Monday, August 22, 2011

Extending Eupan - Reflection on Personal Privilege


Written while on location in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

I have spent quite a few weeks studying to be in Cambodia – being as aware as I can be of the current situations in this country – while remaining aware of the social/political factors that have shaped its history.

In particular, I have been reflecting on the issues of Genocide that characterized the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, particularly between 1975 to 1979.  As part of our plans for shared time of peace and conflict resolution engagement in the land, we will be visiting the “museum” that commemorates the killing fields, as well as the “S-21” prison, now a museum.  In these ways alone I have been prepared for the reality of death, gruesome genocide and terrible torture that has taken place in this land. 

Our first day in Cambodia, having landed in Phnom Penh, we went straight to a tourist event – visiting the King’s home at the Grand Palace.  Our guide told us his name was “Ritz,” and I thought as we walked through the Palace how this place looked like “the Ritz.” 

From there, we headed out to a great buffet lunch, “all-u-can-eat”  - noodles, meats, rice, potatoes, fruits.  Our group ate and went off for another touring event – visiting the “Russian Market” – a series of interconnected booths with various wares for sale. 

Not being much of a shopper, I stayed back at the lunch buffet. 

I ordered a cold coke and placed my earbuds in my ear and powered my iPod.  

As the sounds of soft piano played in my ears, I watched drips of water condense on my cold beverage, Phnom Penh was humid.

I looked across the room to the flat-screen TV and read the headlines listed in English, as the newsreporter shared. 

“Libya’s Civil War”

“Somali Food Fight” leaving people dead. 

“Syrian Siege” with a report of some 300 dead today. 

As the chilled, carbonated, syrupy drink delighted my taste-buds, I realized I was listening to an album entitled “Escape.”  Here I was – a rich, educated, privileged white-man – sitting in my isolated, Westernized, “escapist” head-phone reality – a cold coke to chill my body and quench my thirst,quiet music relaxing my spirit.  And I was immediately existentially aware that in this same moment, in so many places in the world, people live now in the midst of trial, trouble, and tribulation.  

I knew the S-21 prison was nearby – it is, after all, located in the heart of Phnom Penh.  More than 17,000 persons, average persons who committed no crime and who had no secret allegiances – these people were stripped, shackled, incarcerated, and tortured for months – to death.

 Just blocks from where I sat, only a few short decades ago – in my lifetime!


And in the same period of years, in my life, my country and my life has not experienced torture, genocide, civil war, food shortages, nor intrusions of conflict. 

I wonder, “Do I live faithfully enough into the privilege I have been extended, to extend that privilege to other people?” 


I will try to live my life in ways that are faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous – in all ways extending peace.

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Posted via email from Eupan Global Initiative

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Too much killing


“At least 28 million people have been killed in more than 150 major armed conflicts fought mainly in the Third World since 1945 (IISS, 1997); another estimate puts the total at 40 million civilian and military deaths (Leitenberg, 2003). The proportion of civilian casualties rose from only 5 per cent of total casualties in the First World War, to 50 per cent by the Second World War and to 80 to 90 per cent by the end of the century, of whom the majority were women and children (Grant, 1992: 26; Collier et al., 2003). This is a reversion to older types of warfare.” 

Source:  Contemporary Conflict  Resolution: The prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts.  Third Edition Oliver Ramsbotham,  Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall. (Page 85)


Let's not revert to warfare - but press forward in peacemaking!!

Toward eupan.

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Posted via email from Eupan Global Initiative

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Senators for Peace

I attended Elementary and Secondary school in Oregon when Senator Mark O. Hatfield was one of Oregon’s U.S. Senators.  He died this week. 

I did not grow up in a politically active family and do not remember too many occasions in school or in my elementary and secondary schooling when we spoke about Senator Hatfield.  But I do remember reading about him.  My recollection is that during his term of office, he was greatly respected.  Neither loved, nor hated, but respected for the integrity.

I wonder what U.S. policy and action – and U.S. International relations -  would be like today if more Senators advocated as he did.

Hatfield was a Republican who disagreed with then Republican President Ronald Reagan.  He, “used his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee to denounce what he considered the ‘madness’ of excessive defense spending.”

Though a Navy Veteran who participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, he is described as “one of the Senate’s most unwavering pacifists” who “never voted for a military authorization bill.”  As a “critic of extremism across the political spectrum, [he] carved a centrist path on divisive issues such as the environment.”

“If you’ve been in a war, you cannot but have your views altered,” he told the Associated Press in 1986. “The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets.”

First elected to the Oregon state legislature in 1950, he was instrumental in passing measures banning racial discrimination in housing and public accommodations in his first few years in office — a decade before the government considered similar civil rights laws.

As I write this entry, only yesterday I visited the horrific memorials to the genocide of the Communist Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, a country that was redeemed in January of 1979 by the Vietnamese.  Only hours ago I ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), before going to the Documentation Center of Cambodia to be informed about how this center is documenting the problems of genocide in this land!  Prior to the years of conflict with the War in Vietnam and the problems throughout Southeast Asia, in 1966, Mr. Hatfield nearly lost his seat in the U.S. Senate as he stuck to his position, “You can’t stop communism with bullets.”

Hatfield, helped pass a ban on underground nuclear tests. He campaigned for rules to prohibit the sale of arms to undemocratic countries and countries that do not respect human rights.  When he left office, he expressed, “We’re [the U.S.] still the largest arms peddler in the world,” he said in 1997, “and we infect the rest of the world with our lust for weapons.”

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Posted via email from Eupan Global Initiative

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Majority World


We used to say the "First World" and "Third World" to designate the disparities between countries in their "progress."

More recently, "Developed" and "Developing" Worlds have been used to be sensitive to the priority given to "First" and "Third" categories.

While no term is perfect, I like the term I have recently read - and can not cite as I genuinely do not recall where I read it - "The Major World." 

It should serve as a reminder for me (and for all too many who have the privilege to blog/free-press/freedom from war) - that I am the "Minority" in a big world that is complex and intricate.  I am not the "first" nor the  "developed" who brings peace - but a minority individual striving for peace for the entire World. 

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Posted via email from Eupan Global Initiative