The Healing of Congo

Congo is like a microcosm of the entire planet, taken to its extreme. One of the most beautiful places on Earth, it is also among the most troubled.


Today I received the following letter from my dear friend, Cynthia Jurs. For the last two decades she has traveled all over the world on a mission of peace and healing where it is needed the most, including Liberia, Los Alamos, Hiroshima, Israel/Palestine, New York City, Colombia, and many sacred sites as well. Each place she goes she ceremonially buries an Earth Treasure Vase according to the instructions given her by a 106-year-old lama in a cave in Nepal. Yes, it sounds like a New Age cliche, but that's what happened. You can find out more about her project here.

Cynthia wrote:

"Dear Charles,I just returned 2 nights ago from [The Democratic Republic of] Congo where I was for 3 weeks and read your email yesterday. This morning in my jet lag stupor I woke at 3am and began to read from one of the many books about Congo I have been drawing from in order to understand what the solution to the mess there might possibly be. I suddenly found myself thinking of you. Hearing your musing about what is next and how best to channel your gift, I wonder if you might be interested in turning your attention to Congo?Unlike any place on this Earth, it is very difficult to see how to resolve the situation in Congo. I think your insight and the issues you are grappling with to write a new story in the world could be of great benefit if directed towards looking deeply at Congo. It is one of the (maybe the most) resource-rich countries in the world, with the world's second largest expanse of rainforest providing precious oxygen to the planet. It is also a lawless state with a more or less non-functional government and countless militia groups terrorizing citizens, raping hundreds of thousands of women, killing and stealing in an ongoing effort to control the resources and mines and perpetuate ethnic tribal divisions that go back a very long time. The recent violence began when the genocide in Rwanda spilled over into Congo but the roots of it go back much farther. 6 million have died in Congo since 1994 and 1 million in Rwanda's genocide. The world turns away and continues to buy smart phones dependent on minerals mined in Congo. The dysfunction of international NGOs, aide agencies, the UN, the EU and USA is astounding -- nothing changes -- only crippling dependency and ongoing terror.

Clearly a new vision is needed. I went there with filmmaker Raji Mandelkorn and brought our 27th Earth Treasure Vase which we succeeded in planting in the vast Itomwbe forest (a 6 hour drive from Bukavu in E Congo many said we should not make) with a pygmy community that only 2 weeks before had been invaded by rebels trying to take over that section of forest. Raji and I spent 2 weeks in Bukavu and did 3 trainings in media for social change focusing on empowering women to tell their stories and stand up for a new Congo. [Support their Indiegogo fundraising campaign!] We worked with many men and women in different aspects of media (TV, radio, newspaper-such as it is). We shared video with them that Raji edited of women in Liberia offering their solidarity to end the violence. Instead of focusing on their problems and victimization, we interviewed many women (and some men) both rural and city about their visions for a new Congo and what solutions they see. I come away feeling that people are ready for things to change and are willing to take a stand. But leadership is needed and strategy is important.

It was very exciting to be considering what a movement there would look like and how it could be implemented. One big drawback is the hopeless infrastructure, including internet, which exists only minimally. We gave away cell phones and video cameras and did some amazing work with hundreds of folks. We even came up with the beginnings of a design for a unified association for peace in Congo. An analysis needs to be done and a strategy needs to be formulated for how to leapfrog over the powers that be, unblock the situation and catalyze a big change in Congo. It is time for a more beautiful world there and Congo's future and our own are completely interdependent. And, it IS a very beautiful place -- you cannot believe the beauty of this last unexplored wild region of the world. Mountain gorillas, enormous rivers and water everywhere, vast dense forests, active volcanoes, lush fertile soil that can grow anything, all the minerals in the world....and poverty everywhere.In spite of all the talk of how the international community needs to help, the change needs to come from the people not from the outside. It will never come from the outside as long as the outside international community is organized as it is. The thing is, it would be easy if there were one dictator to topple or a clear war to end. But the situation is so complicated and interconnected and the rebel groups that continue to terrorize the people, so hard to pin down. And, it is all caught up with the corporations that want to exploit the resources at any price - perfectly mirroring the global situation everywhere.

