Friday, June 1, 2007

Say Something Intelligent, for Fuck's Sake

I talk and I talk. But do I really say anything? No, Not really.

When I hear the word "Darfur", I think "Tragedy". They are synonymous. So far so good. Lots of people feel the same. Except I don't really know why that is. I don't know the first thing about Darfur. I mean, supposedly there's a genocide there, right? And it's in Africa some place? Genocide is bad, so therefore Darfur is tragic. End of story. I don't really need to know the details. I mean, who has the time?

Yes, I'm a lazy fuck.

And, if we are to believe the cliché, most of North America is the same. The media here have been relatively silent on the subject of the Darfur genocide (in fairness, there are good reasons for this), and yet word is getting out. It's not just activists, hippies and protesters who've heard of this now. There is a memetic stew of genocide-related imagery bubbling away in our collective unconscious. Once in a while, a carrot or onion must float to the top and call our attention to the situation, and force us to educate ourselves on the ingredients of this potage.


So a funny story (if anything in the context of Darfur can be considered "funny") popped up today somewhere (I think it was, talking about the Sudanese ambassador to the US basically threatening to cut off the world's supply of a vital soft-drink ingredient unless people stopped referring to the Darfur conflict as a "genocide".

Now, regardless of your feelings on the Darfur conflict, I gotta say, this guy needs a press secretary or something. So far, the only people who knew more about Darfur than "Darfur = SAD" were people who genuinely cared about it. Intelligent, Sensitive people. The vocal minority, the activists. Oh, and the Sudanese.

But this guy went and held a press conference, and created a media event weird enough to get over 1400 diggs, from a demographic - geeks - who can't be expected to know anything about the place beyond how to spell it (if that). The absurdity of this story forced people like myself, who didn't know shit about Darfur, to take a second look. "Who is this wack-job? Sudan? Darfur? hmmm. I'm going to look that up on Wikipedia". And that's all it takes.

Way to defuse the situation there, Ambassador-guy. Perfect diplomacy for an imperfect world, huh?

Thus far, I haven't told you anything about Darfur, or the conflict there, or fulfilled the promise implicit in the title of this entry. So here's the nutshell (for more -- much more -- detail, I suggest Wikipedia):

Darfur is a region of western Sudan. Sudan is a country in Africa. Africa is far away, but not so far away that you shouldn't care about what goes on there (Yes. Guilty as charged).

Right now there's a conflict going on in Darfur. One side is calling it a Civil War. And in fact, it has many of the hallmarks. There's rebels, and guerillas, and militias (oh my!). There's also ethnic cleansing and mass graves. This isn't a frickin' geopolitical treatise, so I won't delve into the details of all the players (Sudanese military, Janjaweed militia, Sudanese Liberation Movement, Justice & Equality Movement, and a million other factions), but as with most wars, it's the little people that get caught in the middle.

The Sudanese government is systematically erasing the non-Baggara civilian population, and have suppressed information by murdering and jailing witnesses, disrupting mass graves to eliminate their forensic value, preventing any UN peacekeeping mission or humanitarian efforts, and obstructing and arresting journalists. By most accounts, the conflict has resulted in two to four hundred thousand civilian deaths, and more than 2.5 million displaced since it's beginning, in February 2003.

The United States government describes the Darfur conflict as "genocide". The U.N. declines to do so.

The Darfur genocide (let's not mince words), is truly a tragedy. But the greater tragedy is that it would take a fucking clown, with vague threats on North American Coca-Cola production capabilities, to make someone (ie: me) sit up and take notice.

So I'm going to add this to the list of reasons I should be pissed at myself. It's not exactly a secret that I'm pretty apathetic about world events, but some shit just ain't right.

Update: Keep an eye on what's going on in Darfur, here (Thanks, Delrin!).

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