What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, July 9, 2010


So I'm thinking in here that it will be worth passing along some of the things that I am reading about the country. Yesterday I sat on the beach and finally was able to start reading a long way gone, memoirs of a boy soldier, by Ishmael Beah.  I read the first couple chapters and was physically appalled.  I looked around and saw all these people, sitting on the beach - umbrellas, chairs, towels, toys, - yet none of them seemed to care Not just about boy soldiers or far away countries, but about anything.  They were on 'vacation', from work, from life, from a moment, from whatever... what else mattered but the serenity of their moment?
"The last casualty that we saw that evening was a women who carried her baby on her back.  Blood was running down her dress and dripping behind her, making a trail.  Her child had been shot dead as she ran for her life.  Luckily for her, the bullet didn't go through the baby's body.  When she stopped at where we stood, she sat on the ground and removed her child.  It was a girl, and her eyes were still open, with an interrupted innocent smile on her face.  The bullets could be sen sticking out just a little bit in the baby's body and she was swelling.  The mother clung to her child and rocked her.  She was in too much pain and shock to shed tears." 
"I am pushing a rusty wheelbarrow in a town where the air smells of blood and burnt flesh.  the breeze brings the faints cries of those whose last breaths are leaving their mangled bodies.  I walk past them.  Their arms and legs are missing;their intestines spill out through the bullet holes in their stomachs;brain matter comes out of their noses and ears.  The flies are so excited and intoxicated that they fall on the pools of blood and die."
The boy that wrote these passages was describing his life at 12 years old.  Do you know how many boys on that beach were around that age?  To many for me to watch - all having fun.  I sat there listening to conversations... nothing, no one cared.  The trappings of our everyday American lives are so simple, so pristine - so much of a paradise.  We don't want to know about these other places.  If we ignore them we don't have to realize that our human instincts actually force us to care about other people.  When people you know are sick or in the hospital you rush to their side, you try to help them, you do what you can.  You know them, they matter to you.  If we never acquaint ourselves with other people and their problems then we don't have to worry about them.  We don't have to stop what we are doing to help them, to care about them.  

People always say America gives the most aid to the developing world of any country (in dollar terms this is true, but not as a percentage).  But what have you done?  What have you given?  And I do not mean this in dollar terms, but what part of your heart, your sole, what emotional bond have you given or created?  Too what extent have you attempted to feel the pain of other people that are simply just not fortunate enough to have been born within a certainly randomly demarcated line of national control such as the US or Europe?  

The at risk and impoverished people of these countries and the world in general are innocent - mostly children.  Yet we don't choose to care, we don't choose to become aware of these 'others', less fortunate than we are.  It is time though.  Time for humanity to start showing its true colors, that deep down inside we do care, we just don't know about the travesties found in the far corners of our world.  Teach us!!  Nothing worth having or doing every came easily...  Strive for more.           


  1. Interesting thoughts. A couple things to think about:

    Were you not sitting on the beach with these people enjoying the warm New England sun, the cooling water, a gentle breeze? Sure, you can look at someone and say they are on vacation, but they are just as capable of looking at you and thinking you are on vacation, even if you don't consider yourself to be.

    We never know the background of how others came to be where they are. Everyone has such a unique and distinctive life story to tell, and when we generalise and simply say "they don't care" we are selling the world short. Sure, people may not think about the problems in Sierra Leone while they are sitting on the beach, but I would almost guarantee that there were other people on the beach looking at you and saying that you don't care about issue XYZ.

    It is one of the special things about the world. There are so many different worthy causes that people devote their time to. Who are you or I to say that donating food to the local pantry is less important than stopping a conflict in Sierra Leone? Or stopping human trafficking in Moldova? All are huge problems in the world, and people tend to support causes that they think they can make a difference in. Perhaps the people on the beach think that Sierra Leone is a lost cause, that seeing movies like "Blood Diamond" are depressing, but there is nothing really that can be done by people about these problems. That something fundamentally needs to change in Sierra Leone before people in Europe and the US try in ernest to help.

