A Response to Dr. Philip Lancaster's Lecture

Essay by vaughan0 April 2004

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Listening to Dr. Lancaster's personal account of his humanitarian involvement overseas in both Burundi and Afghanistan was not only inspirational as a student of anthropology, but also humbling as a Canadian who aspires to be a genuinely productive member of the international community. Possibly a product of an upbringing amid an ethnically diverse society that stresses tolerance and respect, I have always sought a global perspective in my academic direction, which I anticipate will translate into a professional venture with parallel alignment. Dr. Lancaster communicated a valuable idea that concerned this struggle (that I think all my peers deal with to some extent) that is fundamental to his humanitarian contributions.

While I have always sought knowledge, understanding and social currency from the self-proclaimed academic world in order to one day be able to provide some practical authority on widespread global dilemmas, Lancaster is a testament to a completely different approach that has proven successful.

His initial encounter with the developing world was as a soldier. I have always considered a soldier the smallest unit of an army, serving as tools of war and militarism and the human manifestation of aggression, conflict and murder, but in the case of Lancaster it led to genuine empathy. His experiences as a soldier gave him a direct and personal familiarity with the suffering by innocent inhabitants of Burundi, which just happened to be at the hands of a brutal misuse of this same militaristic means.

The severe hardships of these humans to which Lancaster was exposed motivated his constant study and work abroad. During his lecture, he mentioned several other actors that participated alongside him in humanitarian efforts in Burundi. These individuals came from sophisticated backgrounds and brought with them apt credentials one might deem necessary in tackling issues of global conflict. Unfortunately, this...