Thursday, October 4, 2012

What's Happening in Congo is Real

I'm getting tired of reading excuses from Western intellectuals about why what's happening in Syria, Egypt, Sudan, or Colombia is so much more relevant or important than what's happening in the Congo, despite the Congo's grossly larger number of victims.  Even worse is when people use the Congo as an excuse for inaction: Why are you criticizing country x, people ask, when what's happening in Congo is so much worse? In neither case is Congo's suffering treated as anything other than a rhetorical cudgel for agendas that have nothing to do with it. So when I came across this interview with Judith Butler in Guernica, I exploded:
As a Congo scholar/activist, I find it dismaying that Congo typically comes up in these sorts of discussions as a way of scoring debating points, rather than out of any genuine concern for the place. Still, it might be worth asking Butler why she, like the vast majority of public intellectuals in the West, pays so little attention to DRC and its six million dead. The canard that US complicity justifies greater attention to the West Bank than to the Kivus is risible. As the NYT’s Howard French has written, a case could be made that the wars in Congo are Clinton’s most significant foreign policy legacy. My own suspicion is that our public intellectuals are indifferent to Congo for the same reasons our elected officials are: race, ignorance, and apathy.
Only later did I realize I was two years late to the party: the interview was published in March 2010.

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