Stark and I joke that I keep “Britta-ing” life when I get involved with this or that. So jokes first… welcome to Britta’s first Summer School Session. jk
All jokes aside, this month marks the 20th anniversary of Rwanda Genocide – where more than one million people were murdered in three months time. I was too young at the time for it to be on my radar, but honestly, was it ever on anyone’s radar prior to Don Cheadele’s award winning performance in Hotel Rwanda?
This year alone goes down in history for protests, movements, and otherwise potentially scary moments in Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Maylasia, and even more that I can admit is beyond my scope, just out of noticeable reach.
Where I live, handfuls of families choose to allow their children to watch “educational” shows like Sponge Bob and put viewer restrictions on watching the news. To each their own. I don’t condone most of what we see or hear on the news stations provided to us in the United States either, but I certainly don’t condone shunning reality all together. Some of my most favorite assignments in school as a child were the “Current Events” assignments due every Friday. Is this not even allowed in most places today when we already have a far, far conservative (not just politically) point of view of world news? I’m not even sure a World History or Civics class teaches most of what I learned about growing up, and so much of what I learned wasn’t even entirely correct. Instead, it was a great excuse to implement nationalism from the get go. Wave a flag, sing a song, America has won….
I bring this up because in recent months, Stark and I have participated together in a some local information sessions regarding North Korea and a brainstorming of different ways we, as a small community of people, may be able to actively help these citizens of the world. To be honest, getting back to some basic activism roots brings up some of my finer, more innocent days in a previous life when all I had to worry about was charging towards some great world cause or arguing an array of political views. I refer to my Punk Rock days as finer days for no other reason than how intensely passionate I was for learning, for broadening my perspective, and for opening my mind to what so many people sweep under the table in a subconscious attempt to magnify their own complaints over the “bigger picture.” This is part of what my mother tried hard to teach me, “Be grateful… so many people in this world have it worse.”
What my mother instilled in me was more than just the “starving children in Africa” guilt trip over eating my dinner. Perhaps that is for no other reason than… I always ate my dinner. Either way, my rebellious streak and desire to know more most certainly came from her, even if it was a side of her long retired by the time she reached Motherhood.
I’m not here to claim I know everything or that I am perfect or better in any way. But I try hard to pull myself out of my privileged perspective on a daily basis to 1) be grateful, 2) remind myself I can do with a lot less than I have, and 3) think about what “more” would mean to someone else. I’m writing this merely in an attempt to provide information to someone who may want to know more for themselves and do more to help others.
So far we have had two “lunch and learns” brain storming what to do re: North Korea. Our next session will be May 13 for anyone interested in attending, providing ideas, or providing information.
Until then, check out these resources we have discussed so far and if you so desire, become better informed on this modern day Holocaust. These notes are taken from our meeting recaps thusfar. Feel free to send me questions.
The Vice Guide to North Korea, which gave a glimpse into what it is like to visit North Korea.
- Escape from Camp 14, the book about Shin Dong-hyuk who was born in a North Korean labor camp and later escaped. He is the only known person to have been born in a labor camp and escaped. It is estimated that over 100,000 are political prisoners right now.
- The labor camp was as bad as you can imagine. Prisoners are starved, beaten, raped, tortured and worked to death.
- Prisoners have no comprehension of their value as human beings and view one another as competitors for food. Shin even told on his mother and brother when he found out they were planning an escape and felt no remorse until after his escape.
- There are a few organizations that are attempting to help North Koreans:
- Liberty in North Korea This was the organization out of California that Owen talked about. Shin (from Escape from Camp 14) worked with them for a few years after his escape.
- Here is an article about the balloons that people send from South Korea into North Korea with pamphlets and USB drives. Park Sang Hak has headed up this effort: http://www.oslofreedomforum.com/speakers/Park_Sang-Hak.html
- The radio station in South Korea that only has enough funding to broadcast a limited number of hours each day (http://www.fnkradio.com/)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxLBywKrTf4 – Nat Geo documentary on North Korea. They go with an eye doctor who’s volunteered to fix cataracts. This one blew me away because you see the fanaticism of citizens.
- We started out by watching Park Sang-Hak’s speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum. This video shows how complex the situation is because he points out how some of the seemingly good actions can have unintended consequences.
- Although there is a great deal of human suffering taking place all over the world, we have chosen to focus our efforts on North Korea because of how organized and systematic the devastation is.