Opting for Alternatives
Commentary by Molly Mayfield Barbee
The plan to create an “alternative USA,” the United States of Africa, was proposed (again) this week by Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi as he accepted his new post as head of the African Union. “King of Kings” will be one of his formal titles—an interesting, and perhaps fitting, choice for a president who took power in a 1969 coup and has been one of the longest-serving heads of state, among many long-serving African leaders and traditional kings. The president vowed to make his term a time of serious work, increasing productivity, and uniting African nations more effectively than his predecessors have been able to do. But Qaddafi’s legacy, and that of several of his peers, leave many questioning how real change can take place with so many of the same leaders in power.
Discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos this past week did point the way to some alternative solutions for African development, and for improving the conditions of the world’s poor in general. For one thing, the global economic crisis that is pummeling aid agencies and corporations alike could be an opportunity to shift the development paradigm away from aid-based strategies toward more market-driven interventions that have been successful in Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere.
Additionally, and certainly not surprising to Peace X Peace members and supporters, the importance of investing in girls was a strikingly hot topic at the forum. Melinda Gates, Jennifer Buffet of the NoVo Foundation, UNICEF, and the Nike Foundation all had the spotlight in Davos as they reemphasized The Girl Effect on Development. How long will it take for young women and girls to claim our rightful place in the processes and systems that build national and international stability, prosperity, and peace? Dear readers, you are an essential part of that answer, and each time you spread the word, you bring that day closer.
One example of processes moving in the right direction was the relatively peaceful provincial elections in Iraq which were completed this past week. They included some 4000 female candidates! Although sadly not without bloodshed, that event marked an important turning point for the country and possibly for other conflict regions.
Which brings me to A Season for Nonviolence, which began this past Friday, January 30th. The Season is a 64-day educational, media, and grassroots campaign based in the United States that is dedicated to demonstrating that nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower lives and communities around the world. It offers daily practices that teach us how to be less violent and more compassionate. I can’t think of a better way to mark these months between the two days on which we remember the lives of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and MK Gandhi.
There is something—something simple, something daily or weekly—that each of us can do to move closer to the tipping point to which we aspire. We have daily choices to make: whether we will serve our own ambitions or each other. A disturbing story in the New York Times this week about common tendencies towards catty conflicts between female colleagues at work reminds us of the risks we take as we pursue individual goals without concern for others. Promotions and honorific titles are nice, but we can’t be the change we wish to see alone. Kings will be kings. Still, people-power alternatives are starting to get the recognition they deserve, and those steps in the right direction this week are cause for at least a little celebration.