Sunday, October 05, 2008

Child Soldiers No More

From the day the tickets went on sale, I have been looking forward to the concert Child Soldiers No More. The benefit began in the usual UVic fashion: a lesser faculty member introducing Turpin, who in turn introduced the guests of honour, Dallaire and Cockburn. As Turpin speeches go this one was pretty good and Mary Ellen Purkis, the dean of HSD, got much better as the night wore on. The show proper began with a short PowerPoint presentation, which provided some background on and heart wrenching photographs of child soldiers. When Dallaire made his entrance he received an exuberant standing ovation; his obvious discomfort with this display of recognition and appreciation made him all the more worthy of it.

He then outlined the history of the child soldier weapons system, and its capacity, which encompassed the roles of mine clearers, prostitutes, ambush decoys, front-line soldiers and messengers. 300,000 children are involved, many forcibly, in the world today; not only in Africa where their involvement is widely known, but also in countries like Colombia and the Philippines. He described its origins: how battle lines, rules of engagement, and defined enemies eroded after the Cold War. The horrors of war have become the horrors of humanity. Nevertheless, Dallaire sees the solution in the essence of humanity; only by recognizing the humanness of every human can we make progress. We can no longer categorize human suffering by their assets; we can no longer let the insecurity of one super power dictate the globe's actions. Old models, such as peace keeping, do not work in this world. Rather middle powers, such as Canada, who have no imperial aims can facilitate the Responsibility to Protect (R2P); furthermore, the empowerment of women and education can facilitate change. The most touching story, for me, was his account of the child soldier, who with a shaky trigger finger and the barrel of the gun in Dallaire's nose, released his finger from the trigger when he spied the candy bar in Dallaire's hand.

At first Cockburn's laid back demeanour and the bright opening bars of his first song, seemed incongruent with Dallaire's depiction of the world; his footnote about Flor de CaƱa being mistaken with Florida Canyons only deepened this misgiving. However, as his performance wore on, I soon realized that his banter was a gift and that this evening had an ebb and flow: the subject was too severe to absorb for three hours straight. I soon found myself immersed in his talent; yes, he still has his chops. Nice touches, such as his falsetto on Lovers in a Dangerous Time, also added to the evening, however, his passion for peace was never far away. Despite my enjoyment, I still had a nagging feeling that Dallaire wouldn't appear on stage with Cockburn, but this sensation was quieted by Cockburn's announcement, "Let us bring Dallaire, after all this is no ordinary evening." What ensued was fabulous; Dallaire recounted two stories while Cockburn provided background music. As Dallaire told his tale of seeing the same look in childless boy's eyes as in his own son's and another of the shame that had cloaked girls who were rape victims, I encountered the power of story. The cadence of his voice, which matched perfectly with Cockburn's lick, only lulled you enough to make the sting of the horror tolerable. Thanks to both these extraordinary people this issue is indelibly etched on the minds of many.


Anonymous said...

Hey D:
I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Ishameal Beah sp?. I had recently read his book on his experiences of being a child soldier. Easy to reflect on how amazing our own lives are. Makes you want to pack your bags and defend these children's lives. See you TR.

D. said...

Yeah I watched him on The Hour. Amazing story!


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