by Richard Martin Oxman
“Habit is the great deadener.” — Samuel Beckett
An intrepid investigative journalist recently produced six minutes and seventeen seconds of footage that underscores how attachment to high tech gadgetry is causing abominations which are the equivalent of The Holocaust (which Hollywood never lets us forget). The atrocities being committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — by any standards — deserve as much attention as what is given to past horrors in which we were complicit. As was the case with Nazi Germany’s evil acts.
There’s plenty of definitive documentation respecting the ways in which Western states aided and abetted Hitler’s rise to power. The public record clearly establishes how we could have prevented Third Reich crimes, and how– once they were well underway — we could have lessened their impact. How we could have saved many lives effortlessly. So I won’t insult the reader’s intelligence — her/his ability to plow through the paper trail — without me.
What I will make the focus of this article, though, is what that fearless reporter has powerfully provided in condensed fashion, begging the question of what we all are going to do about the ongoing Congo-centered abominations here and now. I’ve chosen to use the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” type title for this piece, as what is at stake and the responsibility we all carry for reducing the suffering is — unquestionably — as clear as a baby’s cry for relief. [Yes, a baby, who does not need to have a DNA-changing monitor strapped to its crib or belly for its parents to be supervising it properly.]
The cobalt which the children in the footage shorten their lives in order to secure has created immeasurable, incessant pain in the Congo mainly because of our insatiable appetite for high tech gadgetry. There is no getting around it, no two ways about it: We have chosen to embrace the products of Silicon Valley at the cost of enslaving children and immiserating millions of people.
I am not suggesting that anyone has to totally give up their computers, cell phones or any particular product. Rather, I am pointing to the fact that — increasingly — well-off citizens are purchasing high tech products with no thought whatsoever about the cost of each and every one.
It’s one thing to use a laptop and/or a cell phone here and there giving some consideration to the human cost involved in Africa and elsewhere. It’s quite another for someone to be constantly obsessed with securing the latest high tech toy that hits the market without so much as batting an eyelash over the source of their pleasure. Just as there was a vast difference between being a member of the White Rose in the heyday of Nazi Germany and an unmoved stockholder in IBM, which did business with the Third Reich long after the scorecard was in on Hitler.
The analogy is not forced. No hyperbole here.
The discussion must begin. What responsibility do we share respecting suffering of others, who die early deaths because we want to play and profit to a greater extent than we are already doing?
We do not have to give Silicon Valley billionaires carte blanche when it comes to the proliferation of their deadly products. Rather, we need to change our habits.