Apologies for the length of this email and for being a sounding board in my attempt at post-pilgrimage integration. I truly feel that, like everywhere else in the world, the time is now for change in Congo. And that the change that is called for needs to come from a completely new order, unconditioned by the same old paradigm. Like everywhere, it is time for women to take the lead, and regular citizens there agree. The environment and the women are precious resources that need to be protected. The wealth concentrated in the hands of a few clearly needs to be redistributed to the people for the benefit of all. Needless to say, there is much more I could say about things we witnessed and experienced. For now, please let me know if any of this sparks some interest in you to explore further. I just feel that with all the work you have done to unpack the ascent of humanity, evaluate the world of economics and inspire a movement for a more beautiful world to be possible -- and your belief in miracles -- that your insight could truly benefit an entire country so intimately and destructively tied to us all. The world has thrown up its hands and said Congo is a lost cause. But I believe that Congo is presenting us with an unprecedented opportunity to turn around a situation that is the ultimate embodiment of our collective shadow.What do you think?" -- Cynthia

The first thought I had upon reading this was, "If Congo does not heal, nothing will heal; but if Congo heals, everything will heal." Perhaps the first part of that statement is too strong – I don't mean to imply that you can't experience healing unless the situation in Congo improves. Ultimately, though, we are all connected. If Congo is a lost cause, then so is everything else. Congo is like a microcosm of the entire planet, taken to its extreme. One of the most beautiful places on Earth, it is also among the most troubled. There is no covering up the enormity of the situation, there. There is no pretending that the world is basically working OK, there. There is no denying that it will take a miracle – in addition to a lot of work – to create a beautiful future in Congo.

The Danger of Intervention

To write off Congo would be like seeing a severe diabetic with numb feet and writing off his/her feet. The numbness in the feet is a localized symptom of a systemic disease. So also would it be foolish to think that the solution lay in treating the feet. When the international community asks, “What should we do about Congo,” already it implies that the treatment lies in the feet, leading to interventionist solutions such as sending in troops or instituting “development” projects.

Intervention suggests that the problems in Congo originated in Congo. They do not. To take one example, the pressure to liquidate their natural capital comes not from within but from without: it is the consequence of the global economic system and the ideological system that contains it. Thus it is that when we try to “help” Congo or any other nation through “development,” the problems get worse.

Before we ask, “How can we help?” we should ask how we can stop hurting. Otherwise we will be helping with one hand and hurting with the other. Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole describes the hypocrisy like this: “The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.” I think Cole is being a little heavy-handed here – many in the NGO establishment don't support the most obviously brutal policies. They fail to fully understand, however, the built-in brutality of the system. They might decry the policies of the mining companies (who, in Congo as elsewhere, access resource-rich land through the terrorizing and massacre of its inhabitants) without understanding that this behavior is inevitable in our present financial system. Probably their own money is invested in funds that invest in those very mining companies, or in their customers, or their bankers, or their suppliers, all of whom are under pressure to seek higher returns. It's all about business really. The dispossession and death of Pygmies in Congo doesn't factor into the price of minerals. Merely by seeking the best deal, we contribute to the Pygmies' horror. The hypocrisy is systemic; indeed it is hard to avoid taking part in it.

Who among my readers doesn't use cell phones or computers that incorporate minerals from Congo's mines? Who doesn't try to get the best deal on these devices, contributing to the price-pressure that fuels the race to the bottom? I am not trying to make you feel guilty here; I am only highlighting the systemic nature of the problem.

The situation is actually even worse than helping with one hand and hurting with the other. Even the helping hand, the giving hand, often sets the stage for more effective taking later. For example, military interventions usually attempt to install business-friendly regimes that facilitate the conversion of a country's natural wealth and human wealth into financial wealth (benefiting its elites and global investors).

