Ian M. Stone, Airline Captain
As a former Zimbabwean national and now an expatriate worker with extensive travel experience, I feel that I have had an opportunity to view the countries of the world from a window unavailable to many. I believe that there is one common link that unites all peoples, regardless of nation, creed, colour or religion: that is the natural human desire for happiness.
When we talk of happiness, what do we mean? Happiness may be perceived in different forms by different peoples but, in general, it depends fundamentally on the rights of individuals to freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from persecution or discrimination, and the quality of living conditions, itself dependent upon a degree of financial wellbeing. In an ideal world, were all peoples to have these rights, the sources of dissention would be reduced to a considerable degree.
Sadly, there are many regions in the world where these rights are virtually nonexistent. Zimbabwe is a prime example. Under the harsh rule of a racist, corrupt and greedy dictatorship, this one-time jewel of Africa has seen it’s economic wealth and the wellbeing of it’s people reduced to ruins. The Zimbabwe government is guilty of genocide, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and murder; of withholding food and medical supplies from it’s own people in order to fraudulently rig elections so as to remain in power. Political opposition is ruthlessly and brutally suppressed; and the governing elite lives in obscene wealth whilst the vast majority of the population struggles for day-to-day existence. The inflation rate of the country – the highest in the world and in recorded history - is a glaring indictment of the abysmal failure of the state.
Beside the inhumanity of the terror and fear inflicted upon a populace, the quality of living conditions is directly influenced by the corruption and incompetence of such governments. Theft or squandering of a nation’s wealth by the governing elite results in collapse of social infrastructure and basic services and thence, indirectly, to the destruction of the country’s natural resources: a man desperate to feed his family or to find the money to provide medicine for his sick child has little concern for the preservation of forests or wildlife, however endangered they might be. If by killing a rhinoceros or tiger, he is able to provide for his family, he will not hesitate to do so. And who can blame him? It is more the crime of the government than the man: and therefore the crimes of such governments are more than crimes against their own nations: they are crimes against world humanity.
Zimbabwe must surely rank highly as a classic example of abuse of basic human rights, yet little is done to address the situation. Supposedly, UN sanctions against governments with appalling human rights records are designed to force a change in policy: but, as the previous Rhodesian government proved, such sanctions are rarely effective. The individuals targeted have many ways of avoiding the real impact of any restrictions; and other non-compliant governments or heads of state that are in similar positions often aid them in doing so. Additionally, the UN itself occasionally fails to enforce it’s own imposition of restrictions: the farcical attendance at an agricultural summit in Rome of President Robert Mugabe, himself already banned from travel to European countries and who, as head of state, oversaw the destruction of his own country’s agricultural sector, would be laughable were it not so tragic.
If we are to address the pressing problems of human rights abuses and the steady destruction of natural resources that plagues our world, we should be less tolerant of those who are responsible. In virtually all the countries I have visited, the peoples of these countries have displayed the same basic desire for happiness. Sadly, not all have the same opportunities available: Burma, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe to mention a few: the list is far too long and that should be considered unacceptable in today’s world.
Everyone has a right to happiness.