How can one heal from a history one refuses to look at?

November 17, 2008

With the current fighting in the eastern DRCongo, the so-called international community has failed once again to rise up to history’s call. Why is it so difficult to come together for peace, healing and dignity? Are there people in DRCongo thinking and living along those lines? There are. Probably even the majority of the population. Yet, this majority keeps being betrayed by those who would like to impose the dominant mentality–which in its most succinct form states: might is right. In DRCongo, this has played itself out relentlessly against the most vulnerable: children and children accused of sorcery, women, handicapped, pygmies, old, poor, jobless, displaced people, students, etc.

Starting with slavery, the wealth of the DRCongo has been used against its own people in ways which are difficult to imagine. Most accounts of the DRCongo’s situation today fail to make the connection between the current moment and the process that was inaugurated with the dislocations/disconnections/disruptions triggered by slavery. The terrorizing atrocities committed against innocent people today are rooted in similar ones centuries ago. The mind-set that says it is okay to maim and to kill with impunity in the most horrific ways goes back to the emergence of the system of slavery, which nurtured an economic system into its current triumphant manifestation.

Everything that is not at the service of the economic system is considered secondary–as one can see from how the Planet is treated, from how economics has become the most important lingua franca of humanity. The treatment of humanity as secondary can be seen in the way in which the political leadership in Africa is dehumanizing its own people. The so-called theory of trickle down economics does work: from the highest and most powerful places in the world, where it is decided that half a million children dead in Iraq (as a result of an embargo on medicine) is a worthwhile price to pay, to far off imitators (heads of state, heads of militias, heads of gangs, cartels, respected and not so respected institutions) who think that the only way to be respected is to instill fear, softly or brutally, depending on the context.

To those who have been the beneficiaries of this long attrition process, the preference is not to dig too deep into such a history. There are several reasons why this distancing from such a shameful and terrifying history is adhered to. The most important are as follows:

1) It is shameful to the descendants of those who most benefited from the wealth generated by the enslaving process;
2) It is shameful to the descendants of those who failed to stand up against the enslaving process, from its place of origin and all the intermediate places;
3) It is shameful to the descendants of those who feel that the injustice has never been appropriately addressed.

While each of these reasons has triggered other sub-processes, they all have had one common denominator of reinforcing the mind-set born out of a process which was a crime against humanity. Some think it is sheer lunacy to recall this under the current conditions in DRC–because, they say, the priority is to deal with the humanitarian situation. After so many years in the Emergency Room of the international community, should one not try to address the fundamental issues? Those who are allergic to history prefer to focus on the last ten years or so. History is not, and cannot be reduced to, a set of disconnected modules which can be assembled, disassembled and reassembled according to the whims of whoever comes along with enough cash to reward those who dance to the tune of the globalizers.

This mind-set that one must only lend to the rich is constantly reinforced, in case it might be forgotten, with the salvaging of banks and financial institutions which, instead of being sanctioned for the problems they have created, have been rewarded. On closer examination, however, this rewarding of the ones who should be sanctioned is the very nature of the system which has been put in place over the last five centuries. From slavery to colonial occupation to apartheid and to global apartheid, the story has not changed. Along the way, at each transition, it has been reinforced, with the richer finding ways of enriching themselves faster than ever before. First it was the millionaires, then it went to the billionaires. Soon we shall have statistics about billionaires

From a continent that has suffered some of the most dehumanizing processes inflicted by a tiny segment of humanity onto another, one would think there might be some sort of awakening of its own consciousness–an understanding that the healing of humanity will only happen if and when Africans, and particularly its current political leadership, wake up to the outrage they have committed and helped to reproduce against humanity.

Jacques Depelchin