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Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

One of my favorite free-time activities is watching a documentary while completing a mindless task such as folding laundry, cleaning my room, or organizing my desk. I've come to discover "independent documentaries" made by smaller organizations often shared exclusively on YouTube. They're never perfect, but I am consistently surprised by how much I can learn from them and how much they impact my life. A well-made documentary has the ability to inspire us and inform us on topics that may have previously appeared uninteresting. On the other hand, documentaries can abuse that power to shape opinions, attitudes, and behaviors on a given subject to accomplish an ulterior goal.

Nevertheless, I was excited when offered an opportunity to watch a documentary for extra credit points in a class. While not necessarily an "independent documentary," this particular film, shared on YouTube and sponsored by the United Nations, was entitled "Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times." Uploaded in September of 2020, I believe the topics discussed in this film are still relevant today, nearly half a year later.

This documentary opens by describing a series of prominent issues that the world faced in 2020. Without a doubt, these issues are "urgent," and nations should be making an effort to come together and solve them soon for the sake of humankind and the planet. Of these matters, the most impactful and widely spread is the Coronavirus Pandemic. The film acknowledges that the world was not prepared and that regions with lower socioeconomic status have suffered more than others. Climate change was another problem that was heavily stressed. This year bore witness to some of the most brutal climate catastrophes that we have seen in recent history, including wildfires in Australia and California, extreme weather in Jakarta causing flooding, Locust plagues in east Africa leading to food shortages, Cyclone Amphan and Cyclone Harold, heatwaves in Western Europe and the Siberian Arctic, Flooding in the Sahel, and drought in Southern Africa.

Then, the focus shifted to discussing solutions and previous successes. It was stated that the best way to address our environmental changes is by halving emissions and eliminating pollution caused by plastic waste, which leads to the ocean. The video celebrated that over a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the last few decades. However, many people worldwide, including children, are living day-to-day in hunger, homelessness, or coerced-servitude. The UN advocated for justice for all races, particularly minorities living in America, and for the empowerment of all women across the world in the workplace, healthcare, education, and social status. The most emphasis on injustice was placed on struggles in the United States and other first-world nations.

"Nations United" fused these hot-button topics with footage from around the world, discussion and input from experts, specific solutions, and related performances from artists. I've attached the documentary for your reference, and I encourage you to watch it. This documentary's take-home message was for us to work to achieve positive change at most the basic level: you as an individual. Make adjustments in your life that are sustainable, respectful, healthy, and ethical to benefit your community and, in turn, all of the Earth. Use your knowledge to take action to bring about political and social change and demand that our leaders take an active stance in solving these global concerns.

I could not agree with this sentiment more. These steps to bring about tangible change are important because the next generation must understand that global troubles must be addressed. Oftentimes, politics and finances must be set aside to see the big picture and act before it is too late.

I don't want to live in a world where humanity is complacent in all of this taking place! The buck stops here, and in this age of mass communication, crowdsourcing, and emboldened power of the people, it's time we put the suffering to rest. So, what's the elephant in the room?

Personally, I found the documentary to be quite eye-opening and a great resource to realize the magnitude of the issues that the planet faces. At the conclusion, I felt upset yet eager to begin making a difference. I felt exactly how they wanted me to feel. But after a moment, I began to think about more than what meets the eye. The hostess appropriately pointed out serious problems where work must be done and then provided valid responses that would lessen the obstacle's impact. However, I was disappointed that many equally important threats, perhaps more important than the ones presented, were not even acknowledged.

I immediately turn to China and the continued extermination and maltreatment of Uighur Muslims. This is resulting in more death and destruction than current racial tensions in America. The UN chooses not to make a single mention of this. China is also responsible for the suppression and “silencing” of free speech, the persecution of Christians, and the authoritarian approach to handling protests in Hong Kong. I believe that these threats to human rights are far more pressing and much more fatal than the debate of gender and racial inequalities in free countries.

Besides, China is the largest producer of CO2 emissions and the greatest polluter on the planet, yet the UN fails to hold this nation accountable. This is also represented in many international climate deals signed by members of the United Nations. Why do we allow China a free pass while the rest of the world progresses into 2021? Shouldn't this be a problem that both Democrats and Republicans must take an offensive stance on?

In many middle-eastern and African countries, women are systemically oppressed and do not exercise the same rights as their male counterparts. Moreover, homosexuality in many of these countries is still stigmatized, and offenders may be sentenced to death at the government's hands or unjustly beaten by gangs or terrorists. In socialist countries like Venezuela, North Korea, and Cuba, governments consciously starve their people and deny them basic rights such as making a living, education, travel, and free speech. This is an affair that has been ongoing for decades! How come this isn't an "urgent" enough problem for the United Nations to address?

I’m not simply dismissing the serious concerns for democratic countries such as the United States; I’m only concerned that the UN turns a blind eye on attacks on human life and dignity in less stable countries. If we want to work together for a better world, we can’t be afraid to call out all of the governments, organizations, and people who directly interfere with the United Nations' goals. //

Nathaniel Greve | Made in America


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