Like we needed confirmation, nothing was learned from Rwanda. This time it's the Congo:
Accounts of the horror in Ituri have the quality of Hieronymus Bosch's grotesque tableaux of apocalypse: torched villages; macheted babies in the streets; stoned child warriors indulging in cannibalism and draping themselves with the entrails of their victims; peacekeepers--mostly Uruguayans--using their guns only to drive off waves of frantic civilians seeking refuge in their already overflowing compound; a quarter of a million people in frenzied flight from their homes. For nearly five years, such suffering has plagued much of the eastern Congo along the tangled battle lines of warring political and tribal factions, stirred up and spurred on by the occupying armies of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have been killed in the fighting, and many more have died as a consequence of the displacement, disease, and hunger that attend it. By any measure, Congo is one of the most hellish places on earth, and of all the hells within that hell Ituri province has come to be known as the most infernal.
It is for such people and such places--places that nobody in what Kofi Annan likes to call "governments with capacity" can find any political grounds to care about--that the U.N.'s system of international humanitarian law matters most. The idea behind that system is that common humanity ought to be reason enough to take an interest in preventing such terrors as extermination campaigns. And the premise behind that idea is that, while action may be costly, the price of inaction must finally be greater. But is that really how the world works? What if the ultimate horror of the Congo nightmare is that there is no price for ignoring it?
Bit old, but a decent article on what David Foster Wallace is up to. The non-fiction book referred to in the story is this (amazon.com) book about Georg Cantor, which I mentionedwhile back. For the dfw completist, there's also this essay comparing the published version of Infinite Jest (amazon.com) to the inital draft.
Very very cool history overview. Excellent use of the web.
Currently listening to: Godspeed You Black Emperor! - - Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.
Interesting comment added to my post talking about Neal Stephenson's latest; is HarperCollins spamming weblog comments to announce the website for the book? The email of the person that left the comment is @harpercollins.com, although judging from my access logs it hasn't been done via an automated system - the IP that left the comment entered marginalia.org via this google search and appeared to do a quick browse before leaving the comment.
It's an interesting marketing approach, if it's done carefully; I actually do appreciate the information.
Bummer that the release date is now September though.
Currently listening to: Radiohead - No Surprises.
I've been trying to decide how to write about my recent travels, and I've had several ideas.
There's the bare itinerary:
There's the David Foster Wallace "A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again"-type impressionistic summary of what I've witnessed and learned:
I have seen Thai families of four riding on a single scooter, all without helmets; I have seen a military member exclaim "I'm an American!" as a reason to allow him to let his bullet/bottle opener on a flight from Japan to Korea; I have tasted Pocari Sweat (nastier than Mountain Dew); I have listened to Korean and Japanese commentary blasted from loudspeakers hidden in trees and in the depths of caves; I have seen buddhas of gold, emerald, marble and wood; I have eaten a Seoul subway junkfood called Man Joo; I have had pizza with corn on it; I have been to markets with live eels and entire pig's heads for sale; I have proved myself a true Canadian by immediately learning how to order beer in every country I visited; I have peered briefly into Thai families huddles around TVs in shacks meters from a rail line; I have seen cockroaches bigger than any cockroach has the right to be; I have learned that Japanese schoolgirls really do dress like that; I have learned to roughly tabulate the Canadian dollar equivalent for three separate currencies; I have been served kim chee with breakfast; I know what 35 degrees Celsius feels like; I have had my toes nibbled by fish in the Gulf of Thailand; I have learned that I want to do this again.
And, of course, there are the photos (including a rare shot of yours truly.)
And that only really touches the surface. Hopefully something more coherent once the jet lag wears off.
And we are home. Pictures to commence soonish, along with more coherent thoughts on what the hell just happened.
Currently listening to: mum - asleep on a train.