Monday, February 28, 2011

Solidarity - an overused word?

When I lived in Sweden in the early 70s, I saw many a poster proclaiming "solidarity" with this group or that group.  Somehow it seemed to me that claiming "solidarity" without doing much more than making a poster or holding a meeting was an empty gesture.

With all the protests, rebellions, and revolutions going on now, especially in North Africa, many people are claiming "solidarity" with the people in North Africa.

I've thought that solidarity as a concept gained currency with the labor movement.  If the union voted for a strike, all members went on strike in solidarity, whichever way they voted.  If one union at a factory went on strike, other unions might go on strike in solidarity with the first.  It was a one for all and all for one attitude.

Now people in many countries go out on peaceful streets and hold up signs of "solidarity" with the people of North Africa.  Where was their "solidarity" when Western countries were kowtowing to these dictators for oil or for "national security"?

Well, better late than never.  These demonstrations do give some hope to those struggling against dictators.  Their struggles are not going unnoticed.

If you really want to show "solidarity", hop on a plane and help get supplies into Libya.  If you can only show "sympathy", attending a demonstration is helpful.  But even more help is to send a check to one of the many organizations that are actually doing something on the ground.  Choices include the International Committee for the Red Cross, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) , and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).