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In Search of A Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A work of memoir, history, and a call to action, In Search of a Better World, the 2017 CBC Massey Lecture, is a powerful and essential work on the major human rights struggles of our times.

In February of 2017, Amnesty International released their Annual Report for 2016 to 2017, concluding that the “us versus them” rhetoric increasingly employed by politicians is endangerin
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 9th 2017 by House of Anansi Press
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Joseph Spuckler
In Search of A Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey by Payam Akhavan is a study of human rights violations in the last few decades. Akhavan is an international lawyer and a professor at McGill University in Montreal. He is a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. He has since played a leading role as a pioneer of international criminal law and global justice, is regarded as a leading scholar and practitioner of international law and human rights, and an important figure in th ...more
Ben Babcock
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I was not a fan of the last collection of Massey Lectures that I read, the brilliant thing about this series is that every year is very different. Each year brings a new speaker, a new topic, and an entirely new way of approaching the topic and the format. (I am very excited for this year’s lectures delivered by Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers ). Last year’s lectures by Payam Akhavan work really well as a collection. His writing clear, conscientious, and moving. In Search of ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was like reading a novel but knowing that it’s real. I really like the start both because it was well written and also because I could somehow relate to it. It’s always interesting for me what’s the reason that people decide on what they need to do or they want to do in their lives.
However in some part of the book I felt like it’s too much detail or somehow unrelated to the whole story. Overall I think it’s worth reading.
Andrew McGillivray
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent series of lectures. I look forward to listening to the audio versions on CBC in early November, 2017.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain.
(13th century Sufi mystic Saadi)

These words grace the lobby of the United Nations building in New York. Such noble words that speak to all of us. The words in this essay, presented as part of the CBC Massey Lectures, are equally noble. Frank, harsh, disturbing, evocative and yet inspirin
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If I could quote this entire book I totally would. Entirely remarkable.

‘Cockroaches and butterflies, hatred and love, complacency and compassion; we are born with wings, yet we chose to crawl through this fleeting life.’

‘We live in a postmodern world of unprecedented prosperity and exponential technological advancement. Before is lies a vista of future possibilities scarcely imaginable by our ancestors. Yet ironically, we are slowly drowning in a rising sea of despair, gripped by an epidemic of
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't begin to describe this heartfelt plea for universal human rights from Payam Akhvan. Beautiful, horrific, thoughtful, inspiring, disheartening -- it is all of these things.
It should be read by everyone on the planet.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This powerful book is a must-read for anyone invested in human rights work, as it captures how interconnected all oppression is and what radical chances are needed for substantial progress!
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Phenomenal book. It took me so long to read because of how heavy the subject matter was, but this is a must read book for everyone. It challenges humanity’s lack of empathy for victims of human rights abuses, and demands better from everyone.

It’s a powerful read, and one that I can’t speak highly enough about.
Parvin Siva
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Deeply moving.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book that can heartfully be called profound.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who cares about people and the future of our world should read this book.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A eloquent, passionate, and thought-provoking work. When I listened to this year's CBC Massey lectures, I was awestruck at the erudition, compassion, and intelligence of Mr. Payam Akhavan, a former UN Prosecutor and currently a professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal.

This book is about more than human rights and genocide. The lectures weave memories, theory, and reflections into a profound narrative that touches upon so many facets of our daily lives. At the root of the
Jerry Wall
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Author, persecuted as Baha'i (minority) faith in Iran, raised in Toronto, became UN lawyer and
saw circumstances in Bosnia, Middle East, Rwanda, Africa, etc, while working as prosecutor for world court
UN, saw up close, terrible dealings of people by people.
Scapegoating begins with a myth that, repeated enough times, becomes the incontestable truth. p. 175
Marx: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. p. 241
. . . shopping envy. . . p. 242
My Russian mentor, Professor Yuri Luryi, had describe
This writer, a former attorney in international criminal courts and a professor, makes an eloquent appeal to humanity's better nature. The writing reveals a sensitive, intelligent and compassionate person, who has seen the best and the worst of humanity. This particular paragraph resonated with me since I had just finished reading the dystopian Homo Deus. "The idea of building a spiritualized culture in which human dignity can be realized isn't a surfeit of psychobabble; it is a matter of surviv ...more
Steven Hall
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chilling personal account of humanity’s darkest moments including his own journey as a child from exile in Iran to Canada because of his Baha’i faith. Payam sees up close the worst of Humanity as a Human rights lawyer with the UN including Bosnian crisis, Rwanda genocide, And conflicts in the Middle East that result in the deadly ISIS group. Incredible book that leaves you with goosebumps as you empathize with the victims of these atrocities that I never really understood or realized just how ho ...more
Payam Akhavan provides an interesting discussion of his career in human rights, although I have to admit that I did not completely enjoy it. The book and lectures are asserted to be an analysis of contemporary crises, however the discussion is limited to events from the 1990s (Bosnia and Rwanda especially). Although Akhavan's personal journey, from Iran during the revolution to Canada, is very interesting, I can't say I found the overall arguments to be very compelling. Akhavan relies on a view ...more
Nicole C
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very educational, half-inspiring, half-daunting book to read. I went to a talk given by Payam and he had very good insights about the state of the world and how us more fortunate ones like to 'talk' about helping but don't act upon it.

