I haven’t take my hat off to Steven Spielberg since E.T., and that’s not just because I don’t wear a hat any more. I officially put one on today just so I could take it off in honour of him. The reason is that he is stepping down from role as Artistic Advisor for the Beijing Olympics because of Darfur in Sudan.
Darfur is a modern day catastrophe and it will be another part of history where people said ‘We should have done something, why didn’t anybody do something?’ the same way we say that now about Rwanda, and likely we will say it about Kenya and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo – formerly Zaire). It’s simply not good enough to sit comfy in the developed first world and allow genocide to happen.
Our company went to Krakow on a Christmas trip and part of it was a tour of Auschwitz, a strange choice for a Christmas trip you might say but a powerful reminder of the need to be thankful for what you do have and to be mindful of the needs of others while also taking a diligent stance against the type of aggression that racism, anti-semitism or any other manifestation of bigotry can bring about. Auschwitz and Birkenau are considered to be the largest graveyard in the world and there are no grave markings to make you realise it. The word ‘holocaust’ in itself has a macabre ring to it and we are seeing something similar to it today in many parts of the world, sitting silently by for the most part.
China’s stance on Sudan is the same as the stance they took with Burma when the monks tried to change an evil and tyrannical government, ‘leave them to their own devices, it’s not our place to meddle’ and that truly shows the difference in social responsibility between the likes of the U.S.A. and China, The US (note: I am the biggest anti-war advocate you will ever meet) at least has the courage to make a call, albeit that the most recent one was totally wrong. China’s growing need for commodities and raw supplies means they are willing to back whoever has the might so that they get the rights to the materials they need. This approach has been seen in Nigeria, and now also in Sudan.
It takes bravery to stand up against a giant and hugely influential nation like China, it could also be commercial suicide which makes Steven Spielberg’s move all the more admirable, his films will likely be banned now in that country. The tendency there is that all things which don’t concur with their world view become ‘banned’ including things like Internet sites that may actually tell a story (we’ll refer to the story as ‘the truth’) that is not within the confines of the Governments version of acceptable information.
I hope that the Sporting Community has the same moral fibre and will take the lead from Steven Spielberg. It would surely be a huge sacrifice for any potential Olympian to forego attendance especially if (depending on their age) it meant they were not likely to ever compete at that level again.
The news on Darfur is ongoing and its at the point where you hear of people dying and its just like any other statistic, but on the back of these numbers there are real lives, human lives, being destroyed, mothers losing children, children losing parents, brothers, sisters, atrocities against people, torture, rape and pointless slaughter. We have a moral responsibility to do something about it, that means all of us, not just people like Steven Spielberg, although his move may be the first in a long line of dominoes.
Even China themselves have a very chequered human rights history, Tianemen square proved that, as did the National Guard (I wrote about this in an article in Dec/Jan) beating a man to death for filiming them with a mobile phone a few months ago. The sweat shops, the ‘Export Processing Zones’ where rules don’t apply and a mafia like adherence to sercrecy and not speaking out at any cost has meant they got away with it so far.
Underneath it all it’s about Oil, Sudan sells 2/3’s of its supply to China, so China are not going to rock the boat with the Sudanese Government who are (it is suspected) supporting the Janjaweed Militia. Please do your bit to speak out, there are at least 200,000 people dead, that doesn’t include the amount who are permanently disabled, or the 2 million who are displaced from their homes. On the topic of speaking out the following poem from Martin Niemoller seems very appropriate:
When the Nazi’s came for the Communists,
– I remained silent, for I was not a communist.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
– but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
– but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
I’m not Sudanese or an Iraqii, nor am I from the DRC.