Sunday, January 17, 2010

The stuff the military is/ should be made of

Jews are eternal optimists. We've weathered many storms and survived unimaginable national nightmares while maintaining the undying belief that the world will become a better place. We've always hoped that this global improvement would come quickly, but never before have we seen so much evidence that it's on our doorstep. Now, we're 100% convinced that Moshiach is bo longer a dream, but a reality that's unfolding in front of our eyes.

A key change that's coming with Moshiach is world peace. To be precise, it's not simply about nations burying the hatchet, it's about them converting that hatchet into a tool for life enhancement. Isaiah, the prophet, expressed it clearly when he said "they will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning forks".

Note: Isaiah didn't just predict that Peoples would kiss and make up. Peace treaties have been around forever and don't indicate anything out of the ordinary. Using weapons technologies- or the weapons themselves- to help people, now that should pique your curiosity.

Truth be told, it's happening all the time.

Internet, lasers and satellite were all developed by the military, but are used today by you and I. Scientists split the atom so wars would be won, and today nuclear power stations lights up our lives . Russian ICBM's have largely shed their warheads and now launch satellites and scientific payloads into Space.

Haiti's recent earthquake draws attention to yet another element of sword-to-ploughshare conversion. In the last week, the USA has effectively invaded the poor Carribean country. Some 10 000 U.S. troops have poured into the area, an armada of warships (including the carrier USS Carl Vinson, one of the world's largest warships) have sped to the area and US spy drones crisscross overhead.

But, this is the sort of invasion we're glad to see. History is replete with belligerent, colonial or expansionist invasions by foreign nations. With wars in Afganistan and Iraq, it's refreshing to see a Superpower flex its muscle to save lives and create contingencies to help a floundering nation.

Probably the most telling chapter of the story is the unmanned Global Hawk drone that was already en route to Afganistan before the Pentagon diverted it to become an eye in the sky for rescue workers in Haiti. Humanitarianism outdoes war in this episode, reminding us that our world's slowly getting it.

There's some Moshiach-flavour to the Haiti relief efforts. Hopefully there's enough to remind us to bury our personal hatchets too.

After all, the world's becoming a better place. We need to make sure our personal world is in sync.

Special thanks to Aryeh Pels for drawing my attention to these developments. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti- what can I do?

Haiti must be punch-drunk by now. The Western hemisphere’s poorest country is wracked by TB and sees some 30 000 malaria cases each year, while less than half of the population has access to health care. Political violence has been the norm in Haiti for most of its history and a series of four serious hurricanes destroyed much of that country’s infrastructure in 2008.

This week’s devastating earthquake rattled Haiti’s wobbly foundations, displaced millions and killed around 100 000.

Modern governments pull together in troubled times. The Dominican Republic ignored historical tensions with neighbouring Haiti and rushed to assist. Brazil, France, the USA, Britain, South Africa and many others have scrambled rescue teams and aid to help the beleaguered nation. It is heart-warming to watch nations pull together to help a People in crisis.

Consider, though, that Haiti’s tzorres didn’t begin with this week’s earthquake. These people live a daily humanitarian crisis. Hundreds quietly die there each day for lack of food or medicine. No drama surrounds their deaths, so no cameras capture them, so there is no urgent response. Haiti needs a long-term relief programme as much as it needs emergency intervention.

Nations behave just like people do. We also rally together and put our differences aside in the face of disaster. But, when people around us struggle with their chronic issues- the silent nigglings of life, not the explosive tragedies- we get on with our own lives. We grow impassive to their strain and often lapse into apathy or even antipathy.

A Jew is meant to read the world, hear its messages and respond in kind. We can do little to ease the difficulties of Haitians, but we should consider what we can do to alleviate the troubles of a family or community member.

We need not wait for a crisis, we can step in to help at any time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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