How not to save the world according to Kevin Starr
Kevin Starr gets down to business on how not to save the world. As director of the Mulago Foundation, he has committed two decades of his life to find the “best solutions to the biggest problems in the poorest places”. In his talk at Poptech, he states how completely obsessed we are with impact but in our quest to save the world, “our good intentions” could do more harm than good. We have to stop trying to find the quick fixes to problems and pay attention to the actual impact of our work and ask ourselves, “Is it needed? Does it work? Will it get to those who need it? Will they use it correctly when they get it?” Watch the whole video, it’s worth it. – Jordan
I just discovered this artist the other day. My sister suggested him to me and he’s unreal. Have a listen, let me know what you think!
It might seem to some like it’s a bit over the top or too intense but if you ask me I think it’s just right. So much is happening all over the world that never sees the light of day or goes unnoticed by the worlds populations due to censorship or media bias.
It’s sad to think, but how often have genocides and other atrocities been perpetrated only to be deemed “genocidal acts” or turned a shoulder to by governments and pushed out of the spotlight just so countries won’t have to take action. Atrocities such as Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Haiti, Sierra-Leone, Yugoslavia, Chilli…Canada…too many, and not enough attention.
Apologies don’t even begin to make up for what has been done…what ever could?
This documentary sheds a little light on the extent of the plight of children in the DRC. It specifically focuses on the kids who have been deemed ‘Witches’ in order for parents and family to disown their children in order to better themselves financially. Children are then brought before one of the many new revivalist churches springing up in DRC (2,000 in counting in Kinshasa alone) where they are ‘exorcised’. This process involves biting and ripping of flesh, hot wax dripped on the child’s body and other types of torturous activities.
With thirty years of economic decline and deteriorating infrastructure, the opportunities for one to find any sort of employment in the DRC today, is very slim. 80% of people in the DRC are unemployed and living on 30c a day. As a result there is a large portion of the population who turn to crime to make ends meet and to survive. We can see this trend happening both with the adult and youth populations. Youth being defined as twenty-four years of age and younger.
The youth in the DRC have a very difficult time getting by as adults constantly take advantage of and abuse them for personal gain or betterment. Children and youth are treated and reduced to expendable instruments whose utility is derived from their economic potential. If the child is not making money or helping the household then this ‘tool’ can be thrown away. This can be demonstrated through observing the ever increasing prevalence of witchcraft and sorcery accusations and ‘exorcisms’ being performed on youth. Due to the tremendous economic hardships there is an enormous portion of parents who, when their child returns from soldiering or when economic times become too difficult, they accuse their child of witchcraft. They are then taken by their parents/guardian’s to an extreme evangelical revisionist church (which are constantly increasing in number, there are approximately 2,000 in Kinshasa alone) where a self-proclaimed priest performs a brutally painful “exorcism” for cash money. Afterwards the parents/guardians are able to disown and abandon their child without any social stigma attached thus helping to ease their economic burden. This trend also provides large incentive for men to proclaim themselves priests and perpetuate this brutal crime.
Due to the above trend there is beginning to be an increase in the number of girls who are ending up on the street. This is a huge problem as they are extremely vulnerable and desirable to older men who are looking to make a profit or simply take advantage of them. The young girls who do not get picked up or abducted by armed groups to become mens wives or worse, often turn to prostitution to earn money and survive. Girls as young as five have been seen resorting to this which is absolutely dismal and speaks volumes to the desperation within DRC.
Another push factor for youth to resort to a life of crime is the simple fact that there are no other options. Education is too expensive as demonstrated by 68% (3 million) of 12-14 year olds and 80% (5 million) of 15-19 year olds are not in school. Furthermore, the markets within the congo have been characterized as a commercial oligopoly. The only people able to find employment are family members and kin. This lack of opportunity is expressed by fifteen year old, former child soldier, John:
“Now, I have been demobilized and I am with my family. It is good to be home, but I have nothing to do. I would like to study or work, but I have no money, there is no
training and there is no work. I feel sad, because I feel unhelpful to my family. I am at home but I am worthless. During the day I try not to think of my life as a fighter,
because it makes me cry, but sometimes I think maybe I should go back to the armed groups…”1
John’s storey is not uncommon. Manny children have joined or returned voluntarily to armed groups due to a lack of employment and educational opportunities. These armed groups provide a means of protection and sustenance which are very difficult to find on the streets. Another option that these kids may choose to pursue is to find work in the various mines. If not recruited or forced to work by mine operators, then youth may choose this occupation as a means of earning some money or food. Often workers are compensated either with food at the work camps or they are allowed to take three pail fuels of mud, of which they can keep whatever minerals are found within.
The industrious, entrepreneurial children who do not join or re-join armed groups often have started pursuing their own illicit trade activities. This can be demonstrated by the ‘OPEC Boys’. This is a group of unemployed youth and ex-combatants who make a profit off of smuggling fuel from the DRC to Uganda. These efforts actively contribute to the ongoing instability and insurgency effort as it helps armed groups from neighbouring countries continue their fight.
