world's award winning writers and our audience. "I was touched from the opening statement, the Ambassador of Greece stated. 
LiTTscapes features more than 100 writers of fiction from Trinidad and Tobago, through descriptions and photographs of more than 500 'scapes' of tangible and intangible lifestyles.  Evoking the impoverished background that contributed to the premature violent death of Sonny Ladoo's, it cited the insight in LiTTscapes' representation of No Pain Like This Body, that captures the poignant clinging to life by those on the edge of survival: "there was life in the wind as it left the corners of the sky and swept the face of the earth;  there was life in the dawn that was coming with pain in its mouth..."

The audience heard of LiTTscapes' revisionary representation of Ismith Khan's passages in The Crucifiction of "the long tongue lashes of the sea lap up on the edges of the earth as if waiting a chance to swallow the island," relating the ever present threat of flooding or being engulfed by sea that much predates theories of sea level rise, climate change and global warming as well as LiTTscapes' presentation of the primeval antiquity of the original name of the islands from the indigenous Kairi that has been rebranded the New World, an old world since 'the beginning of time' as told by Lawrence Scott in Witchbroom.
"Globalisation has been very real to us for a very long time, it did not begin a few years ago with some metropolitan theorists," said Dr Kris Rampersad, reading from the Introduction to LiTTscapes which has been dramatized as an Invocation to the Muses at national and international presentation. It acclaims the significant role of writers in a society, was from the introduction of LiTTscapes which has since become the themed "invocation to the muses" at LiTTributes so far held as LiTTribute to LondonTTown in August 2013; LiTTribute to the Antilles in Antigua; LiTTribute to the Continent in mainland Guyana and LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago hosted by former First Lady Jean Ramjohn Richards. This followed the launch of LiTTscapes at White Hall, one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ of Port of Spain (also featured in LiTTscapes) as part of Trinidad and Tobago's golden jubilee celebrations in 2012.
The soiree also heard passages from Naipaul and Walcott, other writers cited Nobel Laureates of India as Rabindranath Tahoe, Greece, China, among others. The soiree was organised by the Ambassador and delegation of Bangladesh.

. For more see: LinkedIn: krisrampersad; FB: krisrampersad1 T: @krisramp; Blog: Demokrissy

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Have some more Roti Kurry and Chicken Soup for the Soul

Since everyone seems to enjoy a good roti and roti mauvais langue, why not try some of these other par for the course - Karma Kurry and Chicken Soup for the Soul - good for any mealtime or social media.
“Together as One we can Right every Wrong” - Karma Kurry for the Mind, Body, Heart & Soul lends new dimensions to profiling.
 It profiles among others Dr Kumi Naidoo, pictured here receiving a copy of LiTTscapes- Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.
Chicken Soup for the Soul offers some useful advice that may be applied even in reading news reports and writing social media comments and responses to your reading and responses to roti and other remarks: 
"When you are reading these.., Slow down. Listen to the words in your heart as well as in your mind. Savor each story. Let it touch you. Ask yourself, what does it awaken in me? What does it suggest for my life? What feeling or action does it call forth from my inner being?"

Chicken Soup for the Soul is said to be inspired by the following snipet.
If there is righteousness in the heart
There will be beauty in the character
If there is beauty in the character, 
There will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, 
There will be order in the nation.
 If there is order in the nation.
There will be peace in the world. 
So let it be! 

It is cited as a Celtic Prayer, and the words are also attributed to Confucius but is also known to the Aryan civilisation. It is highly likely that it was passed on to western civilisation through the Indo European migration and conquest with the Celts territorial expansion in the 4th century into Asia Minor, and replicated in the more recent migration and colonial spread of curry by the British Empire. The Stya Sai Baba Peace Movement has also adopted it as a prayer.  The curry route is long and ancient. Long live roti and curry!

@krisramp @lolleaves +Kumi Naidoo @kuminaidoo @KrisRampersadTT
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Let’s Build That Wall A Great Wall of Isms and Schisms Towards Constructing the Defences of Peace

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed

As the international discourse turns to walls and fences in an atmosphere of uncertainty, fear, and growing hyper-anxiety at intolerance and perceived threats to peace and harmony, the forms and frameworks of the constructs of peace come sharply into question.

