Ashley Judd and I had the honor of traveling together to eastern Congo in August to examine the causes of the human rights crisis in Congo and what might be done. The Congolese women and men we met reinforced the direct connections between our demand for electronics products and the worst sexual violence in the world. In this video, Ashley talks about these connections at the base of a massive mine in eastern Congo. And her accompanying essay, “Costs of Convenience,” speaks to the inadvertent personal connection we all have to this violence. I’m posting a portion below, but the piece can be read in full on Huffington Post.
There is much we can do about this, particularly during this holiday season. Visit www.raisehopeforcongo.org to learn more about how to get involved in the conflict-free movement.
I didn't even want all this stuff. My iPod was in gift basket from an event, about eight years ago (yeah, still rockin' the classic). My iPad was a gift from a generous producer. My perfectly good previous iPhone was stolen, and Baton Rouge had plenty of the new ones, so, movie star whatever excitement in the store, and I somehow ended up with one. This is typical of the Saturation of Stuff that characterizes much of our society.
And that is how I, on my way to Democratic Republic of Congo to educate myself first hand about conflict minerals and advocate for a clean supply chain, am at the same time utterly complicit. My electronics, received as gifts or purchased, profit armed militias and support slavery. I am financing mass rape as I enjoy these ridiculously Global North ultra-efficiencies and conveniences, for large scale rape is the preferred predation mining interests use to humiliate and terrify local populations, in order to control resource areas. The UN notes that virtually every mine in DRC is militarized. This means little to no tin, tantalum, and tungsten is mined free of brutal exploitation, extortion, violence, rape, rape, rape.
My phone vibrates (thanks, tungsten). My music plays, using stored electricity, thanks to tantalum. My laptop screen lights up and hums, thanks to the tin used to solder its circuit boards, and the gold used as an electronics component. I e-mail my human rights traveling partner, Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast, and compose letters to the Congolese sister I sponsor through Women for Women International. I hurt, even as I try to help, via the very actions and tools I use to try to make a difference.
Read Ashley Judd's full essay here.