Worthy to Wake Us

According to the Washington Times, the death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo has hit 5.4 million since 1999. Total deaths in Darfur since 2003 add up to 300,000.

“By any yardstick, [Congo] has been a humanitarian disaster, and one the world has ignored,” said John Holmes, undersecretary-general of the U.N. Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Why is that? Why is it that some atrocities grip our attention and some seem to slip through the cracks of our national (or international) consciousnesses with little more than a sorrowful head nod? What makes horror worthy of our happily ignorant First World attention? I worry that we are sometimes preoccupied with “pop causes” to the detriment of further reaching devastations. But perhaps it takes a “pop cause” to wake us up at all.


I have heard it rather cynically said that the Middle East has fewer hotels and hence more reporters. Then too regions with whom we have some conection get more press. The Eastern Meditteranean was in Sunday school, and Arabian nights and Lawrence of Arabia, and spy stories, and Herodotus and etc, and etc. Besides, to be honest, it kind of, you know, has People Like Us their. And that is really not completely bad; it is better to feel concern about People Like Us then to feel concern about no one. And the human mind doesn't have the capacity to focus on every single horrible thing. Also there is the point that people may really know just enough about Africa to think it has fallen so far that the best thing to do is send a little money for conscious sake and then forget about it because there is not much else to do. I am neither completely condoneing nor completely condemning any of these attitudes, I am pointing out that these may be really the main answer to the question as to why some atrocities are forgotten.

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