As the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates the 71st birthday of its Constitution (November 16) where the phrase is enshrined and has given UNESCO its motto: Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women. It might have been overlooked in the hype over the election of Donald Trump as the next US President - incidentally on the anniversary of the symbolic end to the Cold War in the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9). Incidentally too, Trump was born just days before the signing of the Charter of the United Nations which makes their fates remarkably intertwined, and maybe too co-dependent. On my calendar, too, is another anniversary, that of the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Uganda, Africa on this day (November 18) and encounter with another world leader, Prince Charles who celebrates a birthday on November 14.   
UNESCO’s anniversary focus on its goals for a culture of peace and the current climate of unease at the fate of peace efforts, give cause to pause and reflect, not only in the contexts of Trump’s platform pronouncements on the need for walls and to review America’s relationship with these institutions, even as we remember that one of the authors of the UNESCO Constitution was an American - poet/playwright/essayist, Archibald MacLeish.
MacLeish is credited with authorship of the phrase in the UNESCO Constitution, Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. Of Scottish immigrant parentage, his life’s work pronounces on and paints with haunting prophetic poignancy the pathologic state of panic of a country where individualism has metamorphosed into intense greed reflecting democracy gone awry, floundering freedoms and the rise of fascism and self-serving free enterprise:
And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.

From The End of the World,
Archibald MacLeish – American Poet, Author, Essayist
MacLeish has among his legacies of poetry, plays, essays and musings on the minds of men, his achievements as a statesman and Librarian of Congress who set the LoC on the path of the international status it enjoys as a repository of intellectualism and culture. He headed the first US delegation to UNESCO when its Constitution was crafted 71 years ago, and composed the phrase from which is derived the motto of the UN organization charged with the processes – education, culture, science and information - that shape, if not govern, the minds of men. The motto remains embedded in the UNESCO psyche and modus operandi, although America’s relationship with the institution has been on rocky ground intermittently since the 1980s, more intensely so in recent times with renewed uncertainty from Trump’s proposed dollars and cents approach that could easily overlook the more esoteric and intangible values that peace building involves.

The Prince Eyes The Wall of Greatness
It brings to mind another time and another world leader, Prince Charles, who incidentally celebrates his birthday two days before UNESCO. Almost nine years to this day, on November 18, Prince Charles is the chief guest CPF’s Chief Guest at the Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) in Uganda, Africa in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
The Prince and I, with scores of onlookers, are standing before another wall – The Wall of Greatness.
The Prince’s eye is on one or the other of the messages on the wall. One reads, “A brick a day builds the future from today and a palace for tomorrow.” This wall is constructed from people’s desire for peace, prosperity, equality and equity. The Wall is an open platform for ideas, not unlike the platform and repository of diverse ideas and opinions that founding architects envisioned UNESCO to be.
In the face of looming challenges, seventy years on, how many bricks have been laid and to what extent has these peace building institutions been able to live up to the vision of its founding architects, then intent on constructing a culture of peace out for a world emerging out of the ravages of war, colonialism, Nazism and Hitlerism, racialism, bigotry and prejudice?

The Minds of Men and Women: The clock ticks to Paris Attack
One year ago, hours before the world would be rocked by a fatal series of explosions across Paris on that fateful day in November 2016, the exact thought played in my mind: who knows what lurks in the minds of men and women?

