Note: this post was originally published on December 9th, 2005. I republished it because I feel that sometimes we need to take ourselves off of all the glamorous Christmas celebration and consumerism. Sometimes, we need to look around us and be reminded about all the sorrows in the world.
These days I’ve been working on my assignment, about the child soldiering in D.R. Congo. It is hard for me not to get emotionally involved with the readings and the findings that I have from the research that I’ve been doing on the topic. It is really terrifying to think that this kind of horrible life is not a nightmare. It is a reality that’s being lived by children in the conflict areas, every single day.
These children are as young as 8 year old when the militants starts to abduct them and train them to be their soldiers. So instead of playing with toys, they are playing with guns. Instead of running and playing with their friends in the fields, they have to run through the hills in the morning to the afternoon as their physical training. Those who can not survive the rigorous training were left there to die. They are disposable. No wonder Save the Children called them as ‘the world’s cheapest biological weapons’!
No parents are tucking them to bed; they have to sleep alone outside the tents in the cold nights. No more fun of playing with the water, since they have to stay in a tank of cold water throughout the night as a punishment for the small mistake they did. There’s no hot chicken soup, a loaf of cold bread is all they have for the whole day. And there in the camp, a young boy had to watch his 10 year old sister being raped to death. My goodness!
There are lots of multinational companies who are involved in supplying the weapons to the conflict areas. It’s a big business that produces lots and lots of money! And instead of making efforts to end the war, the government is using their country’s resources such as diamonds, gold, and coltan to buy sophisticated weaponry.
By the way, do you know what coltan is? Coltan is the kind of mineral that is used mostly to produce capacitors, which are used in small electronic devices like the mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, and so on. All the kinds of stuffs that we use everyday! Today in her presentation my friend Kara pointed out that somehow we are participating in financing the war by using all these stuffs. But we just can’t escape it. How frustrating.
And the gold and diamonds. Think about the diamond rings on the fingers of so many happy brides. Such diamond carry the blood of the children who were pushed out of their homes and schools to do the mining work. The same diamond is also enabling the war makers to buy more weapons and to continue the violence.
The thing that strikes me the most is the realization about the diamonds. In my undergrad study, I took the Marketing Communication class and was assigned to create an advertisement. My group took the diamond ring as the product that we wanted to advertised. We emphasized on how the diamond is symbolizing love, affection, and commitment. But today I’m learning the other side of the story, on how the diamonds are actually so inseparable with violence and war.
This is putting me in such a big paradigm shift. In the past I studied the glamorous world of business and marketing, but now I’m studying the social reality of war, poverty, and development. I guess that’s why sometimes it gets so tiring.
And it makes me realize how this Christmas is so different for me, compared to the previous years. Instead of thinking about what dress to wear for the Christmas celebration, my mind is preoccupied with those refugees who don’t even have a place to live. Instead of browsing through the stacks of products in the supermarket for the Christmas shopping, now I’m browsing through the isles of shelves in the library. Instead of rushing to the rehearsal for the Christmas perfromance, I’m rushing to the group meeting to work on our assignment.
A part of me is feeling sad for losing the “joy of Christmas.” It seems to be an illusion in this world that is full of pain and suffering.
Am I taking my studies too seriously? Or is this just a part of becoming a grown up person?