Maybe we are just pleasing ourselves…

I’ve been really bothered about something for the past week or so. The genocide in Darfur has been on my mind a bit lately, ever since the rally that happened last Sunday in New York. I’ve been thinking about the fact that for the last two years, I along with thousands of others have been “taking action” against the Genocide. We’ve blogged, written letters, rallied, met with congress people, bought wristbands, sent money, and a whole bunch of other things, from the comfort of our desk chair, coffee shop or school library.
We’ve declared, “Not on Our Watch,” and yet three years have gone by, hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been displaced, and I still sit in my comfy living room choosing which news article to link to or picture to post in my latest advocacy.

I think all our words are empty, because they are not stopping this horrible evil we seem to say we want stopped. I’m beginning to think maybe we are just interested in causes to the degree that they benefit us, usually through intrinsic, ‘I feel good about myself’ kind of ways.

I say this with the acknowledgement that I am far from willing to take this step…
We need to go to Darfur and stand in those places. We need to stop blogging and rallying and asking a government that isn’t listening to us, and we need to go take action into our own hands. I’m not talking about fighting, I’m talking about going and stopping it.

Imagine hundreds of planes full of people that decided to put their money were their mouth is, flying to Sudan, walking into the borders and declaring that they have come to spread peace, and that they could not stand idly by and let injustice come, that they would stand in the place, and if necessary take the beating, punishment, death upon themselves, rather then see others die.
There is an army of people who say they want to help stop the genocide. When will we decide we aren’t stopping it and that we need to find another course of action? When will we be willing to stand in and go to stop it ourselves, not through violence, but through creative non-violence.

Who shall go?

7 thoughts on “Maybe we are just pleasing ourselves…”

  1. I have read your posts, Ariah. I have seen the news coverage. I have prayed. I have talked. You are right though. The violence continues. We must face that fact though that there is safety behind our keyboards and even our borders; a safety few of us are willing to breach. At this point I cannot honestly say I would be on one of those planes. The violence in Darfur is little more than a cause celebre to many people at this point. I am not to say that we should not “stand in the gap” and bring the love of Christ or the ethical peace to that land. How viable is that idea though? Is it simply overly-idealistic or is it something we could stand behind?

  2. i see your point, and have thought about my own motivations in this kind of a situation. however, the solution you are offering is impractical. why? because one of the key concepts in working on a problem of this magnitude is working at it through the systems that are in place for the specific purpose of doing this kind of work. in the case of darfur, these systems aren’t being effective. the policies in darfur need to change, starting at the top. we can’t just “stop the killing” and expect the genocide to cease overnight. we, as individuals with our incredibly limited amount of knowledge of their culture, of their people, of their history, of their conflicts, of their system of government- we can’t just fly over to darfur and ask them to stop. their country doesn’t work like ours does. we can’t walk across their borders declaring peace, because it’s not our country or our culture with which to tamper in that way, and especially when we lack all of the skills, knowledge and training to go about it in a respectful way. we can’t look at them and say, “hey, you’re killing innocent people here. wtf? stop it!” because they don’t give a shit, obviously. if they did, would the crisis have reached his level of desperation? what would we be accomplishing through that? basically, an ill-placed, unsanctioned, imperialistic display of ignorance, arrogance, and cultural incompetency.

    america does not rule the world, nor does the european union. our leaders and diplomats can put pressure on their leaders and diplomats with the rapport they’ve established and through the proper channels of communication that have been decades in the making. they can only do that to the best of their abilities, because it isn’t their country to run. we can send money to organizations that will protect and provide for the men, women and children affected by this humanitarian crisis of epic proportion. we can educate ourselves, and thus educate our leaders about why it is important to be doing all that we can. believe it or not, letters work. our politicians, slimy as they may be, want to be elected and maintain office; if their constituents want something, they’ll work on it. and some of them actually care. organizations exist to -organize- efforts so that we are effective in what we set out to do. sending thousands of free-form, free-acting people into an already fragile situation would likely be the worst thing anyone could do. if you were to ask any peaceworker or humanitarian organization currently working within the borders of sudan, i could almost guarantee they’d tell you the same thing.

    and as for our comforts of home, thank GOD for those. thank god i have access to a computer with internet that allows me to take notice of these crises and educate myself, and thus begin the process of educating others and effecting change. thank god i am not trying to subsist on meager earnings from a family-owned coffee farm in costa rica being exploited by coffee giants; this lack of pressure frees up my time and energy to lend myself to helping people. privilege is not bad, but we have to understand how we’ve achieved it and how we can use our abundance of resources to help those in need. thank the dear lord for that.

    i apologize for this tirade on your blog, but i really couldn’t sit this one out. i’m as frustrated with this crisis as you are, i think, but there’s so much that goes into it.

