HOPE IN THE BALANCE Exploring the possibilities for humanitarianism in the 21st century is centre stage at this all-day forum. Guest speakers include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roméo Dallaire and Stephanie Nolen. Saturday (November 3). 9:30 am to 6 pm. $25. Convocation Hall, 31 King's College Circle. 416-978-8849. Rating: NNNNN
What are you going to be speaking about?
I know I'll be talking about my life and experiences and instances that illustrate the ideas of kindness and what it means to be a humanitarian.
What is humanitarianism?
It's being aware of people all being as equally human as you are. It's what it should mean, but doesn't always.
Are we becoming more humanitarian as a society?
We are becoming more aware of the need for humanitarianism. The world is becoming globalized. We know about the poor little villages in India, for example. And people are going all over the world to bring us stories and pictures, but I don't know that we're more humanitarian as a result. Hopefully, one day we will live in a world that doesn't need humanitarianism because everyone has all they need.
What can we do?
Africa happens to be a place often portrayed as a basket case, as needing help for everyone. But I am becoming more ambivalent about it. I have to fight feelings of despair when I think about Africa. The question is more complex than that. And we need to ask deeper questions: Who's giving people the guns to fight these wars? What role does the environment play in people not having enough food? Who decides how much oil costs?
Come up with any answers?
Not yet. I think a writer's role is in the asking. It's easier to ask questions than answer them, and people always want neat, succinct and complete answers. Life is messy. I see myself as a storyteller, telling stories that reflect my reality. I don't know if there are answers in there anywhere.
What do you think of Toronto?
I've visited a couple of times because my best friend lives there. And I've always thought, "So this is where all those Hollywood movies are made." I loved the film Soul Food and I look around wondering where it was shot.