I have recently completed a movie called U.N. Me - http://www.unmemovie.com - which chronicles my adventures in trying to figure out exactly where the United Nations went wrong in its pursuit of peace and a more prosperous world. Obviously it's a dark comedy.
Although we already wrapped up principle shooting, we decided to attend the United Nations' marquee Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva. U.N. Me uses heavy doses of humor and irony to get our point across, and we predicted that those elements would be in abundance at this conference. We were not disappointed.
The conference began with an Orwellian bang, as the honor of first keynote speaker was given to none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran. While the incongruous nature of such an invitation is obvious to most people in the world, the ironic nuance of inviting a women-stoning, gay hanging, genocide advocate to speak at a human rights conference is lost on the United Nations. Unfortunately for the world, but fortunately for my movie, the U.N.'s bizarre and obsequious treatment towards tyrants and totalitarians knows no bounds.
At the media tent I was immediately greeted and handed a welcome folder by a lovely looking lady, or at least I think she was lovely; it was hard to tell because she was in a burka. The folder had an image of a Star of David, an equal sign and a swastika. The text read: Zionism is Racism. This struck me as odd, since the U.N is such an eternal and faithful friend to Israel. After all, the U.N only had that statement as an official resolution for sixteen years.
When I realized that she was part of the Iranian delegation's welcome committee, I immediately tried to to flirt with her (in her case flirting entails discussing the destruction of the State of Israel) in order to secure an interview with Ahmadinejad. She agreed to arrange the interview. We were asked to meet them later that evening at the Iranian delegation's hotel, the Intercontinental.
Since I was arranging a meeting with a long-time benefactor of terrorists who has been assassinating opponents in Europe for years and I was quite frankly planning on engaging in some confrontational behavior, I decided to secure some muscle to accompany me and my team to the meeting.
We contracted a very nice Frenchman to cover our security. We will call him Pierre. In order not to alarm our congenial Iranian hosts, I tried to hide Pierre in plain site by handing him a boom mike. It is not easy to mask a very hard looking man with a shaved head, frowning lips and constantly darting eyes, even with a boom mike. As we sat in the hotel lobby waiting for our Iranian hosts, a troubling question began to percolate in my mind. I asked Pierre if he was armed. Pierre casually replied that he was "only" carrying a gun and two knives. The second knife was there, presumably, in case of emergency. For instance, if the first knife failed by breaking off as it penetrated his opponent's larynx. The problem was that we would probably be searched and upon discovering this small arms cache I envisioned a very unfortunate situation would then unfold. I asked him if there was a way he could casually dump his weapons without arousing any suspicion. He shrugged and proceeded to the nearest bathroom. He very calmly took his weapons out, placed them in a plastic bag and checked them with the bellman, as if he was asking the kid to stow away his recent purchase of an "I Heart Switzerland" t-shirt and snow globe.
After a couple hours of cooling our heels in the lobby, one of the President's henchmen came downstairs with the disheartening news that the great leader was tired and decided to go to sleep instead of meeting with us. We asked for and received an alternative diplomat to answer our questions.
Since Ahmadinejad just spoke at the U.N. Human Rights conference, our conversation with the Iranian diplomat naturally began with the state of Iranian human rights. Without a hint of irony in his voice, he decried the West's idea of a global human rights standard, as an antiquated colonial ideal. The view of his country and indeed much of the dictatorial world is that human rights are a value invented by the West in order to augment their global influence. Never mind the inconsequential fact that the idea of human rights as a normative value is embedded in the fabric of the United Nations charter and in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran and their cronies believe that human rights are in reality a fungible term that should be interpreted in vastly different and interesting ways. For instance, according to Iran, human rights in his country do not apply to homosexuals or women. Despite Ahmadinejad's declaration that there are no gays in Iran, the Iranian diplomat admitted that they indeed have a "gay problem" (being gay in Iran is illegal). Iran deals with their "gay problem" in a bizarre and terrible manner. If the person in question cannot straighten themselves out and was in the words of this diplomat "physically gay" there were certain options available. For instance, if they wanted a sex change, the magnanimous socialized Iranian health care system would pay for it. Alternatively, if he didn't want a sex change, the Iranian government would still pay for it. If for some reason or another all options failed, the Iranian government had a cure-all, the person in question would be hanged.
My conversation with the Iranian diplomat then turned to women's rights. He said that we in liberal democratic societies, who fight for women's rights around the world, arrogantly do not take into account the fact that many women do not want those rights, silly things like freedom of movement. The Iranian diplomat mentioned that the right for a woman to leave her home when she chooses and to be able to go where ever she chooses is not a right that some Islamic cultures feel should be granted to their women-folk and we should in his words, "respect that". As a father of two daughters I was kind of leaning towards his position on that one.
Whenever I spend a significant amount of time around the United Nations, I began to feel as if I have left the world that I know, which is beholden to Newtonian physics, and have entered an entirely different place with a new set of bizarre rules and laws. In fact the United Nations has more than a passing resemblance to Bizarro World, a fictional, comic book planet. In Bizarro world, society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states that everything is the opposite of what it should be. In Bizarro world, Superman is bad, all ugliness is extolled and they even sell Bizarro bonds with this pithy pitch: "Guaranteed to lose money for you."
The United Nations does not reside in New York, Vienna or Geneva, it resides in Bizarro world. Only in such an inverted and warped world does an institution dedicated to the security of man (and in Iran only the straight man) elevate Syria, one of the world's great sponsors of terrorism, to the presidency of the security council; elect Sudan, currently committing genocide, to the human rights commission; and invite Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the president of one of the great human rights violating countries in the world, to be the key note speaker at their biggest human rights conference of the year. Only in Bizarro world and only in the United Nations.
(See our interview below)