Focusing on the Positive
I’ve let myself down to a certain extent. There have been some more quite negative situations occurring at the conference, and I’ve let them tarnish my experience here. I have let certain people, who are in the minority, control my experience of the conference and distract me from all the wonderful people and ideas that are floating around me. I will list them, purge the negative, and then move on.
First, we had one speaker a few days ago come to speak to us about the use of social media to start a movement. In his case, it was a movement against FARC in Colombia. One of our young leaders, also from Latin America, began to ask him a question, and obviously had a slightly differing approach to the situation. The speaker immediately cut him off, attempting to shut him down. He said, “I’m not answering your question! I’m not answering your question! Next question!” And basically called him a Communist. The rest of us young leaders intervened, saying he had the right to be heard. Our moderator stepped in, calmed the speaker, and the young leader was allowed to finish his statement. The speaker did apologize towards the end of the session, but then told the young leader that he shouldn’t bring up things like that because he’ll start fights.
Then we have had some sexual harassment issues among the young leaders. One male young leader in particular, the same one who told me that gay people are spreading disease throughout society and it’s the greatest sin of all sins etc, has been sexually harassing many of the girls here. Even the girls who haven’t been directly affected say that they feel uncomfortable around him. His attacks have ranged from unwanted attention, telling girls he wants to take another wife, calling girls sinners for drinking, etc, and then on the extreme end, telling a girl that her “problem” is that she’s not a virgin. When she told him to f*** off, he got very aggressive, telling her to “watch her tongue” and that “if she wasn’t a girl, she would do something to her.” Later that evening, he told his roommate that he “wanted to f***” this particular girl. And he said this three times.
As would be understandable, many of us are outraged by this behaviour. I will speak for myself right now, but I feel that this behaviour is not the behaviour of a young leader. I feel that he should not be able to call himself an Echenberg Fellow nor should he be part of the network we will be creating afterwards. Of course, I will experience people who disagree with me everywhere I go, but there is a difference between disagreement and outright offensive and aggressive speech and behaviour. Those types of things, while we may encounter them, should not be tolerated.
A third thing that is getting on my nerves is the founder’s constant use of the words “facts and context.” You have to have “the facts and context” before you make any statements, they constantly say. And this is obviously a code for Palestine/Israel. It was even said at the opening of the “adult” conference that the worst offender of political correctness, double standards, selective facts, etc was the UN Human Rights Council. Man! Can we even have a conversation about Israel and Palestine? Like an actual conversation?!?
Phew! Ok, I’m done. Will write again tonight, post some photos, and concentrate on trying to get the most out of this amazing opportunity, even though it’s not perfect.
But don’t worry, I will continue to speak Truth to Power.