The Shame of Darfur
Estimates for the death toll in Darfur are reaching the 300,000 mark. I find it interesting that we use the phrase “death toll” and not “death count” for such things. It underlies the cost of the loss of life – this is a toll not on the victims, but on us, the communities of the world that allow such a price to be paid.
Collective guilt is not apropos to what we have allowed to happen. And let me be clear – we allow this to happen. We allow China to trade lives for cheap oil. We allow the Khartoum government to get away with genocide for tips on Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist cells. This last revelation, made during the 60 Minutes segment, is especially repulsive because it shows how little the White House values life in general, ineffectively trading a life for a life is no fair trade at all.
But collective guilt will not plague us if this ever ends. No, we will again feel collective shame. The shame we tried to brush off after Rwanda. The shame we tried to sweep under the rug after Cambodia. And we deserve this, this shame that haunts the world over our apathy to allow fellow mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters to die at the hands of men who have the ability to view human beings as animals.
Recently, I have been reading Primo Levi’s haunting last work, The Drowned and the Saved. He committed suicide shortly after he finished the work in 1987 as he was able to see history repeated in Cambodia while the world wrung its hands and said, “What can we do??”
The most interesting chapter Mr. Levi writes is that on Shame. The shame the survivors felt after liberation. The shame of knowing what they had to do in the camps to survive, and the shame of knowing they had been “diminished” by the world. Interestingly, Levi draws a line: prisoners were victimized by the Nazis, but they were diminished by the world.
“And there is another, vaster shame, the shame of the world. … And yet there are those who, faced by the crime of others or their own, turn their backs so as not to see it and not feel touched by it … deluding themselves that not seeing was a way of not knowing, and that not knowing relieved them of their share of complicity. … Never again could it be cleansed; it would prove that man, the human species – we, in short – had the potential to construct an infinite enormity of pain, and that pain is the only force created from nothing, without cost and without effort.”
~Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved
How unfair, that survivors will feel the same shame of the world?
You can check out more of the 60 Minutes segment on Darfur by clicking on the following link: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml