Peace and Happiness: About a month ago I went on a weekend trip to a town called Pirenopolis. It was a two hour drive from Brasilia and a welcome getaway from the administrative capital of Brazil. Pirenopolis is famous for its waterfalls and beautiful landscape. The first morning we woke up and went hiking in the mountains. It had been so long since I had been hiking and reaching the summit was a truly pleasant experience. Sitting on a rock at the top of the mountain gave me a chance to find my inner peace. It gave me a chance to remove myself from the material world and focus on strengthening my character. This leads me to a discussion I had with friends in my travel to Rio (which I will write about in my next blog entry). What is more important finding peace or happiness? For me it is categorically the former. I believe that they are not mutually exclusive, and in fact probably mutually supportive, yet still I believe that finding peace is the priority in life. I have come to an interesting conflict with the Brazilian insistence on doing whatever makes you happy. I disagree with this philosophy. I believe that sometimes we need to show restraint or better judgment given that happiness is not the end all be all. I am sorry to get all philosophical but I was hoping that by writing this I would spark this question in your minds and hopefully hear your thoughts.
Simplicity of the past: About a month ago, a couple of fellow interns and I went to watch Midnight in Paris. The movie was enjoyable and was centered on a yearning for the past. Many times in my life I have felt that life was just much more simple and tranquil in the past before all the technological advancements we have today. After the movie we watched the clip called The Story of Stuff, which raises issues with the capitalist economic model’s effect on the environment. There is simply too much consumption and irresponsible consumption taking place today. Let us hope that things may change. This is not to say that all technology is bad but I somehow feel that we humans have not necessarily made use of the positive aspects of technology as much as of the negative aspects or unintended consequences. The starkest example is probably how the television and computer have decreased the amount of quality time that families spend interacting with one another. Sometimes I really believe that “less is more”. What are your thoughts?
An inspiration: I just got in touch with Hooria, the ex-Deputy Chairperson of the Women’s National Committee (WNC) of Yemen, whom I had the honor to intern with for one month a few summers ago. I truly admire her courage and perseverance. She has been at the front of protests in Yemen and is tirelessly struggling to liberate Yemen. Her anger towards Arab autocrats is so strong that she told me not to say the usual Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan) – instead we should say Ramadan Kareem (Holy Ramadan). This is because of her disgust with Egypt’s ex-‘president’. I remember my time with the WNC and how different it was from the three UN internships I have done. Their office was poorly equipped and they only had local staff. But somehow I felt a strong sense of resolve in that office. In my month at the WNC I had more chances to go to meeting with government officials, donors, media, and Western NGOs then I have had in my other internships combined. Going to meet both higher level officials and those from civil society is crucial for development practitioners in my estimation. Theory and reading reports are useful but there is something intangible gained from human interaction. I believe that my travels have given me plenty of field experience and helped me in my work in these UN offices. I think back to the touching story of Nujood Ali who was divorced at the age of ten. Her courage to break away from her husband, who was more than two decades her senior, is inspiring. But sadly, her story is the exception rather that the rule. According to a 2007 report by the International Centre for Research on Women, 48.4 percent of women under 18 in Yemen were married. Roughly half of those girls become pregnant before turning 18. These figures are appalling. Nonetheless, I feel better knowing that there are people like Nujood and Hooria who are determined to change the status quo. They believe in a better future and actively work to make that future a reality.