Lessons from Vieira de Mello

A Brazilian diplomat makes that case that in the passing of Viera de Mello we lost not only a peacemaker but also a philosopher of multilateralism. Can the UN really heal the wounds of conflict?  Are there “fingertip practical precepts” to be learned from his life?

In 2000, Vieira de Mello taught us that the UN was a contemporary manifestation of what the Pre-Socratics considered to be the very purpose of philosophy, i.e., to grant order to chaos. The UN’s order, said the diplomat, may be turbulent, filled with sudden, unforeseen, brutal, and traumatic disturbances, marred with sicknesses that are difficult to extirpate, replete with materializations of pure evil in all its forms: it is, nevertheless, order. Although its ultimate capacity to expel the irrational from history is uncertain, Vieira de Mello believed the UN was already in the process of humanizing history. With humility, he said, “we may reach such rebirth, which shall place us, reconciled, in the beginning of a new, post-Hegelian stage of our history, when the equation between the rational and the real will assume a new dimension, less egotistically terrestrial and more cosmic”

via Fausto Ribeiro in 3QuarksDaily

His track record was notable as he had already faced down some of the most difficult people in the most challenging places:

He had a seemingly miraculous knack for sitting down with mortal enemies and reconciling their seemingly irreconcilable positions. As one European diplomat put it after his murder, ”Sergio was a man who could go into the foulest situation and come out smelling like a rose.”

via David Rieff, “Colateral Damage” NYT

And now, in the ambassadorship to the UN the author, scholar, and activist Samantha Powers has the chance to try and apply these notions.

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