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June 22, 2004
Wanted: Expert Assistance

Darfur. Genocide watch.

Not long ago, someone asked me (in the comments) precisely what I wanted to do about Darfur, since I keep mentioning it. I've been considering that and I have an answer.

I don't know.

Seriously. I don't have any idea. I don't know why people rampage around killing each other and I don't know how to stop it.

I don't understand ethnic cleansing, it's foreign to my brain to hate someone just because they look differently than I do or because they have a different belief system.

I don't understand what's behind these constant battles countries and ethnic groups have with each other.

I haven't the faintest idea how to' fix' this kind of thing. I don't know if it can be fixed.

My problem is that I'm the product of a white, middle-American, Midwestern upbringing. I've never been traumatized by racial discrimination and I've never lived with violence. I'm well aware that this hampers me rather badly when I'm trying to understand the world's problems.

We're a violent species and if some of us weren't killing others of us over ancient superstitions or differences in height or skin color, we'd find something else to commit mass murder about and I haven't the faintest idea of how to stop it from happening.

The bottom line is that we're primitive savages. We've built up a structure of "civilization" but that doesn't change human nature, does it?

Do people resort to violence only as a last resort, when they feel that they're actually powerless to bring about any positive change in their own lives, because it seems easier than any of their other options, or just because they feel violent?

I just don't know.

Read the Africa Pundit.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:19 PM


I just got back from a CARE-sponsored breakfast with Nicholas Kristof and the head of CARE. You can read my impressions here if you're interested.

Posted by: Daniel Geffen at June 24, 2004 10:22 AM

"My problem is that I'm the product of a white, middle-American, Midwestern upbringing. I've never been traumatized by racial discrimination and I've never lived with violence. I'm well aware that this hampers me rather badly when I'm trying to understand the world's problems."

But lot's of people with your upbringing feel perfect clarity about the matter: we should invade the country and punish the bad guys. The United Nations should authorize an invasion to stop the genocide. Basic human rights must be respected, upheld, and enforced everywhere. If the United Nations (which is full of representatives from brutal dictatorships) refuses to authorize an invasion, the democracies should go ahead and do it on their own.

More generally, I'm on the Left politically, but I feel frustrated with many of my fellow left-of-center friends for expressing the sentiments that you express in this post, which amounts to "I'm good, I know lots of good people, I don't understand true evil and therefore I don't know how to respond to it." A committee of Republicans could not write a more damaging parody of the Left. It just hands the whole issue to them. Your political opponents are free to ask of you: "If you don't understand true evil then there is really no reason why anyone needs to listen to you on this subject, is there?"

One reason I admire George Orwell so much is that he seemed to really "get" it. He never lost his loyalty to progressive causes, but he understood that violent men needed to be opposed with ruthless violence.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 26, 2004 12:54 AM

Sorry, I'm being unreasonably harsh. I think it was brave of you to publically express your doubts on this subject.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 26, 2004 02:08 AM

Lawrence - I could expressed myself more clearly.

I have no doubt that it's right to try and stop mass murder or attempted genocide. No doubt at all.

And I have doubts about what to do in Darfur after we theoretically go in and prevent/stop any genocide movement.

To rephrase - I don't have any doubts about what should be done in the short term, but I don't understand what would work for these countries in the long-term.

There are such shocking food, healthcare, and economic problems all over Africa that it overwhelms me.

Posted by: Anne at June 28, 2004 04:10 PM

I agree that it is difficult to imagine what might be done over the long term to improve the situation in Africa. A friend of mine who spent considerable time in Africa told me a story that emphasized many of the difficulties, the dangers posed by Western assumptions, and the dangers of cross-cultural misunderstanding:


Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 29, 2004 10:00 AM

I meant to come back here earlier and thank you for the link, Lawrence. A very interesting post, indeed.

Posted by: Anne at July 2, 2004 01:05 PM