Today’s Pop is Tavi. We chose her to do our official Christmas blog; she turned around providing us with a poignant reflection on Darfur and the real spirit of giving. We implore you to reflect on the text! As a related side note we’d wholeheartedly like to recommend you to read Philip Gourevich‘s ‘We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda‘.
THEPOP.COM will be back in a few days.
“Who the hell cared about Rwanda?” -Romeo Dallaire
It has taken me a ridiculously long time to think of what to write about for this article. Dasha and I talked over lunch; I talked to friends. Though the genocide in Darfur is one thing I am particularly active about and of which I know more, I was having difficulty relating it to fashion. I considered other options but Dasha said that, above all things, it must be something I’m especially passionate about. So, here we are. It’s not fashion-oriented at all, but this magazine is full of amazing artwork and spreads to take you to another world. I want to focus on this one for now.
I’ve kind of become used to what I say being referred to as a “younger point of view,” and to be frank, it’s a little tiring. Here, I would like to use it to my advantage. I am younger, but I am not writing this as a representative of the next generation or today’s youth or whatever, because I seriously don’t know much about my generation other than the Internet, pathetic as that sounds. Another common response I get in reference to my blog is, “Wow! When I was thirteen I was getting drunk and ditching class!” I don’t want to start caring about these things just when I’m older and done getting into trouble. I am genuinely frightened of what’s going to happen here. I am writing this as someone who has yet to experience many things, witness many things, and become many things. I could tell you my life story (other than that it would be kind of boring), but this is not about me. Or you, or you and me and then them over on the other side of the pond. This is about us as an entire world.
Long story short: There were religious conflicts and tension over the high birth rates mixed with the low amounts of water in southern Sudan. The African farmers held riots as a reply to what they found to be unfair decisions of the Arab government. In reply to that, the government set up the Janjaweed Militia.
Contrary to Sudan president Omar al-Bashir’s promise of safety for all of Darfur’s citizens, the Sudanese government now goes to extremities to light their own land and people on fire. The warrant of arrest for al-Bashir was issued by the International Criminal Court over a year ago and has had no effect other than getting people to think for a moment that something was going to be done about this situation. So far, the Janjaweed has managed to destroy ninety percent of the villages it has as targets. According to New Internationalist, the lives of 3.6 million people living in Darfur are dependent on humanitarian assistance, and a third of the region’s population is not even within the reach of helpers. According to Unicef, 255 humanitarian vehicles had been stolen or hijacked and 144 humanitarian compounds broken into as of September 2008. The UN-AU force is in Darfur to make peace but is desperately low on staff and funds, and is likely to be attacked by the Sudanese government as well. This has been happening for nine years now. It is one of the biggest problems of the twenty-first century and is currently considered by some organizations the most dangerous place on the planet. Over 400 thousand people have been killed because of it, and those who are trying to reach safety are dying of starvation and lack of water. And have you ever seen it on the news? In fact, when two Canadian aids went missing, the media didn’t even mention the word “genocide.” The UN and a number of governments refuse to call this “conflict” the awful word that means that we have not learned from the millions of genocide deaths in history or believe that it requires work or attention. They continue to pull the wool over the eyes of their citizens and themselves. And the truth is, many people are too careless to learn and that this does require work and attention, and it is painful to put yourself in the shoes of someone in a situation so far from your own and so scary. But ignoring it won’t make it go away. And that’s not a conclusion that requires lots of thinking to reach.
I personally do not believe in solving problems with violence, and I think it’s just more proof of the human incompetence; that we lack the ability to amend formal conflicts using words. It makes no sense in my mind why a government would kill its own people based on ethnicity, and why the same government gets to choose where the 2.5 million refugees have to stay. Let’s look at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and compare it to the situations of the millions of citizens currently living in Darfur. First off, psychological needs:
Considering the ever-changing circumstances they are faced with, the citizens are doing pretty well with the whole a-system-that-can-adjust-to-new-atmospheres-easily thing. I can imagine the equilibrium is not strong though, as stability and security are not frequent stances when one is living in such an environment.
As mentioned earlier, lack of water is one reason tension in southern Sudan grew between the African farmers and Arabic nomads. The birth rates are high and in such a warm area, the amount of water is uncomfortably low. Not only is the water there dirty and slightly unhealthy-one is risking their life by going out and searching for some. Usually the elders are sent to do so, as women will be raped and men will be killed. Who knows if the elder will be safe. On an average, one will have to walk for three hours both ways.
Depends on how comfortable one is sleeping knowing what could happen overnight. Some citizens are lucky to have more padding to make for a bed and some sleep on the dirt ground.
Like water, very scarce, and not incredibly rich or good-tasting. Once again, one is risking their life by trying to find some.