From the days earlier, I sat with scores of other men and women from across the globe,
in utilizing, framing, altering, adapting and crafting mechanisms to help in the construction, and in some cases, deconstruction and reconstruction of the defences of peace.
After an intense two-year-plus of international to local level consultations and discussions, followed by days of sittings to iron out directions, clauses, phrases, and firm up actions and maneuvering the multitude of variations of opinions driven by cultural, social, political and economic differences, we had reached unanimous consensus. Our recommendations for the future direction for global education includes its intersections with culture, information, communication, science, humanities and technologies and incorporates future-looking dimensions of inclusive lifelong learning in synergy with conventional learning forms, and forward thinking global citizenship issues. The Report of the Education Commission, which I chaired, was set before the UNESCO General Conference for approval.
The General Conference is the biennial gathering of member-states, one of the organs – the other is the Executive Board – that approves the suggestions from the meetings of the minds of men and women to construct the defences of peace. Location is the bedecked Salle One at Place de Fortenoy in UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris.
As I waited for the General Conference to signal its acceptance of the Commission’s work, I thought of the security processes applied to get into the building. It included a system of accreditation along with meeting visa requirements and the airport and immigration requirements of the host country. Then there were the physical security scans from friendly gate keepers, and badges that function as the passport into the meetings. Through the portal of peace, in dark and not so dark suits and demure or colourful dresses, passed benign philosophers, poets, peace advocates and lobbyists. The same processes were used for those of the more radical ilk; technocrats of conservative or liberal order; politicians visionary or mundane. Among them were men and women who held lofty ideals and outlooks and were thrilled to be part of the process of upliftment and charting the course for development in the path of human history; but among them, too, were, also, novices, inexperienced politicians and power mongers and those with petty ambitions, institutional and personal insecurities, harbouring grudges, prejudices and hatreds.
A microcosm of the minds of the men and women in the world poured through the security posts, but the scanners would be hard-pressed to detect any dangers that may lurk in the minds of any of those, I thought, privy to some of, but not all, of the undercurrents – political, social, cultural, economic –and going over potential scenarios and their treatment and handling that will not expose the façade of diplomacy that pervaded the atmosphere.
So what mechanisms were there; what checks on the minds of the men and women entering the walls and halls, and the danger that may lurk therein? What defences did the organization or any of the occupants have if not peace, but war, vengeance, violence raged in some of the minds of the men and women who were entering its walls? What inspection and what security checks were there on these? And what warnings and signals of danger should we look out for?
To build the defences of peace, the institution and those participating were making themselves vulnerable to such unknowns in the minds of men and women.
From unfolding occurrences behind the scenes, it seemed that while the processes of physical security might have been well thought-out, the defences of the institutions and its peace processes remained significantly vulnerable to the unknown, metaphysical elements in the ‘minds of men and women’.
And indeed, this nebulous factor became the source of the most challenging moments of the meetings and encounters within the walls. 
It was answered with forethought and careful planning for potential scenarios and identifying markers that will raise flags of potential disruption about which we kept informed from observable ‘trends’. These may take the form of the ideology or pronouncements of an individual or country, the issues they hold on the front burner, the way they might have voted in the past on an issue, the resolutions they might have piloted or in which they would have taken a keen interest.
But was that sufficient? What of those with no known history, who had not articulated a position?
Insidious stirrings on the days involved in moving the Education Commission to consensus had brought closely home how precariously stood the goals of constructing and maintaining the defences of peace, and how easily the selfless contributions of the global community can be overturned by an underdeveloped mind and uninformed actions and posturings of the uninitiated, the uninformed, the ignorant, the insecure and immature egotist.

Emblazoned with Prometheus’ Fire

Often my eyes would focus on the fresco above the doorway of Salle II, the Hall of Commissions. Prometheus Bringing Fire To Mankind is structurally embedded in the scaffolding across from me at the head table in Salle II as it was painted on the scaffolding’s plaster while it was still wet, by Mexican artist Rufino Tamaya. Its dominant crimson is toned by other shades of red to accentuate the idea of blazing fire to fulfill Tamaya’s stated intention:

