Tilting at Windmills

While I’m on the topic of large organizations in need of rededication, I read yesterday that the United Nations accidentally started a cholera epidemic in Haiti a year-and-a-half ago that, so far, has claimed over 8,000 lives and infected some 647,000 others.

The epidemic started when an inadequately screened group of soldiers were sent in from Nepal, where there was an active outbreak of cholera. The soldiers were stationed in an area known for its sewage leaks and the rest is history.

The UN said nothing for the first 18 months of the crisis until just last week when it declared that the claims were “not receivable.” Their rationale was neither subtle nor apologetic, they simply and boldly claimed immunity from liability, prosecution and the law. Unfortunately for the Haitians, the UN’s interpretation of its own statues are generally incontrovertible by other governmental bodies.

The UN was created to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for…international law can be maintained, but this move flies in the face of its noble and challenging mission. I have to wonder why those in positions of leadership in large organizations like this (or in the Catholic Church as we considered yesterday) compromise their honor at critical points.

It is truly disappointing that the leadership does not take swift action to own up to its mistakes, repent and move forward. Call me naive, but this approach still works. It can and will unleash a tide of change more powerful than the forces seeking to cover up, but it has to find expression through the right person or people in the organization. At the end of the day the forces working to suppress the evidence of the presence of a truly upright organization are no more powerful than Don Quijote’s windmills. They must steal power to have it.

Have we strayed so far from honor and dignity that the appearance of righteousness can now count more than the fact of it? I think not. It’s time to make a change.

4 thoughts on “Tilting at Windmills

  • Organization’s mission statements are not what make them worthy. Each are only as noble as the people that lead it. Leadership sets the actual direction. Sad for Haiti. That is another organization that has had very corrupt leadership.

  • I agree, it is time to make a change. We first need to make sure that we live by righteousness and a natural part of that is an extension of that into our lives, our family, friends, corporations, nations and ultimately our beautiful planet.

  • A leader leads by what he or she is personally led by. At the end of the day, all is reconciled on the scales of justice, but that’s just not good enough if we are to continue in life’s good graces. May we all come to a sufficient point of peace inside to renew the desolate landscape ravaged by the conflicts of misguided human will.

  • Organizations like the UN should be setting an example for the rest of the world to follow, not covering up what seems like an honest mistake with shameful behavior. Great power doesn’t mean that you are above the law, it means that you should be doing things like self-reporting because you respect the law. Yet somehow you never see that, except in the case of a whistleblower, who must risk life and liberty to get the truth out.
    These types of organizations seem to be repositories for the type of people who love power for the amount of control it gives them over others, rather than for the amount of help it allows them to provide. This is why we currently need things like a system of checks and balances. Even though it hamstrings the organization, it prevents the unscrupulous from doing too much damage (or too much of anything, really).
    We need to take a look at why our world looks the way it does. People can be selfless. People can hold power for reasons other than self-aggrandizement. We can live in a world of honor and integrity, but if we want it, it has to start with us, and we have to hold those that would lead us accountable to those standards.

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