Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The United Nations

So, we toured the UN while we were in New York. It's an easy walk from Times Square, tickets are $16 each and tours begin every 45 minutes. The place is an impressive sight as you approach it with the sun reflected in the administration building and all flags flying.

I learned something about those flags—they are flown in alphabetical order according to the countries' names as they read in English. They start with Afghanistan in one corner and end with Zimbabwe, and they don't fly in inclement weather or in honor of a monstrous disaster—they weren't raised directly after the earthquake in Haiti, for example.

I also learned why the buildings across the street from the UN don't face the street with their main entrances. You might think that's for security reasons, but it's actually because the land used to be home to slaughter houses—big, foul-smelling, unsightly slaughter houses—so nearby buildings were constructed to look away from them.

The UN is all about preventing another world war, with its programs designed to encourage peace either by supplying international squads of peacekeepers to unstable regions of the world or by attempting to solve the problems that often lead to instability, like extreme poverty. The Fill the Cup program is one of those attempts, and with 80% of the world's population living on less than $10 a day, we've got a lot of cups to fill.

Member nations donate artwork to the UN, most of which descries war. This sculpture is displayed at the visitors' entrance—interesting fact: Less than 1% of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000, but that didn't happen; and in 2000, 1 billion people were unable to read or write. I wonder if that statistic includes the cost of security for girls living in countries that forbid them an education.

This is just part of a mural by a Spanish artist that depicts the horrors from WW II followed by slow recovery of those who suffered the most, not just in the Holocaust but around the world.

This is a mosaic of Norman Rockwell's "Golden Rule," which he painted to demonstrate how what we know as the Golden Rule figures into nearly every religion around the world—Confucious said, “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself,” 500 years before Christ. Rockwell is the one in the middle, the hopeful man in the blue shirt. The United States donated this piece in 1985.

This is the security council chamber, and the entire room was donated by Norway. In the center, is a painting with a phoenix rising from the ashes of WW II, with the gloomy colors at the bottom rising to colorful images of people living normal lives—marrying, raising children, working in peace. The photo is a little fuzzy, but click on it to see the details of the painting.

And this series of images of the UN presidents was donated by Iran, lover of peace and global cooperation that the country is. These are woven rugs, sort of interesting.

And this is Eustacia posing as the next world leader. Hurry up, child of mine. The world is in desperate need of someone with your good heart.


savannah said...

it is an inspiring place and reminds me that hope is within us all because more people want peace than want war. i think i need a renewal trip to nyc, sugar! thank you for sharing your travelogue. xoxox

Madame DeFarge said...

I always think of it from North by Northwest, so intriguing to see it as it is now.

dive said...

Yay for the UN!
Thank you for the tour, Robyn. They've got some cool art hidden away in there.