The other lesser entrepreneurial youth have more or less stuck to petty and aggressive crimes. The US Government Travel website has warned citizens to be weary of traffic jams and areas surrounding hotels and stores. Security officials and individuals purporting to be security have detained and robbed travellers. Other frequent crimes include vehicle thefts, burglaries, armed robberies and, pick-pocketing. These crimes are in no way being suppressed or discouraged by any means. In fact, the opposite is occurring. Street children will pay police for the right to sleep in an abandoned building. They will either pay with cash, or a % of their goods that they stole in large markets. Furthermore, other adults will often ‘rent’ a large group of these kids to disrupt public order for whatever reason.
As can be seen, youth have an enormous destabilizing effect on a country. As they are recruited for fighting, mining, or other forms of child labor they serve to perpetuate the conflict and increase the tension between different factions. The youth who do not end up being taken advantage of by adults or armed groups remain on the streets and resort to a life of crime, becoming very hostile as Hobbes’ state of nature slowly seems to manifest itself. It is for this reason that the World Bank believes that, “employment and the creation of jobs for young people should therefore form a key component of any peace building process.” When you have 60% of a country’s 54.9 Million population that are under the age of 25, policies and programs need to have a strong youth focus.
What is the best way to solve the Congo Problem though? Being a failed state, with hardly any infrastructure, many external actors and big business who perpetuate the problem by mining conflict minerals and lobby their respective governments to allow them to maintain these practices, how do we help?
Tonight I went to a panel discussion regarding the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It focused on assessing the work that has been done as well as the work yet to be done. Speackers included;
Susan Hill: director of first nations studies and associate prof of history at UWO.
Mark MacDonald: national Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada
Bob Watts: former interim director of the TRC and CEO of the assembly of first nations
Tim Vine: Ph.D. Candidate
I find this topic to be so interesting because it seems to be one which has gone largely unnoticed within Canada. For many the atrocities that Canadas First Nations endured are just a storey in a history book or a dampened version of reality in a Disney movie created for profit and half the time history books perpetuate the image that they are less than human. It is dispicable and I find it sickening that there would be literature that has been allowed to be published which subjects any human being to this sort of dehumanification.
Canada needs to stop prancing around this issue of reconciliation with it’s aborigional community. Cutting funding after making a public speech in which Stephen Harper appologizes and promises to help “lift the burden,” is brutal. But who hears about this? Ses to be only those who have a stake in the situation. If there arn’t huge conflicts and land claims going on the media and general public seems to choose to be ignorant about the whole situation. Talking with people I often hear comments attacking ‘status’ and tax breaks and the many breaks card carrying natives get. But do they (ignorant commentors) ever take the time to sit down with these people and talk? Do they take time to hear testimonies and research their nations past and discover the massive cultural genocide we committed against them? Or perhaps consider the physical and mental ramafications that being ripped from your community and being raised in a residential school has on a person, as well as their kids, grand kids, and communities they were abducted from.
The First Nations people are a beautiful people who have an equally attractive culture so rich with history and traditions. I understand the reluctance of those who have lived through residential schools and te horrors western society has committed agains them, but I fear if more people do not come forward with testimonies or at very least, if the work being done with the TRC and other forms of healing arn’t being done, that people will fall deeper and deeper into this state of amnesia when discussing the topic.
These thoughts I understand are comming from a blonde hair, blue eyed product of a majority western European decent who one could never tell is part Mohawk but I feel like more needs to be done and the apathetic, self-agrandizing, disinterested ministers and politicians who are in government currently simply don’t care and thus are not getting anything done.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke with Liberal MPP Chris Bentley who is minister of aborigional affairs for Ontario And the Atorney General. Being part native and having a passion to constantly learn more and become involved in my heritage I asked him what his platform was and what policies and actions are being taken or what needs to be done to better this situation. He gave me a 5 minute schpeal about how there’s a lot of history involved and it’s complicated and how much of the power to do anything is tied up in the constitution and is this a federal issue. So I said, “yes, I know all this, but what do YOU think needs to be done/ want to implement?” a reasonable question I assumed considering this man is in a position of influence and power and has been a lawyer for 25 years. His reponse was, “as long as we make each new day brighter than the last we are making progress.”…seriously?… He then told me about implementing the “Right to Play” program up in the James Bay area and how it didn’t solve any of the societies grievances or problems such as depression, suicide rates or substance abuse…but he said, it did make the next day a little brighter.
Nothing against the Right to Play program, I think what they’re doing is great BUT come-on! I later found out that this portfolio of aborigional affairs was imposed upon him, he didn’t really want it…everything made sense…
Apathy kills. Let’s get people engaged and educated. Let’s get people to take responsibility for their heritage and evils our forefathers committed. Ironic how we are the ones acting ‘uncivilized’ now…