Courage: Berta Caceres.

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Berta Caceres personified courage.

The Honduran environmental activist devoted much of her life to campaigning for the protection of the natural environment and indigenous people of her native land, and only stopped fighting when she was assassinated during a campaign.

Caceres fought for the protection of the natural environment in a country and a region plagued with corruption and impunity among politicians and big business, especially resource companies whose projects threatened the land she worked to protect. International organisation Global Witness once declared Honduras the most dangerous country in the world for protecting forests and rivers.

Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger. She knew she faced corruption at the highest levels. She knew she faced multinational companies operating with impunity and enormous budgets. She was reminded of these obstacles on a regular basis, throughout her activism, when she received death threats.

She was once quoted as saying;

“…When they want to kill me…they will do it.”

During the lengthy campaign for the Gualcarque River, the Honduran military opened fire on the group of protesters, killing one member. More protesters would be killed. Still Caceres fought.

Courage is encapsulated in the famous quote from Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, when Atticus says to Jem;

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Unfortunately for Caceres, and the land and the people she protected, the man with the gun in his hand had the backing of many powerful organisations. The company behind the proposed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, Desa, was eventually ruled to have organised the squad of seven men, yes seven, who carried out the hit on Caceres. A number of the hit squad had been trained by US Army special forces. Thus, it took seven armed men, some with specific military training, to silence one woman.

Caceres utilised her intelligence, her dedication and her courage to peacefully defend the natural environment. Not only did she fight, she often won. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras which she co-founded and led staged many grass roots campaigns to protect the environment, indigenous people and women, before the action for the Gualcarque River.

Berta Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger, but she fought anyway. That is courage.

Image:www.goldmanprize.org

 

Which footballer would you sacrifice?

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Do you have a favourite football team, or a favourite team from any sport for that matter? Do you follow that team passionately and devotedly?

Is there a particular player in that team you really don’t like?

Do you call for the head of a player who you blame for costing your team the game, or the championship?

What if you could literally take the head of that player?

You might consider this practice extreme, barbaric, excessively cruel and impossible. But it happened. Many years ago, admittedly, but it was regular practice.

Sacrificing a player after a football match was apparently common practice among the Mayan people of Honduras. At least, it was according to a friendly guide at Copan Ruins, an ancient Mayan city in western Honduras.

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As we passed through the area which served as the ‘football field’ the guide claimed that a player would be sacrificed after every game of the sport which shared some features of modern day football and was a popular form of entertainment among the Mayan people of that era.

I sought clarification but he was drawn away by a fellow visitor to explain another aspect of the ruins. Thus, I don’t know why, or how, the player was sacrificed. Was it a player on the winning team, the losing team? Either way, it was strong motivation.

The last football game I attended, a Rugby League game in Australia, featured my beloved Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights. It was actually the first game of the new season and I was full of enthusiasm for my team after some wise recruiting during the off-season. The Sharkies lost, however, due largely to a few disastrous handling errors from one of our players.

I know who I’d be sacrificing.

Images: Rachelle Blake