03 January, 2009

Keeping Humanity in Conflict

So, Ben Affleck made a movie about the Congo. He made this movie about the Congo:

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I will let Wronging Rights tell you why this video is different from the rest.
  1. Shots of aforementioned celebrity kneeling caringly next to tear-stained refugee child: None.
  2. Voyeuristic footage of teary teenage girls haltingly narrating the circumstances of their violation: None. In fact, nobody cries at all.
  3. Ominous images of black men clutching semi-automatic weapons in a menacing manner: Alright one, but it accompanies text noting that there are 22 recognized armed groups operating in the region so I'm going to let it slide.
Affleck instead makes the shocking choice to show people going about their daily activities in the camps, experiencing the normal range of human emotion. This shouldn't be so striking, except when was the last time you saw footage of a Congolese man patiently bathing his child?

This is dignity or humanity or reality. Call it what you want. Yes, war is violent and people are displaced, women are raped and it is awful. IT IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS. But people are still involved in the conflict. There are some places where people have lived generations in the refugee camps - that is their home. And the woman who was been raped is expected to go home and continue on after her assault. I think we forget sometimes that life proceeds in times of conflict, not in a "this doesn't matter" kind of way - but let's give them their humanity in the midst of what's going on around them. No one needs to see another starving child with flies around it's tear stained face. Yes, that is reality, but it's exploitative. We don't need to hear another twelve year old girl saying how the Tutsi rebels gang raped her in front of her father. We don't.

Those things happen - and if you need those images - that exploitation to get involved I would ask you to check your heart. Someone said that we should not have to discuss why a woman being raped is wrong, or why we should intervene in that. We shouldn't. I should have to just tell you that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped by the rebel forces in the DRC and you should respond. Let's stop sensationalizing pain into tabloid news.

The facts are there - 1,000 people die a day in the DRC due to the after effects of the war. Do I really need to show you some four year old without a mother and interview some man with five kids to raise on his own for you to care?

I applaud Ben Affleck. Way to take the high road! Way to make a movie about the conflict not about your good deeds in the midst of the conflict (because, be honest, isn't that what most movies about "conflict" are - a way for a celebrity to brighten their image by pretending to care?).

Support an organization that is doing its best to help people establish some routine and existence in the midst of unending strife and greed.