Overcoming Contradictions

by Kathy Kelly and Hakim

Adelaide, Australia –At Tabor House Technical College, 21 young people sit in a semicircle looking curiously at Hakim and me. We’ve been invited to speak with them about the practice of justice.  Hakim, who has lived among Afghans for the past nine years, begins by describing how an Afghan youth, Zekerullah, would greet them.  “Salam,” he says to all. With his hand over his heart, Hakim makes eye contact with each student, and then nods in silent greeting. I smile, having watched Zekerullah do just this, whenever he entered a room. The students are interested.

“You can’t listen only to leaders,” Hakim tells them. “We must put our ears close to the hearts of ordinary people and listen to them.”  Hakim is often poetic, but he’s also a trained physician, prone toward assembling data and seeking careful diagnosis.

Rising early this morning, he prepared for today’s presentation by collecting statistics about government responses, in various parts of the world, to massive manifestations of public opinion.  As expected, the short survey showed that leaders aren’t listening well to ordinary people, that ‘national interests’ routinely overrule the people’s interests:

72% of Australians want their troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard insists that Australian troops will remain “till the end of the decade, at least.”

63% of Americans oppose the Afghan war.

But the US is about to sign a US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement that will allow joint military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2024.

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