20 December 2011 — The Wild Wild Left

Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo

aleela.jpgAleela hurried along the forest floor, trying to keep up with the boys. The coolness felt good to her bare feet. Soon enough the sun would burn away the darkness.

She dug thru mounds of dirt with her bare hands, looking for nuggets of copper to place in a pan. She thought of Suhuba. It would be nice to have her friend here. Of course Suhuba was too small to help, but he was a good listener and would be preferable to the two silly boys.

Her mother had been Aleela’s best friend, really her only friend. Mother always found time to play games or to listen to the songs she made up. Mother would allow Aleela to cook an evening meal for father sometimes. The family had been quite happy, until the soldiers came…..

Standing in a pit of waste water, Aleela scrubs copper ore, looking carefully at the cleaned product. When she sees streaks of white or silver she places the cobalt into her pan. Fumes from the water make her eyes tear up, her nostrils burn.

Mother seldom speaks to her now. On occasion she heard conversations directed at father, mother chattering animatedly in the empty room. Evenings would find mother praying loudly, pleading for God to return father. Aleela would kiss mothers hands and put her head in mothers lap, but the woman would only lapse briefly into silence before beginning to pray the rosary.

The children always purchased their first meals of the day before heading home. There was less chance of being robbed if it was known they had little or no money remaining; rice and manioc stew thus served the dual purpose of filling their bellies and providing a small measure of safety for the return walk.

Nearing the village, the boys begin to run, thinking to play soldier with other boys. Aleela quickens her pace as well, bringing a small surprise for her friend as she did each day.

She watched the large beetle slowly crawl from it’s home beneath the aise berry bush. Folded into her cloak was a bit of rice stew, which Aleela set in front of the insect. Chattering about her day, the child doesn’t notice a shadow looming over her. An arm clad in woodland camouflage clutches her arm, yanking the girl roughly to her feet. A booted foot crushes the beetle.

The tantalum for the capacitors and cobalt for the batteries which power our cell phones are often mined by children in Congo making twenty cents per day. Those children come from a society where rape of women and girls is endemic. Yet Africa may arguably be the world’s richest continent in terms of raw materials. Western governments and their multinationals continue to prey on Africa, as they do on all of the Third World – referring to the use of  raw materials in the public interest as ‘resource nationalism’ – a scourge which warrants soft power intervention at first, assassination or military intervention as plan B. Our struggle is global. We can’t work within the two-party system in hopes of rolling back the clock ten years to a period when the American middle class was part of a debt fueled housing boom – not only was the prosperity a chimera, most of the world not only didn’t share in that prosperity but in fact they were victimized by it.

Our struggle is global.

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