Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Children Are The Future Posted by Picasa

Children Are The Future

What a lame title for the post. I recoil a little when talk turns to: "Think of the children!" and I not really sure why. Partly, perhaps because as people we deeply care about children; we want to protect them and hold high hopes for them. So when something we care so deeply about is used to manipulate us in some way or another we cringe.

The picture is of some of students and teachers from the Iganga Secondary School where my friend Nathan works. They're too old to consider themselves children, I'm sure. The word "kids" seems less insulting, but kids are at some point are keen to loudly announce: "I'm not a kid anymore." The older I get, the longer I imagine kids should stay kids.

A few days ago Sokaria at Black Looks posted 5 years for sex tourist. It's a very well done post that draws a link between sex tourism and child traffickingwith excellent links for orientation to the tragic exploitation of children.

I read the post. I don't quite know how to tell about my reaction. One way might be to say I didn't believe it. I don't dispute a single part of her post, yet there is a part of me, the way I think and keep my feet planted on the ground, that just doesn't quite register with information like that. I know better, of course. It's not just with reports of sexual abuse of children--which is only a part of what the post is about--but reports of rape and domestic violence also make me numb. I don't think I'm alone in this reaction and it's a hard one to counter.

I remember reading Jerzy Kosinski's Steps many years ago and being stopped in my tracks by a vignette of a young woman's rape that as a consequence drained the affection and desire from her young husband. Oh yes, I knew it was damn wrong, still there was a sense of understanding I couldn't explain away.

Sometimes I can't handle the news, and will simply try to tip toe around those stories. I tried to sulk away from that post at Black Looks, except that Ethan Z at My heart's in Accra pointed to the post writing:
I couldn’t figure out anything to write to help contextualize this (soul-crushingly depressing) story about sex tourism in West Africa. Fortunately, Sokari could, and did.
"Soul-crushing" somehow those words encouraged me to go back to the post.

There are so many problems in Africa which need concentrated attention. Sometimes the attention on problems obscure the ordinary. The students in this photo look familiar to me. It's not because I've been to Uganda, I haven't. But I recognise them as students, and if they'd allow me, kids. They look like people I know. The children who suffer great deprivation and abuse are not something other than we ourselves.

When I was just getting the idea for a blog and Bazungu Bucks, I read a piece at Tim Boucher's Pop Occulture. In preparation for an interview with Daniel Pinchbeck Boucher pointed to another interview with Pinchbeck at New World Disorder where he was quoted as saying:
Steiner believed that the best way to oppose "evil" is not through strident protest and negativity (which tends to be the monotonous approach of the Left), but by simply creating what is "good."
That's where my "create something good" comes from.

As an issue or a cause to take up exploited children is one I'm not sure I have the stregnth for. I was going over some materials produce by Human Rights Watch. Reading: OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ON THE SALE OF CHILDREN, CHILD PROSTITUTION AND CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, I got to this point: "b. Transfer of organs of the child for profit;" and shut the window. I'm not proud to announce the yellow streak running up and down my back, but the sensation on reading that was viseral.

I was looking for photos for this piece. I have to watch myself with doing photo searches at Flickr because I can become engrossed and spend enormous amounts of time there. I came across a large collection of wonderful photographs by Gregory J. Smith. Smith formed an organization called the Children At Risk Foundation to aid street children in Brazil. One of CARF's projects ongoing since 1992 is a center in Sao Paulo called Hummingbird . It's really cool how Smith is using the wonderful photo documents at Flickr to involve the community formed around photographs at Flickr in engagement with the project in Brazil.

I was so encouraged by the photos, comments and links. The awful circumstances of these children are not hidden, and yet everywhere there is joy and hope. It's that which connects the community and fills them with ideas.

Steiner's way to oppose evil is wise and profound. Create something good. We all want to do that. Surely, we all have special talents and interests that will guide in our creations. We can share our intent to oppose what is truly evil by creating good and be glad about it. We can have soul. In this way of thinking even the sordid story of sex tourism, child trafficking, and slavery cannot crush our human souls.

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