Monday, January 31, 2005

Will the trickle become a roar?

A new article, this in the Guardian, that features the people that we worked with in Goma-- Lyn, Dr. Kalume, Virginie... I am happy that the word about what's happening in the east is coming out. Here's Lyn and Mama Jeanne on the BBC from a bit ago.

The use of a topic as explosive as mass rape to attract attention to the situation in Congo is complex, a dynamic that our project fairly bathes in, really. It may be an illustration of how neglected Africa has become when only the most lurid episodes and problems-- child soldiers, child rape, mass rape, brutal dismemberments and the like-- are featured in the western press. These problems actually do exist, of course, but the focus on them at the exclusion of more mundane problems and dynamics-- agricultural politics, education, ecology, you get the idea-- isn't exactly very helpful. An impression is created that all of sub-saharan Africa is a blood-spattered killing field, when really most of it is serene and agrarian, a place where problems of poverty vary and make life difficult but not a version of Dante's inferno.

We need to figure out how to get people to think one step beyond "Jesus, that's horrible!" when they think about Congo, if they ever do. At the same time, I may be accepting the horror to a greater extent than I should, simply because I must get my mind to wrap around the world I am living in, that I have now also seen and touched (AIDS sarcoma, machete scars, frenzy over a bic pen) though I am now spending weekends browsing designer boutiques and dancing... ??? And I will never, never be able to do enough. And what are we fighting? I think the goal is to allow people to have lives free of all the unnecessary suffering they endure, the excess, the stupid excess of it. Life can be hard, most people's will be harder than mine and yours, but shouldn't be absurdly, disgustingly so.

If you are reading this, I thank you for your indulgence my friend.

4 purrs/hisses:

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Mr. Tee said...

no, we will never be able to do enough. the frightening thing is that you dont' have to venture too far to find horror. while it is certainly found in great quantity where you were, it is also found in great quantity where you are. where i am. i spend time with teenagers who have watched their father stab their mother to death, who shoot and have been shot at, who don't think twice about throw punches over m&m's left out on the table. it seems that we can't even ameliorate the unnecessary suffering of our literal neighbors. how, then, can we start to think about what's happening on the other side of the world? it's a battle that won't ever be won completely, but that doesn't mean we should't fight it.

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger embot said...

It's true though that there is such a focus on the horrific. One of the better articles I think I've read on Africa was in The Economist's Christmas special a couple years ago, which followed a Guinness delivery truck on its rural delivery route in Cameroon. (Guinness, apparently, is Cameroon's bestselling beer.) Through this article and all the obstacles the truck has to go through (bad roads, military checkpoints, bribes) you get a different sense of frustration, from the social inequalities that arise from something as mundane as a shitty, barely functional road that becomes impassable during the rainy season, hindering the rural economy.

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger Louis said...

It reminds me of Rumsfeld's comment about the post-war chaos in Baghdad: "It’s a tough part of the world. We had something like 200 or 300 or 400 people killed in many of the major cities of America last year. What’s the difference?"

Yeah, so why aren't there troops on the street in Detroit or Dorchester? Or maybe just some more money for affordable housing in Chicago instead of pipelines in Basra...

 
At 12:54 AM, Blogger TheMalau said...

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