Monday, November 24, 2003

Rough diamonds 

Last night I was laying on my couch reading the book "How De Body" by Teun Voeten. It's about his experiences in Sierra Leone. His trip started out as a fact gathering mission on child soldiers, his intent being an article on these poor kids. It turned into a harrowing experience of hiding in the bush, running from soldiers, enduring threats and gun barrels, and not getting his story.

After his initial trip to Sierra Leone, he returned a couple more times to get his story but also to help the people he'd met and the friends who had helped him escape alive. He found the people there to be very strong and caring, and willing to help him no matter what their risks were as a result. Unfortunately, these people are rocked by constant fighting and brutality.

Reading a book such as this leads me to feel that too many aspects of my life are frivolous and lack any real meaning. So what if my front door leaks cold air. At least I don't have to worry about someone breaking it in to steal everything inside and leaving me dead or mutilated. So what if I have to work 8 hours a day in a small cubicle. At least I have a job that pays me money so that I can protect myself from the elements and having food is not an issue.

It's sad how much we take for granted. However, I have to remind myself that just because these people are so miserable, I don't have to feel bad for what I have or the life I live. I do, however, feel that I ened to try and do what I can for people in situations such as these. Even if that is no more than blogging about it or discussing it in a more public venue, I feel that at least getting the word out is doing something.

Among the pictures in the book, there were 2 that really hit me. The first was of a 3-year old girl, who'd had her right arm amputated above the elbow. Not a medical procedure, but a result of the rebels instilling fear in the people. A 3-year old. No anesthetic, just a machete. The other picture was of a young girl, maybe 8, who had also had her right arm amputated above the elbow. Again, by the rebels. This second girl had a little tray with her plastic sculptures on it that she was attempting to sell. Her pretty little face had the sweetest smile, a smile that belied how proud she was of her artwork despite her best efforts to hide it. Just a heart-wrenchingly sad picture. This cute, former-innocent will never be the same either physically or emotionally. I couldn't tear my eyes away from this girl, couldn't stifle my feelings of disgust and sadness.

What caused this civil war? Why did the bloodshed and viciousness begin? Here is an overview from the BBC Africa website:

"What were the roots of civil war? "

Sierra Leone's civil war was bound up with the struggle for control over the country's vast diamond resources. Years of corruption followed the end of British rule in 1961, as a powerful elite ruled from the capital while the rest of the country remained in poverty. The rural poor grew increasingly resentful, so that when the rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was created, there was no shortage of recruits. Its leader, Foday Sankoh, who was trained by the British army, formed an alliance with Liberian rebel militia leader Charles Taylor - now president - and launched the war.

As a result of this war, nearly half of the country's 4.5 million population has been displaced, almost 500,000 people are believed to have been displaced in neighboring countries, at least 50,000 people died from the fighting and it's estimated that 100,000 people were victims of mutilation. The infrastructure has collapsed and the economy is in ruins.

Are these numbers accurate? I am sure they are a good ballpark guess. But, how many people who live way out in the bush died and were not accounted for?

All these heinous acts, committed for what? For a stupid rock! A sparkly rock, for God's sake, that is "valuable" because the diamond industry not only hoards most of these rocks, but have convinced too many people that they are not so much a luxury, but more a necessity.

I am sure that little girl with her one-arm made sculptures really appreciates that and is glad a certain multi-national corporation (DB?), among others, has created this frenzy.

It makes me sick.

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com