The Pitfalls of “Development”

Similar problems lie in many non-military interventions going by the name of “development,” which means development of ways to extract a nation's minerals, timber, and other resources, while turning its people into a consumer market and a source of cheap labor. Conceptually it is even more problematic: development says, essentially, “Join us.” “Follow us.” It doesn't question whether our path has been good for the planet, or even our own people. What can really offer the Third World as the terminus of development? “Join is in our planet-killing lifestyle”? “Rise to the top with us, so that someone else might be at the bottom”? “Join us in our empty, alienated consumerist hell and the disintegration of community, family, and civic society”? This is what we offer when we build roads, factories, schools, mines, and so forth in “developing countries.” Let us ban that phrase from our lexicon. “Developing” implies: “destination us.”

In fact, it is development that has so disrupted the fabric of Congo society that it has degenerated into warlordism. Once upon a time in Congo, people took care of each other's needs without money; community was strong, and men were bound by community norms and did not rape and kill. All of this unraveled under the successive blows of the slave trade, colonialism, and now globalism. To turn a land and its people into profit, their existing, self-sustaining relationships must be destroyed. Much of what goes by the name of “development” contributes to this destruction. Consider the following passage from The Ascent of Humanity:

To introduce consumerism to a previously isolated culture it is first necessary to destroy its sense of identity. Here's how: Disrupt its networks of reciprocity by introducing consumer items from the outside. Erode its self-esteem with glamorous images of the West. Demean its mythologies through missionary work and scientific education. Dismantle its traditional ways of transmitting local knowledge by introducing schooling with outside curricula. Destroy its language by providing that schooling in English or another national or world language. Truncate its ties to the land by importing cheap food to make local agriculture uneconomic. Then you will have created a people hungry for the right sneaker. We need to look for a deeper solution.

The Congolese, I am told, want better roads, more modern development. Ultimately, this decision should be theirs to make. But do they understand the hell that development might lead to? Do they understand that their own present condition is the price they are paying for the West's “development”? To them it may seem that the lack of roads is a huge problem, as women get raped, kidnapped, and killed walking to market. But would driving around in vehicles do anything to stop the villains? At the very least, the decision about how to develop should be free of the pressures of foreign mining companies and of the commodity markets that drive them. It should be free of the agenda of the Congolese 1% as well – countless examples of “development” show that too often, it is only the elites that benefit. The decision should also be free of Western-based prejudices about what is backward and what is advanced. The suggestions I am about to offer encode a very different kind of development, that does not involve the conversion of Congo's forests into lumber, its minerals into holes in the ground, and its people into a labor force and a consumer market. They all involve disruptions of the global status quo; in fact, to implement them would be nothing short of revolutionary. Interventionist help disrupts nothing and changes little. But to change the conditions pushing Congo ever-deeper into horror requires that everything change.

Leapfrogging the 20th Century into the 21st

Let's start with the easy things. In 2010, The Paris Club of creditor nations canceled $7 billion of Congo's foreign debt. The rest should be canceled as well, without the kind of conditions imposed in the 2010 cancellations that made them contingent on improvements in the business environment (by which they meant creating conditions for the continued operation of mines and other extraction industries on behalf of international capital). It is shameful to extract loan payments from a country so impoverished.

Congo is, as Cynthia said, one of the world's most mineral-rich nations. It is also one of the monetarily poorest, ranked last by the UN in development. One would think that the solution to its poverty would be to develop its mineral resources and use that money to modernize the country. But, even aside from the drawbacks to development as usually practiced that I described above, the world cannot do without the Congolese rain forest. New roads mean more logging, more deforestation, more mines. The undeveloped state of Congo makes it a treasure for the world. That is not to say that its people should stay mired in starvation. We need to envision a different sort of development, perhaps development that leapfrogs the 19th and 20th century into the 21st. The rest of the world should encourage this, and not the ravaging of its wilderness, its traditions, its beauty.

