Friday, August 1, 2008

Why on our watch?

Looking back at 1994, when I was about 10 years old, I remember Clinton's inauguration ceremony from a year ago. I also remember the OJ Simpson car chase, heck I even remember the fatwa that was issued against Salman Rushdie in 1988. But, I do not remember learning about the killings of 800, 000 Tutsi people that happened in Rwanda, at the hand of Hutu militia.

In our schools we are taught about the Holocaust. Most of us have read one of the most inspiring books of all times, The Diary of Anne Frank. But why are we not made aware of the genocide that is still carrying on in our world? Who is benefitting from our blissful ignorance? Or do we think learning about the mass-killings is not going to benefit anyone, so why ruin our happy mood? Why waste the time to educate ourselves about the world issues when we really can't do much, after all we are not the policy-makers, the powerful world leaders?

I am as powerless as the rest of you, but more powerful than the people in Darfur. I apologize if this sounds cheesy but it is true. I think the least we can do is learn about the atrocities that have been going on in Darfur, 10 years after the Rwandan Genocide. After the Rwandan Genocide the world gathered and promised that never again, on our watch, we would let innocent men, women, and children die. But then why have 400, 000 people died in Darfur, on our watch? There are 4 million people who need our immediate attention.

I know Darfur is not the single most issue our world is faced with. As the NYT's Nicholas Kristof pointed out, the world leaders are faced with the responsibility of dealing with deadly epidemics, the oil crisis, the food crisis, the environment, terrorism, poverty, etc. - It is a long list. But as Nicholas Kristof's trips to Darfur have shown, that nowhere we have seen such inhumane acts of violence as in Darfur. Here, women are raped in front of their families. Mothers are tied around a tree, and beaten with their own babies, until the children are dead. A pregnant woman, he interviewed, volunteered to get herself raped so the virginity of her younger sister could remain protected.

When I learn about these killings, the example of Neanderthals comes to my mind. The Neanderthals were early humans who lived in Europe around 300, 000 years ago. They looked after the sick and elderly. This is probably a weak analogy, but if early Homo sapiens can muster up compassion, why are we not doing enough to care about these severe acts of violence and brutality?

In my next post, I will be writing about Darfur, hoping more people can be informed, so we can create more awareness and write to our local government officials about the urgency of the problem.

"Darfur, where the continuous spectacle of men, women, and children, driven from their homes by murder, rape, and burning of their villages, makes a mockery of our claim as an international community." - Kofi Annan September 19, 2006


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear more about Darfur and the research your doing on it. Thank you for sharing your views as well as your obvious passion an awareness of the issues.
However, I'm wondering if by saying that the "least" we can do is to educate ourselves about the issues you are actually doing more harm then good. For example, having the knowledge that these human beings are being tortured on a daily basis in cruel and unspeakable ways will certainly not help the the immediate situation. I think without a serious action plan (followed soon after the knowledge of these events), learning about the issues feels like beating your head against a wall. Yes, these people deserve voices and I know people are working tirelessly for that to happen however if there voices are falling upon deaf ears (those who are responsible for policy change) I don't see how reading tortured stories will help alleviate the problem. If anything I feel learning about stuff that you can't do a whole lot about in your immediate spectrum of power creates a desensitization problem. People start needing more and more horrible forms of cruelty to finally stand up and say hey lets do something. To me it seems like the knowledge without a plan will spawn guilt and resentment in human beings for being happy rather then the urge to want to help. Any thoughts?

Zany said...

Thank you for reading my views, and sharing your comments here.

I agree with people getting desensitize about this sort of stuff. I mean, how many of us closely follow the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq anymore? Similarly, we care about the famine and poverty in Africa, but we have in some ways become to accept them as African norms.

But I believe Darfur hasn't been given enough attention by our media. Not enough people know what the issue is about, what is going on, what is being done, and what can be done to stop the genocide. Similarly, the genocide in Darfur is very different from anything else we have seen in the recent history. So, the goal here is to educate people so they can learn about the genocide right now instead of learning about it in history books, in a couple of decades, and wondering why we didn't do enough when we could.

Enough is written about the holocaust, but one of our regrets is that we didn't know enough when the holocaust was actually happening. We didn't do enough when so many people were killed and tortured, just because of their religion and ethnicity.

Nobody wants do die in vain. For this reason we celebrate Remembrance Day, to commomerate the sacrifices of our veterans. Similarly, the lost lives of these 400, 000 Darfurians had some value, their stories, the atrocities they suffered, deserve to be told.

On a lighter note, if enough public demand/protest can bring Family Guy back on tv, and turn Sex and the City into a movie, I am hoping that if enough people got together, we would be able to do something about Darfur.