I can’t help but be startled by the contrast.
I spent the better part of last week with colleagues and guests at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis. The annual gathering features recent Nobel Peace Prize laureates and many others whose passions are about peace-making. In this year’s edition, Winds of Peace was invited to host a dialogue about the potential impact of cooperatives on post-conflict societies. In the session, our colleague Rene Mendoza offered his research conclusions about what constitutes strong cooperatives, how all of the “actors” in the cooperative chain sometimes unknowingly contribute to a lack of fairness to the small producer, and how Fair Trade isn’t always fair.
Our session featured representatives from all quarters of the coffee cooperative chain: producers, buyers, roasters, funders, cooperative associations, consultants and even academics. They came from Europe, Central America, South America, Canada and the U.S. We sought as many perspectives as we could find to consider the research and join in the discussion about where and how improvements might be made on behalf of the small producer, and in the process contribute to better chances at creating more peaceful societies. The gathering was an impressive one, made even more so because of the intensity that they brought to the Forum: these were people who were serious about the topic and, especially, to the notion of contributing to peace.
We heard stories from peasant farmers and the nature of perseverance. We listened to the findings about premium payments in the Fair Trade and Organic markets and how that money often never reaches the farmers who grow the crops. We heard stories of progress, for women, for peasant farmers, for struggling organizations attempting to fight the currents of political and monied interests. We learned about the importance of transparency, of walking in another’s shoes, collaborative work, the importance of “the common good.” And we felt the passionate undercurrent of an eclectic group of people seeking, in their own way, a means of peacemaking.
And then there was the news coverage this week at the U.N.
The President of the United States openly taunted the leader of North Korea, in front of the rest of the world, by referring to him as “rocket man.” In the same breath, he stated flatly that, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Later in the week, the leader of the free world, in addressing African leaders, twice referred to the African nation “Nambia.” Unfortunately, there is no such country. The chief peacemaker in the world did not know the name of the country to which he referred.
In quoting the President I imply no judgment as to his intelligence or the soundness of his political strategies; all persons on the planet can judge for themselves the appropriateness of the President’s position. I only note the stark contrast between last week’s energies toward building peace, and this week’s headlines threatening an annihilation.
I can’t help but be startled by the contrast….