  3. Christy,
    thanks for the response, I think it was well thought out and address a key concern. I think I’m a big advocate of a lot of what you said. Too many people think they have all the knowledge and come in to places with superhero mentalities and want to save everyone.
    I think you said it quite well when you said, “an ill-placed, unsanctioned, imperialistic display of ignorance, arrogance, and cultural incompetency.” I completely agree that is and would not be a good thing if that were to occur.

    However, I want to say I don’t know that my idea is really that horrible. It would be great to stop these sorts of things through the diplomatic measures in place, ideally it could be done. And I know our letters and phone calls do something, I saw the effects of that when we were in Illinois and watched IL take the lead in a lot of things related to Darfur.

    Yet, the genocide is still occuring, and I can’t help but think things don’t seem to be working as we thought. I also realize that for all my creative non-violence beliefs, all my phone calling and letter writing might just end up in a bunch of soldiers finally going in there and shooting up the “bad people,” which I don’t like the sound of either.
    So, I say, if our already corrupt governments are supposed to be sending people with guns into a country to stop genocide, why can’t a bunch of people who care about the situation, who are also ready to give up their lives if that’s what it takes, fly over and go and stand side by side with those who are being killed, and stand in the way, and declare, “this is not right.” Your right in your earlier comment, the reason us just saying stop the killing wouldn’t work is because the killers don’t care, they see the people they are killing as less then human. But if thousands the world over where to be there standing in the way of the gun or the machete and declaring you must kill me first before you harm another person here, maybe they would see there are people who care, and that what they are doing is wrong.

    I’m just bothered that all we are doing still is not solving the problem. If I were to meet in heaven a Sudanese that was killed in the genocide, and they where to ask why I didn’t help, and I said, “I did care about you, I wrote letters and made phone calls,” I just don’t think I’d feel right about it, I feel like we could be doing more. But not just about genocide, about starvation, and more injustice the world over. Yet, here I am again, typing away at my computer, about to do other self-centered things and not really seek to address the injustice I passively let occur.

  4. Well, if you decide you can’t go to Darfur, you can donate to the Genocide Intervention Network, which sends a majority of the money it receives directly to support peacekeepers in Darfur:

    Not all of their money goes to Darfur, but it’s better than most other groups (like Save Darfur) which don’t send anything to Darfur. And although humanitarian aid is important (UNICEF, CARE, Doctors Without Borders, etc.) I think it makes sense that we should be supporting civilian protection — because without that *human* security, none of the food or humanitarian workers will be able to get through.

    Anyway, just an idea.

  5. So, I say, if our already corrupt governments are supposed to be sending people with guns into a country to stop genocide, why can’t a bunch of people who care about the situation, who are also ready to give up their lives if that’s what it takes, fly over and go and stand side by side with those who are being killed, and stand in the way, and declare, “this is not right.”

    Very valid point Ariah. I think Christy speaks well of the situation and recognizes some scenarios that many of us often forget. I understand where you are coming from to Ariah. I feel like I know your heart. No one wants war. No one wants starvation. I ask this though. If we march into Darfur or Ghana or West Africa or hundreds of other countries….only to be killed on arrival….what will happen to the letter writing and the prayer and the social acts stateside? Will it end? Who will pick up the mantle? I have been thinking about this though. If I were to go and die….would an American death garner more attention for the situation? And if it did would it be attention towards peace or attention towards the American military marching in and playing John Wayne?


  6. Exactly.

    If 100,000 Americans were to fly over, surround a camp that was scheduled for demolition by the Janjaweed, and dare the militia to kill them like they’ve killed others, the world would notice.

    The world would notice not because the Americans doing it would be culturally ‘right,’ but because when Americans do stuff, the news reports it. It’s a bitch of a situation, but it’s one of those systemic things Christy refers to that can be used.

    And, I’m going to disagree with Christy in terms of cultural superiority. While I agree that many Western nations have used their white-ness and money to place their cultural norms on African societies (see: missionaries, explorers, military), when people die because of their ethnicity, it needs to be stopped. While I don’t claim religious superiority over an African tribe, I DO claim culturally superiority over any group that kills another group. That is wrong. Period.

    And, yes, change can come about WITHOUT the systems currently in place. Read about the eradication of foot binding in China the first part of the 1900’s. Read also about the Senegal tribe that stopped female genital mutilation just a few years ago. Both of those practices, while deeply cultural, were deeply WRONG and had to be stopped.

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