A Conversation with Rocky Anderson

Utah’s Rocky Anderson is known far and wide, as an advocate for human rights, a political ally, and as an unapologetic liberal. On March 25th, he lectured at UVU on the High Road for Human Rights advocacy project.

The goal of the project is to empower individuals through this grassroots community effort to mobilize the political will to fulfill the promise of “Never Again,” as seen on the monument in Dachau, Germany. Apparently, the international community has not delivered on that promise. The genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the one happening right now in Darfur have been blatantly ignored by everyone who has the power to help. According to Anderson and myriad human rights groups, all for the sake of political stability and self-interest.

“The problem,” said Anderson, “is that people feel powerless. Yet the number one reason politicians refuse action to stop genocide is because they “haven’t heard from their constituents,” and therefore it isn’t a priority. “We have to choose to take real grassroots action,” he said. People expect that it’s “someone else’s job to make a difference.” But the constituents those politicians are referring to are the citizens of this country, and they’re not making enough noise.

Anderson remained after the lecture to answer questions. Student Chris Manor was discussing the business aspect of the international community’s apathy.
“Capitalism in general re-values everything,” he said, and Anderson agreed. The reason we didn’t interfere when Saddam Hussein slaughtered the Kurd population in his country was because America’s commercial interests would be threatened by any interference with the dictator’s will.

When asked about the problems Americans currently face with economy, the housing crisis, how that competes for our immediate attention, and how many Americans believe that we should take care of our own, Anderson said, “telling me that caring about what happens to our fellow human beings is what makes us human.” He then quoted the famous Bible verse, Matthew 25:40; “Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

“To me, it all comes down to the golden rule,” Anderson said, “If it was your sister, gang raped and forced into slavery, wouldn’t you do something about it?” However, he has researched the psychological problems associated with portraying such a message to American citizens. “It’s what they call “psychic numbing,” he told me. When you use such huge numbers, like the 900,000 people slaughtered within 100 days during the Rwandan genocide, people just can’t wrap their heads around it. “One little girl falls down a well, and people rally to her, send money- they know her story…” Putting a face on the situation brings it home for people. Thousands of faces just become lost in a crowd.

High Road for Human Rights is meant to empower Americans to do something about it. Anderson said, “They ask me, ‘As one person, what can I do?’ And now we have this resource to say, ‘As one person, here is what you can do.'”

The organization has a student group here at UVU, and one can also earn a minor degree in Peace and Justice Studies. For more information, contact Michael Minch at (801) 863- 7482 or go to www.highroadforhumanrights.org.

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