One way to do this is to pay Congo for the “ecosystem services” that it is providing for the world. In the debate over global warming and environmental protection, industrializing countries make the point that the developed world is trying to prevent them from doing what industrialized countries did – to exploit their natural resources and develop industry, with its unfortunate environmental consequences. If developing countries are prevented from following suit, they will remain forever weak. In our current economic system, these critics have a point. One becomes wealthy by externalizing costs onto the environment. It is time for the world to recognize that the value of intact rainforests is far greater than any amount of lumber or minerals that could come from them. Congo should not have to develop its wilderness to become rich. The rest of the world should support Congo in preserving its wilderness. We should pay Congo to guard and steward this precious reserve of biodiversity, carbon sequestering, and oxygen production. These could be Congo's main “export” to the world; they merit a payment at least as great as the potential income from its mineral wealth.

Any development that happens in Congo should be done with an eye on preserving those things that make it precious. Perhaps there are alternatives to the 19th-20th century model of building a centralized industrial infrastructure. Congo could develop ecologically-integrated permaculture rather than commodity agriculture. It could develop a distributed solar power system rather than a centralized power grid. It could develop bicycle and rail transportation rather than superhighways. It could also preserve traditional healing systems, gift economic systems, and education tied to the land. Note that none of these things will generate commodities for the world market as it presently exists. That is as it should be. The world needs its intact ecosystems more than its lumber and minerals.

The people of Congo may not realize just how sick, poor, and desperate our wealth has made us. Here in America, a small minority of people are beginning to wake up to the disaster our development has caused. We are trying to undo the “development” that has ruined our land and our communities, our topsoil and our water, our air and our bodies. Hundreds of thousands of young people are leaving the cities and going back to the land to farm but not with big machines and high-tech chemicals. Instead they are using a mix of new and ancient techniques that heal the land, are small-scale and local, and that actually can produce higher yields than chemical-intensive agriculture in some cases, much higher. Similarly, the most progressive cities in America and Europe are realizing the mistake of highway-building and automobile reliance, and are returning to rail and bicycle-based infrastructure. Perhaps Congo can learn from our mistakes, skip the ruinous development model of the 20th century, and take up the most advanced trends on the planet right now. Unlike us, the Congolese haven't ruined their original natural wealth yet. Congo could become the most flourishing place on earth. In the old model of wealth, it was among the poorest. In the new model it can be among the richest, for it has fewer mistakes to undo. Its land is less ravaged, and its people still remember how to live from the land.

As a practical first step, instead of developing more mines and oil wells, the country could put a moratorium on new mines. For that to happen would require the support of the world (until now, the world has pushed Congo to develop its mines; for example, Canada tried to block the 2010 loan forgiveness because the Congo government closed down a Canadian-operated mine). Artisanal miners, wildlife poachers, and illegal loggers would need other employment as game wardens, forest wardens, and so forth, and for that to work there would have to be more money in such professions than in extraction. That is why ecosystem services payments are so important.

This is no trivial matter, since the world industrial system demands minerals from Congo, and will continue to do so as long as we have a linear resource-product-waste model of production. Our throwaway goods do not reflect anywhere near their true cost to Earth or to future generations. Internalizing these costs, so that pollution and ecosystem destruction become much more expensive, entails fundamental changes in our economic system – both structural changes and conceptual changes. Ecosystem services should be valuable everywhere, not only Congo.

Without a new economic order, there is no escaping the pressure to convert non-monetized natural capital into monetized commodities. The profits are visible to the world financial system, but the costs to human beings and especially women, the land, other species, the indigenous, and future generations never enter the balance sheet. That must change – and what better place to initiate that change than Congo, cursed and blessed to be the least developed nation on Earth?

Part 2--  Acting from Interconnection

Because we live on an interconnected planet, what is happening to Congo is happening to ourselves as well. Can we understand that we are not separate selves, but that everything happening in the world is happening to ourselves? If so, it stands to reason that in the transition to the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible, every place and every one must come along with us. No place, no people, no person can be written off. We can feel it in our bones, that with each loss of a species, a culture, a forest, we all become irrevocably poorer.