As someone who often feels like she's not doing enough, I was hoping to find a way to feel more useful. I guess I was looking for an answer to affirm my own self-worth.

This book also shows how nothing can really change if we don't convince those at the top - th
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was a strange experience. As if I was living the book... I already knew most charaters and most happenings were so familiar to me. If you are Iranina and/or have interest in human rights, I highly recommend you to read it. Why am I convinced so?
1. The language of the book is not hard for non-native english speakers.
2. The author did not exaggerate. He is honest with readers.
3. You will learn about the brutal aspect of history
4. It motivates you to be an active global citizen.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a touching and thoughtful memoir of the UN prosecutor at two international war crime tribunals, the one for Yugoslavia and the other for Rwanda. Personal recollections and anecdotes interspersed with historical data and incisive reflections on human rights, violence and empathy, tribalism and a shared sense of humanit, make this a gripping and educational read.
Jacques Decarie
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Touché. While reading this book, I felt like I lived through the highlighted times marked by genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and others, without grasping the magnitude, or the importance, of these tragedies. Islands of privilege amongst seas of rage and violence are not sustainable, nor are they desirable.
Did this book affect you? How so?
Ramiro Guerra
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sobering, enlightening, and ultimately uplifting.

Well done.

2/26/18 UPDATE

after reflecting more, the short review didn’t do this book justice.

I think anyone who is interested in human rights, and overall peace needs to read this man’a perspective.

He does a wonderful job sharing the idea that we has humans, regardless of where we were born or what god we choose to worship, all share the same humanity and “pursuit of happiness”.

Here is where I think he pushes the bar (for good).

The idea that we sh
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I quite liked this book, spoke of UN challenges facing injustices in the world and told in a powerful narrative manner. Payam Akhavan masterly combines his own experiences fighting for justice with well researched history and touching first person accounts and narratives. His call to action proposes radical changes to the UN, but he expertly demonstrates why they are needed.
Igpy Kin
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's been a long time since I've read a book that was written so clearly but made me think so deeply.
Michael Bells
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Payam Akhavan has some great insights into world politics & justice issues
David Scrimshaw
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This deepened my understanding of modern genocides, but it didn't help overcome the feeling of hopelessness I get about them.
Arijana Schrauwen
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Required reading.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this one.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really loved the amount of perspective given into the world crisis and why it is not easy to completely side with one or the other. Really recommend for those who love to learn what is happening worldwide and why certain beliefs worldwide are tarnished by their reputation.
Alexander Kosoris
Akhavan was an Iranian immigrant to Canada in the late ’70s, and part of the religious minority that was soon to face the brunt of the hate and violence to come from the radical Iranian government that took charge after the revolution. He became a successful lawyer within the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he fought to prosecute perpetrators of genocide during the Bosnian War and following the Rwandan Civil War. In Search of a Better World contains Akhavan’s collected lectures ...more
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“There can be no meaningful change if we choose to look down at the arena of anguish from thirty thousand feet.” 1 likes
“Today we demand justice for the oppressed. We no longer accept atrocities as the inescapable fate of the defenceless. We desire and expect a better future. But when confronted with the enormity of injustice and what it demands of us, we retreat into the familiar ritual of intellectualization and moral posturing, recycling lofty liberal ideals from a safe distance. We avoid the intimate knowledge of suffering without which we will never understand the imperative of human rights.” 1 likes
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