That the light that seems to irradiate out of the fire of my badly lit ‘Prometheus’ may illuminate the spirits of those who are in charge of the tremendous task of unifying the world through culture.
It crossed my mind that if it was that kind of embedding that was required in constructing this peace, one could not expect that it would be accomplished just by the few minutes within these walls.
The painting framed the deliberations as we put the finishing touches on what has become the global agenda for education that would impact future generations, and I had cause to draw strength and inspiration from it in the ensuing days. I drew attention to it, as did my associate, the Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO with whom I had co-chaired on the UNESCO Programmes and External Relations Commission as we prepared some of the draft decisions that were now before the Education Commission.
Prometheus is the fascinating Robin Hood-like figure of Greek Mythology who is reputed to have stolen fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind. The son of Jupiter, Prometheus personifies forethought, as the one who thinks of and plans for the future, as were many of those who had taken the time to stay in Salle II and conduct the business of future generations, rather than succumb to the effervescent and alluring charms of the host city, Paris.
Those who worked with and empathised with the plight of the underprivileged, the marginalized and disadvantaged, sat through the meetings offering their fire – the light of their knowledge – that will help identify solutions that may alleviate the plight of others, not unlike how Prometheus was moved by the plight of mankind, shivering with the cold, dying from hunger, and the prey of wild beasts, without fire. His father rejects his request to give fire to ease their plight.  Jupiter’s generation held the conservative view that if men had fire they might become strong and wise and turn against the Gods, so they demonstrated preference for a world in poverty and ignorance as the already endowed gods continued to amass wealth to maintain power and dominance, not unlike, it seems, some of the leaders in our own generation.
Fired by the potential opportunities envisioned from an education agenda that would reverse traditional notions of the knowledge as the purview of Gods to broaden access to the less privileged, we formulated solutions and resolutions that could ease the plight of those in a world where Pandora’s miseries were multiplying; crafting the tools that would help the marginalized and underprivileged have equal access to the tools and technologies that will help them keep warm and fed. Constructing a more equitable world was one of the defences of peace we could devise.
 At times the process was tedious. Like Prometheus, filling his reed with fire, it required patience to draw out one suggestion, that sparked another and another idea. Sometimes one extreme position would spark another extreme position. But others will pop in with idea after idea that will bring each extreme closer together until we reached the point of consensus, which invariably would be celebrated with applause.
People come to the table, whether representing individual, collective or national ideologies, present these, debate and negotiate with others the pros and cons of these, and around the table options are presented, analysed and decided on.
The Wall of Greatness becomes flesh. With all its vagaries, the 70-year old bureaucracy charged with building peace in the minds of men and women, has walls that are porous for negotiation, to collate and engage those who wish to participate in building and fortifying elements of peace in the minds of men.
Yet, it is most vulnerable to the minds of men and women who enter with sometimes fixed, inflexible and hidden agendas that are undetected and impermeable to the systems and mechanisms it have evolved, albeit still in the process to perfection, and which remain the glaring gaps in its defences. In effect, it is in its strength and openness to engage, is also its weaknesses through which those who are the enemies of freethought, ideas, equity, inclusion, can penetrate.
For there are always other antithetical Epimetheus-like disruptive forces at play. Epimetheus unleashed those forces by consorting with Pandora who was sent by the almighty, vengeful and power-engrossed Jupiter to revenge Prometheus and interrupt the prosperity he was bringing to humankind. As the myth goes, Pandora gave in to the temptations of opening the box prepared by Jupiter with its array of diseases, depression, and miseries for mankind. As the legend goes, the vengeful Jupiter also sent Vulcan to chain Prometheus to the mountain peak where he was left exposed to the shrieking storm winds, eagles clawing at his body for ten generations until Hercules rescues him.

