Sunday, March 23, 2008
Today (Easter Sunday, March 23rd, 2008) I saw on BookTV (i.e., C-SPAN) Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, talking with Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell, at the New York Public Library (How do so many people get into one room of a library?) about Power's new book, Chasing the Flame which is a biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a man from Brazil who spoke seven languages, among other things. The event was recorded February 21, 2008. Watching it, I felt heartened by such passionate engagement. I can't help but wonder though why we heard so little about Vieira de Mello until he was killed, but now he deserves a biography written by a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author.
The two women talked about human dignity and how important it is to respect everybody's dignity in order to begin heading toward international peace. Nafisi read from Power's book a section that described a conversation Sergio Vieira de Mello had with a refugee while he was working for the UN. He asked the woman what she wanted. She told him how all her life she sustained herself on her land, and now she has to accept charity from the UN while she was living as a refugee. She told him she wanted to become a cloud and go miles away to where her land is and then turn into rain so she could be in the land she loved so long and so well. I think Nafisi and Power might agree with the notion that no one is free unless everyone is free.
Perhaps human dignity is a political concept. Whether it is or isn't, I believe human dignity is more clearly perceived when we keep our hearts and minds open with regard to aesthetics as well as ethics. And isn't it the case that, where aesthetics and ethics are together, politics results? Thus we can see that art, music and literature (i.e., aesthetics) has an importance with regard to such things as foreign policy and international relations. And this importance is distinct from such things as lifestyle preferences and entertainment (i.e., show business).
I have no profound insights as to how we may achieve lasting international peace. I am grateful though for the freedom to meet and read and discuss poetry out loud with people who are interested.