This principle of oneness that motivates the ideas I described in Part 1 can also inform the strategies of the people on the ground, the women and men of Congo. Translated into the Christian terms of that nation, it is the principle that we are all one in spirit; that the spirit of God lives in each and every one of us.

You may ask, how dare he make these metaphysical pronouncements when children are dying at the point of a bayonet and women are being hacked by machetes? I go there only because of our apparent helplessness to cease creating and recreating a kind of world that no one wants. We are trapped in a mythology that is invisible to us, enacting the roles it assigns us, living the lives it prescribes us, being the beings it defines for us.

This mythology tells us who we are, what the world is, why we are here, where we are going. It is a story of Separation: humanity separate from nature, human beings separate from each other, the divine separate from the world, matter separate from spirit, the mind separate from the body, Congo separate from America, you separate from me. The institutions of civilization, and in particular the usury-based money system, embody and enforce this story.

The same mythology also tells us how to solve problems and create change in the world. When something is separate from oneself, one applies force to change it. In physics, we apply force to matter to perform work, to mold the world to our design. We understand economic behavior to be based on selfishness – “rational self-interest,” economists call it - and so we apply economic force in the form of incentives and penalties to change people's behavior. We use physical metaphors in our conceptions of political action too: We put “pressure” on the government so as to “force” it to change a policy. Different parties applying opposing pressure create political “tensions.”

The world of Separation is crumbling as its institutions founder in a crisis that will never end, and the methods of force are revealed as impotent to solve today's problems. Acting within its logic, we can only create more of the same. More technology, more pesticides, more antibiotics, more weapons, more prisons, more control of every sort intensifies the problems they were meant to solve. But we now have available a new logic, the logic of interconnection, of interbeing. Implicit in it are not only different systems – of money, technology, medicine, education, energy, and more – but also different strategies to solve problems and change the world.

If that doesn't convince you, consider that extreme though it is, the situation in Congo is no less hopeless than the situation globally. It is no more realistic to expect the warlords to let go their grip on power than it is to expect the global financial elite to let go theirs. While in the case of Congo we might hope for an external power to overthrow the rule of force with even greater force, on the global tableau there is no external power to appeal to. We will not achieve victory by force.
When our usual understanding of cause and effect denies the possibility of a solution, we are left hoping for a miracle. But can we go beyond hoping for one, and actually bring one about? Given what we understand today about what is geopolitically practical, it will take a miracle to change the global economic forces that continue to push Congo toward ecological destruction and violence. It will take a miracle to bring peace to a country so torn by conflict and warlordism where, as Cynthia said, NGOs, governments, and the UN are paralyzed and any hope rests with the least powerful (in conventional terms): the women and men of Congo themselves.

What is a miracle, anyway? It is simply something that is impossible from an old set of operating assumptions, an old understanding of reality, of cause and effect, but possible from a new. To achieve the impossible, we must operate from a different Story of the World. In this different logic, the most powerful people are no longer the warlords, the corporations, the governments, or the bankers. Their methods are becoming obsolete, giving way to a new logic.

The Alternative to Force

What, in this context, is the opposite of force? If force is what one object exerts upon another object external to itself, then an alternative to force would include and not externalize this other. The alternative is, in short, love. Love is the expansion of ones self to include another. It is the felt experience of non-separation. When I love someone, their happiness makes me happy, and their pain hurts. Love is the felt truth of interbeing. But how to apply this to a bloodthirsty warlord? It seems naïve, if not downright insulting, to suggest love as the answer to brutality, rape, and mass murder.

Let us be under no illusions about what we are up against. Cynthia described to me a certain warlord, let's call him Colonel X, whose men had committed and continue to commit awful atrocities. A woman who had survived one of their rape/massacres had fled and was now speaking up about what had happened, so the colonel put out a death warrant for her. He tries his best to intimidate or exterminate all witnesses.

