dangerous ideas change accepted notions

Dangerous ideas are often quite simple. In their simplicity they threaten to turn the widely accepted notions of just how things ought to be on their collective heads.

Dangerous ideas are often quite simple. In their simplicity they threaten to turn the widely accepted notions of just how things ought to be on their collective heads.

Needless to say those who have benefitted from the status quo are usually not amused at the prospect. But these simple earth reorienting ideas sometimes take hold and just don’t let go until they become the new way of understanding and doing things.

Tuesday, December 1st is World AIDS Day. Its theme for 2009 is Universal Access and Human Rights. During 2008 alone an additional 2.7 million people became infected with the virus globally. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV are under 25. Most die from AIDS before they are 35 because they live in low or middle income countries where they don’t have access to life extending drugs and medical care.

HIV/AIDS two decades ago was a fringe issue. It affected the poor or marginalized populations. Education and action made the links with the broader community. The fight to end this scourge has become everyone’s.

Next Wednesday, December 2nd, the United Nations marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The abolitionist movement of two and a half centuries ago faced strongly entrenched political and economic interests. It took a long time for people universally to recognize the inherent injustice of holding others in forced bondage but they did.

The United Nations, though, still has to remind the global community each year that the illegal trafficking of human beings stubbornly persists. The lure of the billions of dollars to be gained from exploiting others still drives the contemporary slave trade. The 2005 Trafficking in Persons report of the US State Department “estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children [are] trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 70 per cent are women and girls and up to 50 per cent are minors.” This is wrong and must be stopped.

On Thursday, December 3rd, the theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Making the Millennium Development Goals Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world.” As the United Nations Enable website notes “Globally, almost one in 10 people is a person living with a disability and recent studies indicate that persons with disabilities constitute up to 20 per cent of the population living in poverty in developing countries.”

Clearly the Millennium Development Goals, which set development and anti-poverty objectives for the global community, can only be achieved if the needs and potential of persons with disabilities and their family members are included. It has not been really all that long since we here in the Yukon as a community began to recognize just how little had been done to include people with disabilities in our public spaces and our workplaces. We can now see as well, how much we lose if we don’t aspire as a community towards inclusiveness.

Our Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources comes to Whitehorse this coming week. The committee members are studying the federal contribution to poverty reduction nationally. On Tuesday they hope to hear from Yukoners on their concerns about and understanding of poverty. I am sure they will hear some dangerous ideas.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.