Thursday, April 12, 2007

Darfur: Guilty about feeling guilty

"We decided the situation in Darfur was a genocide crisis back in the summer of 2004 based on a wealth of evidence," said John Heffernan, a spokesman for the Holocaust Memorial Museum. "We are trying to honour the memory of the Holocaust by responding to what is happening today. We felt we needed better visual representation and that was when we teamed up with Google Earth."

What can I say? Honestly what can I say? As'ad Abu Khalil labels Darfur as a crisis which has been used to alleviate Western guilt or culpability over it's policies to the Middle East. He says that it is a cause which has been deemed 'safe' for rich white kids to feel outraged about, ignoring what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Somalia. He says it is a cause that celebrities can now use to take disaster holidays, again, because it is a 'safe' issue.

I think he's right.

I feel guilty about feeling guilty about Darfur, even though it is a cause that I know I should feel guilty about. I know now of the United States, Britain, Israel and imperialism what I knew not before.

3 comments:

yaman said...

The word "genocide" makes everything but "genocide" tolerable. That is why at the same time you can have the director of the Holocaust museum calling Darfur "what is wrong today" while he ignores everything else in the world. That is why students in America are joining the Darfur groups in droves, while their own fucking troops are in Iraq. It's because "genocide" is the only measure by which we can see right and wrong. "Genocide" or bust--even those who are trying to popularize other issues have fallen into this trap. Palestine activists have begun trying to refer to Israel-Palestine as a "genocide," perhaps so they get greater attention. Effort is wasted arguing that {CRISIS SCENARIO HERE} is or is not a "genocide," not whether or not it is wrong, or unjust. It's a big problem, and I agree with AbuKhalil's analysis.

Wassim said...

True, this clamouring to define something as "Genocide" cheapens the term and, in my opinion, cheapens the cause of those pushing for their own "certification". This dilemma can be seen to have two effects, firstly, the automatic and repetitive condemnation of the crisis by people who really don't know why they are condemning it, a bit like those people in Orwell's 1984 who hoot and jeer at the enemy of their state during "hate" minute I think it was called. This is the acceptable area for them to vent their outrage.

Then there are those who treat the entire affair with cynicism and derision precisely because it is being constructed into a "safe" channel for activism and distracts from the very real aggression of Western enroachment in the Middle East. They end up cutting their nose to spite their face.

I guess the best option is to subscribe to neither camp and treat each problem area at it's own merit while recognising cynical attempts to steer our sympathies to this or that cause whether by Arab or Western governments.

yaman said...

There is also the point that the major Darfur network in the states on campus today is in favor of, I think, bringing military forces into Sudan to stop the violence.