It would certainly seem that there is no alternative but force in dealing with such a man. It is hard not to see him as wholly evil. Like a mass in physics, he is something “other” than ourselves, an external thing that can only be moved by force: military assault, assassination, economic pressure, the shame of exposure, or the threat of the above. The assumption is that he will only respond to threats to his self-interest; that is, to force. That's his language, we think, but by applying it ourselves, we become like him. We become ourselves capable of monstrous acts, all in the name of good. In the conquest of evil, any means is justified. Hitler and Stalin justified their actions by ideals that seemed lofty to them: the purity of the Aryan race, the purity of the Communist Party. What is purity, but the elimination of the Other? It is time for the War against Evil to end.

If the idea of a strategy motivated by love sounds naïve, keep in mind the evident impracticality of force, the sordid history of “humanitarian intervention,” and most of all that in the transition to the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible, every place and every one must come along with us.You might agree that a healed planet will not come to be without a healed Congo. Can you also see the necessity, or even the possibility, of it including a healed Colonel X?
One basic strategy toward this end is collective witnessing: bringing public attention to the actions of everyone involved. I have noticed that my conscience often needs help from other people when I face hard choices. When other people are watching, it is much easier to do the right thing. A cynic might say that this is because I fear social shaming and ostracism, but we might turn that around and say that when people are watching me with the attitude, “Charles, I know you want to do the right thing,” then it is easier to believe that about myself too.

Applied to activism, this suggests a mirror image of the common strategy of exposing crimes to humiliate and bring pressure to bear on the perpetrators, what some have termed, “name, blame, and shame.” When we operate from the perspective of “holding them accountable,” “exposing them,” and making them ashamed of their actions, then of course the targets of our attempts will do anything in their power to oppose us and hide what they are doing. A different attitude and a different vocabulary might evoke a different response.

By making the atrocities visible, the perpetrators get the feeling that “the world is watching.” At present, Congo has one of the lowest Internet connection ratios in the world, which makes it harder to make the atrocities visible through social media. As Cynthia mentioned, this might be a good way to help from the outside: we can help Congo leapfrog the mass media of the 20th century and build the social media of the 21st. Activists can also invite international observers – witnesses for peace – to troubled areas. In order to short-circuit political opposition, these tactics should be framed in the most non-threatening, positive way possible. For example, the tactic of making atrocities visible could be, “Let's show the world a Congo without rape.” I want to speak here to the understanding that the land and people of Congo will only be healed through extraordinary means: a revolution of love. Perhaps the future holds Truth and Reconciliation committees like those of South Africa, a women's movement like that of Liberia, a unity movement like that of Rwanda. While all of these brave experiments suffer flaws, they are also the vehicles for miracles of healing. Only a miracle will suffice in Congo because of the sheer horror of what that country has experienced. Peace will only come through forgiving the unforgivable. The alternative to forgiving the unforgivable is vengeance and an onward, endless spiral of violence.

Of course, tactics of love and non-violence require incredible courage, sometimes of the order of the man standing before a tank. Where is such courage found? It is found among the people of Congo.

Consider these words of the filmmaker Raji Mandelkorn:

We can discuss the capacity for love that a child has or a dog or a privileged person or a person who has suffered a great deal. Though potentially we may all have the same capacity for love, those who have suffered the darkest depths of human grief have been carved out by sorrow. If they do not give in to anger and revenge, they become the greatest vessels for love and thus they become reservoirs of it.

The people of Congo are among the world's most traumatized and tragedy-stricken. Their hearts ache with a love for life, survival, and hope. Their eyes cry  the same tears for their children's futures as they do for their tragic pasts. These are a people whose capacity for love is great and whose love is ready for action. naïve or unrealistic to expect a revolution of love by such people to succeed? I think it would be unrealistic to expect it to fail.