Constructing Consensus, Building Peace

At its most balanced and inclusive, the processes of UNESCO, reputed as the UN’s incubator of ideas, facilitate and create an environment for open embrace of ideas and ideologies that allow for easy engagement of seemingly conflictful and contentious positions, bridging gaps and breaking down divisive walls to construct inclusive defenses through education, culture, science and information. UNESCO’s system of negotiating consensus, what I have elsewhere identified as the institution’s prime and most underrecognized asset, its intangible resource. Its successes and experiences of negotiating consensus from extreme positions to grounds acceptable to the majority, have been the moments when in its 70 years it can hold its head highest, and I was fortunate to be part of some of these, as MacLeish himself have been. The most fulfilling moments will be when delegates rose above the narrow localized and domestic tethers to acknowledge the greater good and reach consensus. It is an invaluable life skill. Those who take the time to sit through the meetings would appreciate how it is done and better yet have faith restored that it can be done.
But that’s at the best of times.
The worst of times are when the institution and its processes are waylaid and forced to deviate from its goals – particularly when it allows the intrusion of other forms and methods of persuasion and capitulation: the unbalanced pressures of political and economic powers, or dominant cultural prejudices– to overshadow and derail its core focus of building peace. We experienced many, many moments of these as well.
Yet, we were able to, with unanimous consensus, craft actions for education so next generations to be able to warm, cook, and feed themselves and develop lifelong tools for sustenance. So concluded our report and presented it before the UNESCO General Conference feeling, like Prometheus must have, that with fire would come that new Golden Age, brighter and better than the old.
That November day, the day Paris rocked, unknown to many in the room, was played out several signature moments when the constructs of peace would be challenged and the individual and organizational strengths were tested to hold its own against understated threats to its processes of building the foundations of peace. It was a test of the minds of men and women with knowledge, experience and understanding to triumph over inexperience, ignorance and prejudice.
Then the final moments. The Chairman of the Conference was just about to drop the anvil to announce adoption of the Commission Report, when somewhere among the delegation, a hand went up. The Hall paused, in silence. It was not unusual for a delegate to make an intervention at this stage, in fact the procedures allowed for and encouraged it. It was part of the consensus building mechanism, to ensure that no one leaves with doubts. It was not unusual, nor was it altogether unexpected as the Chairman and a few relevant others are kept apprised of potential scenarios and of any undercurrents that may precipitate disruption of the proceedings.
He graciously allowed the delegate requesting the floor. It turned out to be an assertion and reinforcement of the raison d’ etre of UNESCO, followed by another, from delegates with experience to understand how various stages of the processes may be used to construct the defences of peace in the minds of men, coming at a time when they felt such reinforcement of the processes, principles, and ideals were needed. The interjections deepened the acknowledgement of the processes that go into holding the fragile strands of peace building together, above the petty insecurities, egotism, cowardice and prejudices. Knowledge, experience and cooperation had come together as defences of peace, perhaps just as MacLeish and the other authors of the UNESCO Constitution might have intended.
‘Congrats Kris. Well done. It is adopted. It is over.’ Relief poured out with messages I received commending the successful and satisfactory completion of the agenda and the adoption of the report.
Foregoing the round of chatter and cocktails that would later follow, I left the building and its pseudo constructs of security against the minds of men and women to connect to the buzz of humanity that is Paris. It was Friday the 13th November 2016. The day Paris shook and the walls of several of its cultural institutions would come under attack.
(To Be Continued - Next: Paris Under Attack ...)

PostScript: The US Elections and the UN
A Great Wall of Isms Schisms
One year ago, as now, a collision and collusion of coincidences create cause to contemplate the construction of the defences of peace of the UNESCO motto.
Who are the cast for the task, where are the energies and imagination to be harnessed from the architects of peace?
What are the steps to construct, reconstruct, repair, raise and/or reinforce its walls?
How would they ward off the rising decibels of the cries of havoc that signal the impending release of the dogs of war?
When may the walls be relaxed, relax to release the bridges to consensus building that will be its ultimate test of endurance?

While there has been much spotlight on the election of Donald Trump who will take office in January 2017, there has been much less attention on the new leader of the United Nations, Portuguese António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres who also begins his term in January 2017. UNESCO would also be choosing a new leader in 2017.
Where the UN has been engaged in their deconstruction, Trump has vociferously championed the construction of walls. The optimist anticipates that, campaign rhetoric behind him, the responsibilities of the office will afford the pragmatic businessman, himself a child of the post-war world (born on the same week the UN Charter was drafted) to well appreciates the importance of stability and peace for a prosperous business environment and the value of embracing the best talents of all individuals and institutions across borders and boundaries to achieve those ends.
For a character who has shown that he knows what to say to win an election, it may not be farfetched to believe that he would also do what needs to be done to right the imbalances and inequities, once he understands what they are.
Trump’s platform rhetoric that presents the UN and its agencies as ‘not a friend of the USA”, promises or threatens – depending on from whose perspective it is viewed in the current polarized climate - to cancel the US involvement in hard-won long-negotiated global agreements on climate change, nuclear weapons, trade deals and other international treaties and what he perceives to be the UN’s ‘weaknesses and incompetence’. His views draw on criticism of the UN and its agencies and many of its institutions over the decades, some not unfounded, though largely evident when it imitates or bows unfairly to the pressures of existing super systems.
The UN’s own involvement in soul searching over the last few years have not been impervious to its need to effect greater efficiencies and provide member states with greater value for money, but, much of the value of its work remains unassessed, under assessed and eludes the application of monetary accounting tools, like the intrinsic values of social stability, peace, and social inclusion.
These can easily fall off the radar in any assessment as Trump’s dollars and cents approach, or stated concerns in relation to its occupation of headquarter space on US soil that resonate with similar force as his pronounced intolerance of illegal immigrants and advocacy of a wall between the USA and Mexico. While playing on some general concerns about the shortcomings of the organization, it overlooks the non-monetary and intangible values of the peace processes, social stability and appreciation of diversity and inclusion. 

