Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rwandan tools, the DRC, a Do-Nothing and regrets

The handmade Rwandan tools linked in the previous post reminded me of something. When I was about 12 years old and on holidays with my family, we were browsing through a souvenir shop one day and I nearly bought a Do-Nothing:

(pic found here)

It's a wooden toy. You turn the handle on the top to create a circling action (as depicted in this animation). It's a mesmerising thing to watch and the movement of smooth wood across smooth wood sounds and feels lovely.

The way I remember it, I stood there for ages, trying to work out how the thing worked and whether I could make one myself, or whether buying it would be worth the cost (including having to go without alternative purchases such as mixed lollies, ice blocks, postcards or comics).

I didn't buy it, and walked out of that shop alone.

(Well, not actually alone. Just lending a touch of drama ;) )

The thing is that now, if I had to list all the regrets of my life, the Not-Buying-Of-The-Do-Nothing would be right up there near the top. This is silly, I know, but maybe that's the point. The Do-Nothing was silly too, it didn't really do anything, and that's probably one of main reasons I didn't buy it. I let my head decide, and the rest of me has felt a bit sad about that ever since.

Getting back to Rwanda now, and if you visited that link, you'll have read that the makers of those beautiful tools were all murdered in the genocide of 1994. (Isn't it frightening the way you can summarise the end of the world in a sentence?)

I don't know what's happening in Rwanda now, but there's trouble across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to a mailout from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Australia, the DRC is "the scene of perhaps the world's bloodiest conflict since World War II: the UN claims that nearly 4 million people have died as a result of violence there in the last seven years alone."

That'd be 4 million people. Four million people.

It goes on: "...with the breakdown of basic government services - health care, transport, water, sanitation - this conflict continues to claim over 1,200 lives across the country every day."

I wish there was some huge crashing wave of a way to say this, to highlight the injustice and horror, but there isn't. A country of 56 million people, just around the corner of the globe from all the rest of us, limps along in blood-stained terror while people like me shine starry eyes of longing and regret onto wooden toys.

Please help MSF if you can.