Hope Lies with the Women

In Congo, labeled by some as the rape capital of the world, it would seem there are none so powerless as the women. But in a revolution of love, perhaps it is the meek who will inherit a new kind of power. In Congo as elsewhere, the powerful are stuck, paralyzed. According to one activist in Congo, Grace Namadamu (Neema), the men of her country are so locked into the habits of violence and the status quo that any real change must come primarily from the women. She writes in an email:

"On the other hand, we see an awakening happening in the consciousness of women, and a few men as you know. And as a result, a certain resolve is building; a resolve to take a stand against every enemy of their future. And they seem to see clearly, that their enemy is not a form, but wages its warfare through culture, traditions, religions, and history. Sure, there are bad people in the wrong places, but they are there because culture, tradition, religion, and history have governed things, and said we are their servants. The Day is dawning however where a new constitution is taking hold within us, and more than courage; a determination to say we will no longer be enslaved by these tired conventions.

Neema is part of a fledgling women's movement in Congo that I believe will change that country beyond recognition. Patriarchal methods of domination and force are bankrupt, and the alternative lies in the province of women (and the inner feminine of men as well). It is the realm of interconnection, of care-giving; it is in fact the same spirit that motivates the economic proposals I have laid out above. We want to give to Earth, no longer just to take.

Another strategy toward a “healed Colonel X” (and the entire way of being he represents, which indeed exists as a shadow in all of us) is to always offer a choice, an opportunity to step into a different life story. Backed into a corner, facing the alternatives of either a war crimes tribunal or victory, the warlords will certainly fight to the end for victory. I had a vision just now of Colonel X being visited by a delegation of women and men from this new movement. “Colonel,” they say, “a new era is dawning in Congo and we would like you to be part of it. The mass rapes have to stop, and we want to invite you to help us.” Then they propose something involving sending observers, or asking that his men be allowed to volunteer to cease being killers and become protectors instead. Perhaps such proposals might seem silly under present circumstances, when everything seems to be working for Colonel X, but as this movement grows his room to maneuver will shrink. As the tide of the times changes, people will begin to question the way they have been doing things, and open up to new choices. Of course, it would be foolish to expect that all of the Colonel X's out there will choose the way of peace at first, but some of them will.

Some of them will, and some of them do. Consider the story of another friend of Cynthia's, the notorious General Leopard (the nom de guerre of Christian Bethelson), a Liberian rebel leader during its awful civil war. In this milieu of massacre, child soldiery, and torture, he was, in his words, a man with “no conscience.” Eventually the war ended, and with it Bethelson's livelihood: he had no skill other than killing. He decided to go to the nearest war, in Ivory Coast, where there would be demand for his gruesome services. On the way his car got stuck in the mud. Nearby, also stuck in the mud, was a car bearing members of a peace group called the Everyday Gandhis. Intrigued by their conversation, he announced himself as a former rebel general, and to his astonishment the group gathered around him, hugged him, told him they loved him. He decided to join them and dedicate his life to peace. If he can do it, anyone can.

Isn't that the kind of world we want? Where men defect, en masse, from the patterns of violence that bind them today? Is a revolution of love too much to strive for? It would sound naïve indeed, if it were not for the fact that we really have no alternative.

The economic and technological proposals of the first half of this essay arise from the same source as the non-violent action proposals that follow. Both arise from the principle of interconnection or oneness. What happens to Congo is happening to us, and Colonel X's predicament is our own predicament. From the outside, we realize that the pristine natural capital that remains in Congo is essential to our own well-being. From the inside, a revolution of love bases its hope on the redeemability of those who have perpetrated violence, those who have been complicit in it, those who have turned a blind eye. We know that they too want a different world, for they are none other than ourselves. Every place and every person must come along with us.

To support Neema and the vision described herein, please contribute to the Indiegogo campaign for the Women Witness Congo project.


This article was originally published in The Intelligent Optimist


  1. Hi Charles I have a question

    1. It is possible for the RDcongo to change back to Kingdom of Kongo ?
    2. It is possible to change education system in congo ? Would it not be useful to study in their own mother tongue to help them undestand and to get to know their land and it’s natural resources ?
    And if is possible what do think it will take to achieve it
    Thank you for your article

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