Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week 15: The Incredible Weight of Being Aware

By Cole Chernushin & Melissa Rink

From scholars, to poets, to theologians, many a keen mind has declared life to be a circle. At birth we come from nothing, at death we return to the same (at least so far as mortal consciousness is concerned). History also seems to follow a cyclical pattern as empires rise from rubble, only to return one day from whence they came before being replaced by yet another, equally as flawed civilization. Having now spent close to four months in Southern Africa, we students at the Center for Global Education (CGE) have also experienced first hand the circular pattern of life. With the fall of slavery began the rise of apartheid; upon the latter’s demise, so continued the economic oppression of those who most severely felt the effects of “separate but equal” treatment. Throughout our time here, on many occasions has concern been aired that our collective return to the United States will hail in a return of personal misunderstanding –or even worse- apathy in regards to the plethora of social issues we have so thoroughly been immersed in. In some ways, this concern spawns from the most humble origins (if I might be so vain as to call them such) in that we as students accept our own fallibility. Regardless of such origins of this concern, the truth remains that upon setting foot back in our respective homelands, ignoring all that we have learned will remain the easiest of choices in place of continuing to champion the ideals so thoroughly ingrained within CGE’s curriculum.

The life of an activist, as we know too well, often entails far more persecution as well as mental and physical suffering than that of a sheep who remains within the comfort and security of following the flock. For all the knowledge and convictions many would be noble individuals take away from such experiences as the ones all we student have been subjected to this truth remains the same. Hence why the circle of suffering remains unbroken even after the thousands of years worth of time humanity has had to rise above such pain. The burden to relieve the world of such a gargantuan burden cannot be shouldered by on person (or even ten) alone. Unlike David, this Goliath has not one body to slay, but more like a hydra, the systems and attitudes that oppress, exploit, and starve the vast majority of those born to this world continue to spawn, no matter how many of them humankind vanquishes. This phenomena inherently breeds despair in those who begin to realize that no matter how many times the boulder of social injustice gets pushed up the hill, it always seems to go rolling right back down to the bottom after little more than a night’s rest. As enamored by this idea as Camus might be, for the rest of us, continuing to pick up the burden of stumbling towards a brighter tomorrow beings to take its toll [1].

Again, therein lies our collective dilemma. As frightening of an idea as it might be to return only to be a part of a system that so clearly betters the lives of an increasingly select number of people, equally as petrifying lies the ideas of being stuck in a state of constant discontent, never finding comfort in any simple pleasure. For in each and every instance we take from others, be it in the joy of overlooking the immaculate beauty that once belonged to those whom we forcibly removed from the land, the warmth of a jacket stitched by hands paid less than five cents an hour, or breathing clean air that few others have access to, not a single one of us can claim an existence free from actively oppressing any number of faceless others. The short-cut answer in how we can reconcile such knowledge lies in the escape of claiming amnesty in our identification of social issues that deserve understanding. This claim does not negate the fact that being more aware can lead to a more responsible, respectful populace, nor does it justify continuing to lead lives that so clearly require changing.

So say that all ten of us from this point on lead lives fully in line with progressive, in the truest sense of the word, ideals. Amid the billions of other lives being led, this likely will not make any sort of measurable impact unless others join in the struggle. The incredible weight of being aware and acting out against injustice could one day be a burden taken up by others, if only they all become convinced that stepping outside their comfortable lives can better the lives of all their children. Whether or not we ten students can jump such a hurdle remains to be seen.

Upon reflection, this blog entry could easily be seen as a lamentation of which many others have sung a similar tune. My hope remains that it will serve as a reminder to those of us bound to return in a matter of days, as well as a plea for any of those who bother to read this blog to assist in any way they can. For we all live within the circle of life, thus we all have the chance to collectively stumble towards mass salvation. Awareness remains the first step to healing the festering wounds of our time, but as I have already expounded upon, it is only a step. Together, let us all challenge one another to make the best of academic teachings to do the impossible and write a new script by which tomorrow will surly follow. For no matter how many times we fail, the circle brings us around again for another try.


[1] Albert Camus is a French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher known for his philosophy of absurdism.


Attached below are “found poems” (poems derived from other texts in an artistic manner) compiled by Cole Chernushin that speak to the struggles faced by Namibia to this day.

Found Poetry on Voices of Struggle
By: Cole Chernushin

Alert Namibia to win freedom
In unity and solidarity
You will be born a new Namibia
Free from oppression, free from

PRIME Minister Nahas Angula yesterday implored villagers at Tses in the South to use electricity sparingly because of the looming electricity crisis facing the country.

There are no boundaries to exploiting each other’s cultures and resources.
Rural electrification when put in
the face of the country
cultural and
traditional values to generate income.

To ensure monopoly
to exploit mineral deposits in Namibia
German bankers,
industrialists and politicians illegally
founded the German South-West Africa as a colony of the German Empire
The colonial aim to dispossess the people of their land, for German settlers,
became a source of raw materials and a market of German industrial products.
Anything to make a dollar!

Powerline 2000 completed
the electricity installation
That is the challenge.
Anything to make a dollar!

Son and daughters of Namibia
For too long a time we were oppressed
Solid we must stand in unity,
fighting for freedom, freedom and justice

On July 30, Judge Elton Hoff ruled in favor of three women who sued the Namibian state for being forcibly sterilized.

What do girls want? Lives filled with abundance.

women’s economic emancipation is not yet completed.
every member of a focus group in a suburb of Windhoek had heard of women being beaten for asking their partners to use condoms.
Namibia is a country of origin, transit, and destination for women and children, subjected to trafficking. specifically forced labor and forced prostitution.

What do women want? Longer, stronger lives.
It underscores the perception of a woman’s body not being her own property, establishing it as something that men or the state can control.
economic potential is locked up in women who the world over have proven that they are hard workers securing 80% of Africa’s food production.
Traffickers exploit Namibian children, through forced labor in agriculture, cattle herding, involuntary domestic servitude, charcoal production, and commercial sexual exploitation.

What do women want? Equal access.

“Women are especially at risk for contracting HIV because, as a rule, their relatively weak social and economic positions inhibit them from avoiding sex with an infected partner or enforcing the use of condoms”
roots lie not just in rights-infringing policies but in a deeper culture of gender inequalities.
we can withhold our votes if we do not see the desired implementation

What do women want? Voices.

To speak.

We shall liberate, Namibia
We shall liberate, Namibia,
Our country Namibia
Our motherland
Namibia, We love thee

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