I've had many happy hours listening to global troubadour Raffi and his music with my daughters. I've also come to know him as a man of intense passion and profound integrity. His refusal to "sell out" his stories and music to the commercial interests in Hollywood for example makes him an ethical 'star'. He is serious about honouring children, the focus of his work these days, and what will nourish their bodies, minds and spirits. He consistently refuses offers to turn Baby Beluga into another Disney 'product'. He is not seduced by commercial success and its accompanying cultural homogenization. He started the Centre for Child Honouring based on Saltspring Isalnd BC, several years ago to advance Child Honouring as a universal ethic and an organizing principle for societal transformation. Here is his most recent essay on Cairo, the place of his birth which was also published in the Huffington Post.
Cairo Sunshine All Around – Reflections on my Birthplace
A siren song is this Cairo freedom fire, the Tunisian spark now a roaring flame. A new Mecca in Tahrir Square.
I close my eyes and wander to the city of my birth, and I'm just eight years old in the helio-polis my Armenian family called home, playing in the Cairo sands, my father's 1940s Studebaker winding up the road to the Pyramids. And I'm now back in this moment, wondering, what exactly is this social media liberation hour we're in? The words come like this:
regime jam, the people's tram
stronger than the aswan dam
pyramid scheme a nation's dream a peoples' stream
grab your hat, don your fez
caravan down to old Suez
who cares what the empire says
millions jammin in high rez
social media social change
regime jam Arabia!
When life makes a mockery of prediction, you have to tilt your head a bit, squint your eyes to see straight. Dictators fall as they must, but this fresh Cairo breeze was so unexpected, a million strong gust for freedom. Stunning.
One peoples' liberation is potentially everyone's, and actually so. Egyptian courage gives us courage, we re-imagine daring, and we consider fresh responses to the tyranny of globalized greed and excess that passes for normalcy.
Meanwhile, what's waning worldwide is secrecy itself, as peoples' will to freedom rides social media's ease in communicating, planning, and gathering. Egypt's revolution is humanity's. And as a revolution enhanced by social media before the state silenced them, the Cairo scenario begs a question.
Are we witnessing the emergence of a new fundamental human right — the right of citizens to connect via social media — the digital right to communicate? Does any nation that disrupts or suspends the people's right to communicate by this most democratic of means thus not suspend its own legitimacy?
And consider the fate of the children of the entire Arab world. Can this "Berlin wall moment" of the middle east bring down the fundamentalist veil of gender oppression and religious intolerance? New support for the rights of all women to self-determination can torch the age-old patriarchal coercion that also keeps children cowed to obedience.
Coercion vs. volition, this primary human choice colors early years experience and can shape misguided belief systems or, of course, quite the contrary. Secure in our being, we can learn to celebrate life's diversity; we can revel in the basics that delight: the delicious foods that sustain families and enliven community, the hot drinks that bring us together, and the stories that keep us through the night and return us to work and play each morning.
We humans were not created for obedience. We are made for creativity, and early on our unbounded spirits dare to sing our own song, our childhood imaginings form original futures in thought, word and deed.
Egypt's jump for joy ends the fear of its ruling despot and the power behind him. One can only hope U.S. foreign policy stops its prop-the-dictator balance of power antics very soon.
We're in a whole new geopolitical era, one with great promise amidst the turbulence, one that calls for new individual rights and new global priorities. The more freedom people have to self-determination and fulfillment of their basic needs, the better our chances of survival as a species.
A new basic right is "the right to a future" for Earth and Child — for both our warming planet and her children scattered on all the lands called home. The right to a viable future is like a beacon to light universal human needs and hopes in this pivotal time for civilization.
Egyptian courage emboldens the region and the world. Let the song of Egypt's liberty ring in our ears. Her sun is ours.
Raffi Cavoukian, C.M., O.B.C., founder and chair of the Centre for Child Honouring, is best known as Raffi — singer, author, children's champion, ecology advocate, and entrepreneur. Member of the Order of Canada, Raffi is the recipient of numerous awards including the UN Earth Achievement Award, the Global 500 Roll, and two honorary degrees. His renaissance as a systems thinker includes the anthology he co-edited, Child Honouring: How To Turn This World Around (2006) and two recent companion CDs of motivational songs: Resisto Dancing, and Communion. www.childhonouring.org