Sanitarily, sex would be extremely unhealthy. However, it is considered a crime in many of the more favored religions in Sudan to murder a virgin. After the Janjaweed militia has killed all the men and boys in a village so as to make the women and girls less protected and more vulnerable, the very religious are sure to rape every female they plan on murdering. These girls, some as young as eight years old, are forced into marriage and humiliated in front of all of their friends and family. Mere minutes after the ceremony, the rape takes place. Mere seconds after the rape, the murder takes place. This entire process is dragged out painfully and torturously. Sometimes, family members are forced to watch their daughter or sister or mother being raped by a member of their own government and they can’t do anything to stop it.
Very little. In some areas, the luckiest children will get about ten articles of clothing to own.
Way more dangerous than a camper’s worst nightmare. Obviously the bugs get in, and obviously the sun is hot. But protection from the Janjaweed Militia is the most terrifying part. Ignoring the physical aspect, there is discomfort in simply thinking about what could happen while you’re sleeping. Entire villages are burned to the ground overnight. Girls are dragged out to the middle of forests and raped. Yes, there’s shelter. But it’s not incredibly safe.
You pretty much know how the safety needs (which include the securities of property, income, family, health, etc.) compare by now.
So, what can we do about it?
Get educated. When you talk to people and get the word out, know what you’re saying and be ready to answer questions. Rent Christmas in Darfur. Read The Devil Came on Horseback or pick up copies of New Internationalist. If you’re on the web a lot, read Mia Farrow’s blog or visit the Center on Law and Globalization Library site. Follow ExhibitDarfur on Twitter, and tweet about Darfur to make it a trending topic. If you’re a visual person, Google Earth will show you the damage that has been done. I myself am a huge hermit and thought T.I. the calculator brand got arrested, not the rapper; but I try to keep up with what, well, matters. Know what’s going on, not just so people take you seriously and listen, but so you yourself don’t have the wrong perception, and so you maintain the motivation to devote lots of time and effort to people you do not know.
Find an organization you trust and get involved. Personally, I favor STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network. For one, the money that goes towards STAND is being used to pressure the government to do something about this mess. When money is given directly to the people, there is too good a chance that it will get stolen by the very people that are trying to demolish the group. And secondly, the fact that STAND is student-led is important to me. If STAND continues to do well and better, it says a lot about what younger people can accomplish, and will hopefully encourage more teenagers to help as well.
There are other branches of the Genocide Intervention Network that are also trustworthy and reliable, and other organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders or the Protect Darfur Project, that are good at treating both every person they’re helping and every person they have participating as an individual. Chances are there is also an organization designed specifically for people in your area to be able to meet up to hold protests or design plans. Use your Google powers!
Kay, now what? Tell everyone you know. Go to protests. If you’re in North America, get a group of people to call 1-800-GENOCID(E) on the same day. Mia Farrow or Zach Braff will answer and grace you with their lovely voices and then you can be connected to your senator, house representative or the White House. Buy vintage clothing from the project I started, Clothing with a Cause (dot blogspot dot com. All profits go towards STAND.) Buy the compilation of John Lennon covers, Instant Karma, with all profits going towards Darfur. Now, the most important thing is to move quickly and get involved all the people we can. The UN and the governments will come around in the end, but the people have to make the first move.
The genocide could end within the next year or so, but even years after that we will not be done. These are people who have seen their homes and the little they’ve ever owned burn to the ground, the legacies of a place they once felt so close to fade away within seconds, their mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and everyone in between tortured in numerous ways, all among other things. They have been scarred both physically and emotionally and that takes a long time to clean up.
Every person can make a difference! is such an old horse, and we have all heard it before. We have also heard about the seven major genocides in history countless times, so why is it that more need to take place in order for it to be understood that mass murder cannot become a part of the way things are, the way politics work, the type of thing no one can change? There are millions of people who have died years ago in similar situations, and they deserve far more respect than nothing being learned from their tragedies.
Listen, I know I sound condescending. And I know I’m not in any position to be. I take pictures of myself almost daily, wearing lovely clothes I’m incredibly lucky to own. I can be vain and I can be ignorant. I refuse to try and excuse any of the pretention in this article as being merely “teenager,” because as I mentioned earlier, I want to use my age to get involved early, and not to make something unacceptable okay. But really, as long as the point is across, I don’t mind how obnoxious or patronizing I sound. There isn’t time to care.
Earlier today, NASA discovered that an otherworldly (literally) object hit Jupiter. It could have been us. When it comes down to it, we’re all in this together and we are the world. It is not until after I’ve written that that I realize I just referenced two forgettable pop songs, but really think about it.
This is about us.
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