My friend Christopher, a Congolese refugee in the MBA program who spent seven years in the refugee camps, took me to Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – at the University of Tasmania. We watched a film about the systemic violent rape and murder being perpetrated in the 12 year long war in Congo.
Before I go on with this post, watch Rape of a Nation by Marcus Bleasdale on MediaStorm (11 minutes that will make you a better technologist).
Here are some quick facts. Approximately six million people have died in the Congo war and the death toll is rising – half of these are children below 5 years of age. That equates to about 45,000 people dead every month in a country of 60 million.
Why Congo? This is not a war about politics, it’s a war about minerals. Diamonds, gold, coltan, cobalt, magnesium, tin and other minerals. This is a war with numerous parties selling their wares to the rest of the world and using that money to finance their continued murder, torture, rape and slavery. Yes, six million dead. The war in Congo has killed the most people of any war since World War 2. And the driver of that war is us… the global consumer… because we want cheaper, better technology products.
Let me tell you about the mineral commonly called coltan. You mine coltan and sell it to someone who refines that into tantulum. Amazing stuff, tantulum is highly corrosion resistant and has a melting point of 3017 Celcius (boiling point of 5458 Celcius). This tantulum’s main use, among other things, is to create tantulum capacitors for use in electronic equipment such as mobile phones, stereos, automotive electronics and computers. But its also used for creating alloys with high melting points like you need for jet engine components and missile parts – as well as for body implants. To our technologically driven society tantulum is highly desired and expensive.
There is enough interesting content for you to find more about this subject yourselves. Suffice it to say the mobile phone in our pocket drips blood every time we send an SMS. If you want to ask yourself about the losers in globalisation look at Congo – they have abundant resources and should be very rich and secure. Instead, our demand for cheaper and better technology fuels the war of greed over minerals in Congo.
All I’m saying is that you need to ask yourself at which point your desire to upgrade your iPhone unnecessarily (or at all) makes you complicit in those deaths. Its a big question. Because now you know these facts you’re linked to those people and those murders and rapes. Go investigate… the rest is up to you.
[The image below is from Marcus Bleasdale's Rape of a Nation - linked to in the content of this article.]