Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
After frisking us for explosives, the UN repeatedly assures us that we’re good people.
The above photo wasn’t taken at an airport. This is the entrance to the UN climate summit here in Warsaw. UN-issued photo ID, electronic scanning on departure as well as entry, and an overt police presence apparently don’t provide sufficient peace of mind.
What is the UN so afraid of? Has anyone ever faced the slightest threat to their person inside one of these events – given the special entrances for VIPs, the roped-off areas, and the security personnel everywhere?
There’s a good argument that the searches to which we all now submit at airports are supported by little evidence, that these measures amount to “security theatre“. It’s worth noting that the UN – rather than challenging that approach to the world – is itself helping to normalize it.
But here’s the bizarre part. One moment you’re being treated like a potential terrorist who could be smuggling explosives in your handbag. A few meters and a few minutes later, however, the tone changes abruptly.
The branding for this conference is downright creepy. The official logo consists of two words: “I care.” That phrase is everywhere. Someone took the trouble to include it on virtually every bit of the signage that directs us around this massive, multi-level sports stadium.
Are participants at UN climate events really that desperate to think well of themselves? I mean, who needs to be constantly reassured that they’re a good person?
T. S. Eliot once observed that:
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
The respected Atlantic magazine makes a persuasive argument that the UN inadvertently introduced cholera to Haiti following its devastating 2010 earthquake (via infected Nepalese peacekeepers). It says the UN has failed to take responsibility for the thousands of deaths that have ensued – and that there are other reasons to be concerned about how this organization conducts itself:
The failure to provide remedies in Haiti is part of a recent pattern of the UN neglecting its legal and moral responsibilities…
Last week, a radio programme by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on a Haitian woman who lost her daughter, brother, and father to that cholera outbreak. She’s now part of a class-action lawsuit against the UN – which claims diplomatic immunity and sees no need to compensate those affected.
Telling ourselves over and over again that we care is no substitute for acting with compassion.