Amnesty and apathy

Bearing badges is simply not enough

All of us have a wealth of good intentions: it’s only natural for the young and aspirant to want to do some good. Turning altruism into action is, however, another matter entirely, with the best laid plans to ‘make a difference’ falling foul to essays, Facebook and the irresistable lure of daytime television.

How many of us walked past the Amnesty International stall at the Freshers’ fair, signed on to their mailing list with wistful visions of Aung Sang Suu Kyi in our minds, and have, to date, not attended a single meeting?

I myself am guilty of believing that my mere Inbox-association with Amnesty, and my “Protect the human” badge, are in some way beneficial to Amnesty’s cause and hence demonstrate that I have “done my bit”.

Amnesty International is one of the world’s leading human rights organisations. It campaigns to uphold the values that are most important to all of us, and has succeeded in bringing to light some of the world’s most glaring instances of injustice.

Many people scoff at their tactics, asking what good could possibly come from letter-writing and pantomimic protesting. Such people, I would argue, entirely misunderstand Amnesty’s raison d’être.

Amnesty’s protest in York last Saturday against human rights violations in the Gaza Strip is a case in point. Students dressing up as members of the Israeli Defence Force and standing guard over improvised checkpoints are, quite clearly, not going to bring resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. What they can do is highlight a specific issue, namely the limits imposed on the freedom of movement of Palestinians, to a public and student body that might otherwise turn a blind eye. Even if, as Nouse has reported, many of York’s Saturday shoppers failed to quite grasp the point of the exercise, and were in fact a little bewildered, Amnesty’s actions have made it clear that there exists a cadre within our University who passionately care about justice. This can only be a good thing.

If only I could get around the fact that I’d rather have a nice long lie-in than traipse round the Shambles in an orange jump suit, that I still much prefer the taste of beer to that of the triumph of justice, then I might convert my admiration of Amnesty’s work into concerted, active involvement on their behalf. Until then, I’ve always got my badge, and no-one can take that away from me…

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