Tag Archives: humanitarian

Elegant Humanitarian

Elegant – Word of the Day

Audrey-audrey-hepburn-19588118-1280-800.jpg

Audrey Hepburn (1929 – 1993), a personification of elegance. Certainly petite, refined, beautiful, and yes, elegant. But no matter who or what, we place that descriptor upon people or objects, it is our perception of them, not as they see themselves or how they experience themselves. We know that to be true because at times we are sometimes aware that we don’t see ourselves as others see us. Having said that, I’m happy to say that I think she’s elegant. I really enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but have seen most of her movies over the years. One of the contributing factors to her elegance was her stance, dress and movement – as a child she had learned ballet, and this was clearly formative.

She was ten when WW2 broke out. Her English/Austrian father was involved in the 1930s with the Dutch and British Fascist movements. Ironically hepburn and her mother were involved in fund raising for the Dutch Resistance, though by the time the Germans had invaded Holland, her father had left the family for England then on to Ireland. The war left an indelible imprint on her, she recounted the horror as a child of the invasion, the fighting, the death of family (an uncle was executed as a reprisal), seeing Jewish people being transported, especially children her age, firing squads and more. The food shortages were severe at the end of the war and Hepburn suffered acute anemia, repiratory problems, and edema which resulted from malnutrition.

Hepburn had a long association with UNICEF, having been one of the recipients of international aid in areas devastated by the war. Her formal association began in the 1950s when she narrated two radio programs for them. In 1989 she was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. She served in that role until 1992, travelling to Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Sudan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Somalia, to promote aid programs and listen to needs on the ground. She advocated for clean water and vaccination programs in particular, lobbying the UN and national governments.

During the Bangladesh visit she was observed hugging children who were covered in flies, she had no aversion, only compassion.

Two of my favourite Hepburn quotes are:

“Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicisation of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanisation of politics.”

“The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering.”

I think her true elegance was in her humanitarian work, that she loved the unloveable, wasn’t afraid to get dirty, was passionate in her advocacy and lobbying. She brought a gravitas, dignity and integrity to the role. Which brings me back to the comment I made earlier, elegance in looks is about perception and description, but elegance in behaviour is something more, it is that inner beauty we speak of, embodied, tangible, and lived, it is real. Hepburn lived her humanitarian work. Hepburn once quipped that ordinary working women could achieve her fashion look easily (and told them how). I think everyday people can achieve her lived elegance in compassion.

Paul,

pvcann.com

17 Comments

Filed under history, life, mindfulness, politics, quote, war

That Cockburn Sleeve

via Daily Prompt: Sleeve

IMG_0112.jpg

Contrary to the nay-sayers of the 80s the vinyl LP has hung around. My Bruce Cockburn album “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw” from 1979. The one that finally brought him to international attention, especially in the US. Cockburn, a Canadian, was quite popular in his native Canada, but until this album (don’t think I’ve used that term in a while) was only ever on the fringe elsewhere. The cover is a painting by Ojibwa artist Norval Morrisseau.

The cardboard outer was earlier called a record jacket, technically it was a protective sleeve that became an artform in itself in the late 60s. The plastic liner was an inner sleeve, an anti-scratch protection. Earlier eras used paper inners, even as jackets in some cases (especially on the old 78 rpm – a brown paper jacket).

Bruce Cockburn is a folk-rock artist (sometimes called the bearded mystic) who has been an activist for environmental and humanitarian issues through his writing and performing. He has been associated with Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Friends of the Earth and more. He has advocated for humanitarian aid in Mozambique, Iraq, Mali, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Honduras and more. He has toured to raise funds for humanitarian crisis relief, including being a leading spokesperson for the banning of landmines, and on the subject of third world debt. He stood with the Haida people of British Columbia in their land claim struggle, and has also raised money for aid for former child soldiers. Just a sample of his commitments. He once stated that his music asks something from the listener, it invites the listener to get involved in the causes, or he asks existential questions, a more general raising of awareness of issues and questioning the listener’s stance.

Cockburn came to my attention through a friend in 79, who urged me to have a listen to this guy who wrote amazing lyrics. I did and I was hooked. But I was hooked again by his personal beliefs, his political stance, his activism. For me he embodied the meaning of integrity and commitment. I aspire to that.

Cockburn is respected by his contemporaries and younger artists, and has worked with a number of rock and folk luminaries throughout his career. He has recorded over 300 songes and made 33 albums. However, Cockburn hasn’t aimed at fame, instead he has given back to his community, and indeed to the world through his writing and activism. I would say he has invested in people and the environment.

I’d like a few more Bruce Cockburn’s around, but then, we’re here!

Paul,

pvcann.com

22 Comments

Filed under environment, history, life, mindfulness, music, politics