Doing The Right Thing . . .

Like most people with access to television or the internet I watched in fascination and horror at the impact of the tsunami on Japan.  I had never witnessed such a powerfully destructive force of nature.  I was saddened about the loss of life and property and people’s livelihoods, all gone is a matter of minutes.

But I was also heartened with the almost immediate response of aid from around the globe.  Help came from everywhere; clothing, food, medicine, equipment, temporary housing. People around the world mobilised to help.

However, after watching the tragic events in Japan on the news, I was struck with a haunting realization.  As long as the human suffering is caused by forces of nature (tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides, flooding, etc.) the nations of the world come running to aid the helpless victims.  But when the human suffering is caused by a despot, dictator, military rebels, or some group of political or religious haters, the world sends words instead of real help.

The United Nations issues a stern condemnation.  The US Secretary of State comments on the deplorable events and opens an investigation. Everyone talks about how bad it is, the raping, the killing, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing, the uprooting of whole populations into refugees.

The suffering and loss of human life is the same in both cases, so why must the civilized nations of the world act differently between the two?

We need to get our priorities straight as a global community so that situations like Rwanda, Darfur, Sudan, Syria and countless other human atrocities are dealt with as swiftly as the aid pouring into Japan, Haiti and other victims of natural disasters.

I am sorry to say this, but the UN has lost its vision, values and courage to take  a stand for helpless victims, no matter what the cause.  While the UN debates, more children and innocent victims are raped and killed. Unless we stop the forces of evil and hatred who are killing innocents, we will be sending aid and huge amounts of money, with no impact or guarantee that such activities will stop.  Aiding the victims is fine, but removing the haters and despots is the only answer to fewer victims, fewer atrocities.  We look out for the victims after the fact, but who will stop the victimisation at its cause?

As a global community we must display both compassion and courage.  Compassion without courage is too little too late (money and food will not bring back those hacked to death by machetes).  Courage without compassion is reckless.  We can either keep treating the symptoms or go after the cause.  History repeats itself only because we keep repeating ourselves.

I recently read a powerful book on my Kindle reader, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The making of a Navy SEAL. Here is a powerful presentation of a balanced view of courage and compassion towards world events.  This is one of the most thought-provoking and hope filled books on the current world situation of hatred and terrorism against innocent people that I have read in a long time.  It is as deeply philosophical, spiritual and as moving as Viktor Frankl’s holocaust essay, Man’s Search for Meaning.

It’s time we did the right thing and acted with both courage and compassion.

John R Childress

john@johnrchildress.com

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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6 Responses to Doing The Right Thing . . .

  1. mimijk says:

    You’re so spot on John – courage and compassion should be two sides of the same coin. I wonder sometimes whether the U.N. hasn’t become overwhelmed by its charter, and as such appears increasingly impotent in its global role. Not an excuse, just an observation. Too many tragedies and political travesties to respond to? I don’t know. I do know that suffering is suffering – and its cries should not be ignored under any circumstances.

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  2. Raunak says:

    To witness the carnage left behind by such events is both traumatic and eye-opening. I was in South India when the 2004 Tsunami struck the coasts of South Asia. Fortunately that morning, instead of going to the beach, I decided to go to the factory to work an extra shift. The images of bodies strewn on streets that I had only recently walked on were quite disturbing. It was an event that instantly made me feel grateful for all the things I had.
    The UN might soon become as redundant as the League of Nations. It surprises me that with a population of 1.25 billion, India still does not have a permanent seat in the Security Council. Veto powers are a mockery of fair play. I still can’t get over the fact that France possesses one!

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    • Raunak: If enough of us finally say, enough, maybe we can make a difference and get the UN to do its job instead of trying to please everyone. I also agree with the veto power problem, which is mostly self interest not global interest.

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  3. Thank you. Great post. Just a thought but maybe natural disasters engage our emotions more directly than man made disasters caused by despots and dictators, which require some rational thought to sort out the good guys from the bad guys. An emotional response is usually quicker and more powerful than a response to rational considerations. Along the same lines I suspect we have lost some of our moral compass, for example, if the U.S. can sanction torture then maybe it’s OK for other governments?

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