This I Believe

Elijah - Mishawaka, Indiana
Entered on February 14, 2007

Elijah Martens

This I believe

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country that has faced brutal colonial oppression, civil war, and multiple psychotic dictators. It is near the bottom of those UN lists of health, income, and infant mortality rates. So when my family took a trip there four years ago, I expected the poverty disease, and filth on the streets. What I didn’t expect were the cell phones. The first thing a Congolese would buy when he got any money was a cell phone and phone cards. That experience of seeing the abundance of cellular phones in one of the world’s poorest countries is what makes me say now that I believe in Youtube. Perhaps I should explain. The reason the Congo faces so many problems is that it was systematically and secretly raped by Leopold, the king of Belgium, 100 years ago. At that time Leopold was upheld as a noble figure in Europe. The western world turned a blind eye to what the king’s agents were doing in Africa. The only word of the atrocities in the Congo was brought back by a few protestant missionaries. Their information was easily ignored by the people and leaders of the civilized world. When I saw all that information technology in the Congo, the Internet cafes and cell phone towers, I realized that the atrocities that happened in that poor country could never be repeated. No dictator could ever again hide his atrocities from the world; the violent images would be uploaded to the Internet by dozens of camera phones across the country. Someone would create a Youtube montage of the violence, right there for anyone in the world to see with a few keystrokes. And then it would be impossible for me, or anyone else to use ignorance as an excuse to ignore evil, even if it happens half a world away. Our own country is finding out the hard way the power of the global information network. The video of Saddam Hussein’s execution was the number one most viewed clip on Youtube, and the dictator’s apparent martyrdom only rallied Iraq’s insurgents. The video of the American sniper systematically butchering a group of Iraqi insurgents was the one that stuck with me the most. The blank look on the soldier’s face as his weapon fired repeatedly and his casual reporting of his number killed has stuck with me to this day. To control people, it is necessary to control their information, and that is becoming harder and harder as the world becomes more and more connected. I believe this connectedness will help prevent those of us who have the power to change the world from deceiving ourselves, from remaining in ignorance. Congo’s borders will never again seal up, with information about what is happening in the country remaining tightly controlled. The next time a dictator indirectly sponsored by the western world tries to carry out extermination of his own people, the world will know about it. And then neither me nor the rest of the world will be able to hide behind ignorance’s blissful shield.