Misplaced Values:Bowie, Bishops and Starvation in Madaya

Misplaced Values:Bowie, Bishops and Starvation in Madura

Kevin P Clements

David Bowie’s death is much more gripping to global media than the deaths that have occurred in Madaya over the past 24 hours or the deaths that have occurred in other parts of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen over the same period of time or indeed the deaths that are quietly mounting in Burundi. Bowie is a global celebrity who wrote some great songs, tested different sexual identities and was undoubtedly an enormously talented man…. but who knows what human artistic, musical and other potential has been lost in the Middle East and in the Great Lakes of Africa  in recent times?

Why do we allow the media to determine who we should grieve for and why we should grieve for one person over another? Species solidarity requires that we treat the deaths of anyone, anywhere, as occasions for some mourning, some recollection, some acknowledgement. It would be too burdensome for all of us to be mourning every human death all of the time but these unmarked deaths need to be marked, noted and mourned. Behind each one is an individual and familial tragedy.

I hate the Facebook question Whats on your mind?…but since the prompt came up I have been pondering inequality in life and death.Why do we value and mourn celebrity when everyone is making some contribution somewhere to life, survival, art, creativity, love and grappling with what it means to be human?

Anyway, maybe I’m feeling a bit more mortal cos I have just had an anti pneumonia injection .I got it as I was beginning to get a sore throat and cold.Both together have meant that I have been feeling pale, wan and suffering from a dry cough for 2 days now….Not that I am about to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I’ve also been trying to make sense of the mini Lambeth meeting of 34 Anglican Archbishops from all over the world. This is taking place here in Canterbury in the ancient crypt of the Cathedral which I am looking out on from our flat. The Bishops are supposed to be focusing on a range of human problems and dilemmas but the one that will be most acrimonious and most divisive has to do with the relationship between the C of E and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered churchmen and women. African and conservative Archbishops are prepared to walk out of the meeting if they  are unable to impose their medieval views on cultures and peoples who have now acknowledged  the equality of homosexual and heterosexual  partnerships.  Why are these Bishops prepared to place unity and community in jeopardy? This too is one of those unfathomable issues. Why is it that some people are willing to divide, oppose, challenge and withdraw from groups, organisations and movements when they cannot get their way? In relation to the meeting that is  taking place  500 metres from  where I live , we need to ask why Bishops are prepared to polarise and divide over issues of sexuality when they should be united in their work for the abolition of poverty, peace, human rights for all and the encouragement of mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation.?

Its a funny old world I’m hoping that the Bishops might take off their robes, mitres, park their croziers and fancy shoes and realise that each one of them is driven by the same chemicals, hormones, and bodily needs and desires as the rest of us?  I am also hoping that those who are shocked by Bowie’s death will find it within them to be shocked by the deaths of all those who are nameless and voiceless and marginal all around the world . They deserve our sympathy as much as David and his fans. I hope, also, that those of us who are suffering minor colds might remember that our ailments are nought when compared to all those suffering and dying from malaria, malnutrition, and millions of other preventable diseases.

Well this is what I am thinking at the moment. But I have been thinking these things for a very long time can’t understand why no one seems to be listening!



About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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