Consensual Consensus – the post truth of elections

The English definition of consensual is ‘existing or made by mutual consent.’ The definition of consensus is, ‘a general agreement about something, an idea or opinion, that is shared by all the people in a group.’ The subtle difference, discernible to a native speaker of English, is generally lost in translation in the multilingual environment of global policy making.
At the sessions of the Commissions of the UNESCO Executive Board, as at the Education Commission of the General Conference, the consensual (with emphasis on each syllable) approach, climaxing in consensus was often loudly applauded, with good reason. It is the keystone for the construction of peace. An idea crafted into a resolution might have a few consensual supporters and many dissenters, but building it block by block to consensus involves long tedious hours, sometimes days or even months and years of thoughtful drafting, crafting, lobbying negotiating ideas and finalizing their transference into acceptable texts towards agreement.
The post truth of election will be the leader and his/her followers’ consensual embrace of negotiating consensus so as to meet the aspirations of the many. In the tableau as vast as America claims is its reach, Trump may yet learn of not just consensual engagement and interaction, but also its discourse, texts and context in negotiation and achieving consensus.
That is almost diametrically different to the markers by which he has judged his success as an entrepreneur, and now as a politician, where winning is the name of the game. It is not only the swamp of lobbyists in Washington that has made murky the waters of negotiations and created imbalances in the mutuality of consensualism. The darkest moments of organisations like UN and UNESCO, as with governments across the world have been when the swamp creeped in to drown, choke off and misdirect the paths too its vision and goals. Some recent developments, including in the negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals come to mind.  
The challenge is for the incoming leaders of the US, UN along with other nations and institution to work towards identifying common ground, adopting consensualism, and by meshing pragmatism with creative incorporation of the mechanisms for peace, equity, inclusions and sustainability work towards countering the explosion of intolerance, extremism, racism, nepotism, bigotry across not only the US, but in societies where similar murkiness is testing their tolerance and appreciation of diversity. For a character who has shown that he knows what to say to win an election, it may not be farfetched to believe that Trump would also do what needs to be done to right the imbalances he has frowned on, once he understands what they are. It’s the starting point towards consensus building to what now seems the two forces of peace and its opponents. Trumpism could yet assume an entirely novel character than the current hysteria envisages with a challenge the consensus-builders towards a convergence of ‘isms’ and ‘schisms’ and construction of new directions for peace, equity and prosperity drawn from the best experiences of capitalism, communism, socialism and the other isms that have evolved into schisms.
It the test of the mettle of the leaders, thinkers and technocrats administering the process to utilise the best skills, talents, experience, imagination, creativity of architects of peace with the best of the knowledge, skills, talents, imagination and experiences of those who have been calling for its greater efficiency and relevance?
It is commonly held that the United Nations system was born off the ravages of the extremism demonstrated by Hitler and the resultant devastation of the second world war as a vow that such travesties never be repeated. But it may more accurately be said to have been been sustained by every generation’s universal desire for harmony, peace, and prosperity. Its achievement requires consensual cementing of the schisms between the isms – and the time may yet be ripe for that.

Dr Kris Rampersad is an independent sustainable development educator, multimedia practitioner & advocate for equity & change who likes to think.  
LinkedIn: krisrampersad; FB: krisrampersad1 T: @krisramp; Blog: Demokrissy

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