    You also cannot expect everyone to care about every issue that goes on in the world, or expect that everyone is able to give up their jobs, kids, lives future to solve the world's biggest problems. Life does not stop because there are problems in the world; Europeans and North America's have children and try and make the world a better place for those children even as other children in the world are trafficked, or used as soldiers, or abused. Right or wrong the living standard will not be dropped in the developed world because the developing world is poor.

    Just keep in mind that as you were sitting there on the beach, odds are that there was someone else on the beach with the same complaint: people not caring. But that complaint was probably not about Sierra Leone and child soldiers, but about organ donation, or child literacy, or clean water. You see those 12 year olds on the beach as child soldiers, but through someone else's eyes they are sex slaves.

  2. That is a very fair point, and one that I actually considered touching on in the post - at least, the how do I know whether they care or not. But I actually have a fundamentally opposite view in some ways to your thoughts on the importance of causes. I completely understand where you are coming from and the uniqueness of each person's views (I will not get into where those views come from or how they are socialized into our cultures though).

    I guess more of my views need to by expressed. My issue is not about Sierra Leone, child soldiers, sex slaves or what have you, my issue is with the system that allows for it all to come to play all over the globe and at all levels.

    The fact of the matter is that generalizations and stereotypes come from somewhere, and I am willing to bet that virtually everyone sitting on that private beach in New England - most of which are weekenders from NYC and Boston - are not doing a great deal to bring change in the world. By and large, they are happy with the way the world works, it has allowed them to live in a rich country and maybe even have two houses.

    We can talk about issues upon issues and who's micro issue is more important than the next. I would urge you to read both the rest of this blog and also www.alternativeideas.org for more of my views and opinions on things in general. In saying that there are so many worthy causes in the world has merit, but I see just one that they all can be traced back to - human welfare and security. Everyone should be able to live a healthy safe life. And while many people may prioritize their issues, and say one thing is more important than another, for the most part I see people as micromanaging the details and, for the most part, finding reasons not to feel bad about things.

    You would be considered more realistic than me, and I a dreamer or idealist. But I am truly proud of this label. The world and the people in it seem content with accepting their/our lot and the 'realities' we live in and of the deprivation and poverty that such a staggering amount of the world lives in. NO ONE CARES, not just the people on that beach, at least not enough to stop their lives and do things for others. And actually, I do expect people to "give up their jobs, kids, lives futures to solve the worlds biggest problems". That is what the world needs, for people to step away from self-indulgence, and think about others that need the basic things in life like food, shelter, clean water and food, and HOW those things can be - not given - but sustained for all, not just the rich few (which is what the less than one billion people that live in 'the West' are). We need to focus on the truly needy of THE WORLD before we start thinking about local food pantries and organ donating.

    At the risk of sounding harsh, I do believe that you can say somethings are more important than others. Obviously, in an ideal world they all get done. But think about a homeless person in New York versus the average person in Sierra Leone - that homeless person may in fact have more food just from the US's garbage than many people in the developing world have in general. I urge you to read the post "why Sierra Leone", and I will start working on a post about the ultimate goals of this project and the subsequent non-profit ti will produce. This should be more illuminating...

  3. I think the more important way to look at all of this is to make the glass half full instead of half empty: How can we get more people to care? Not "No one cares." It is not to us to judge other peoples priorities but rather to change their priorities - or at least get them to realize that maybe they need to rethink them. If not enough people care about those people in the world who don't have enough food or shelter, who live in fear, or those we are abused or sold into slavery, then what can any one of us do to elevate their awareness to the point where they will do something. Given a cause, publicity, a push, enough reasons, enough pictures, etc., many people step up and give because at the core of our beings we are good people and will do what is right. We just need to be "bitten" by the bug.

  4. I agree, one step at a time... ;)